Philippine National Police

PNP goes on arresting spree on Human Rights Day

Rambo Talabong

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HEADQUARTERS. Camp Crame before the pandemic.

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The Philippine National Police arrests a journalist and 6 trade unionists on Human Rights Day

On the celebration of Human Rights Day on Thursday, December 10, the Philippine National Police (PNP) launched a string of operations which led to the arrest of a journalist and 6 trade unionists over firearms and explosives possession charges that are believed by rights groups to be fabricated.

The operations were led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) – the police unit tasked to handle high-profile and special cases – which acquired 5 search warrants for 4 different homes in Metro Manila.

The search warrants were all signed by Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 89 in Quezon City.

By Thursday afternoon, the following were arrested by the CIDG:

  1. Journalist Lady Ann Salem
  2. Unionist Dennise Velasco
  3. Unionist Mark Ryan Cruz
  4. Unionist Romina Raiselle Astudillo
  5. Unionist Jaymie Gregorio
  6. Unionist Joel Demate
  7. Unionist Rodrigo Esparago

They were all arrested over illegal possession of firearms and explosives – the usual charges against activists.

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Salem is a recognized progressive journalist working as an editor of the online news site Manila Today. Her publication was earlier red-tagged by the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

In a statement, rights group Karapatan condemned the arrests as a “mockery” of the celebration of Human Rights Day.

“The fact they were staged today, on the very occasion of International Human Rights Day, sends a loud message: this fascist regime will stop at nothing to bare its fangs against activists, human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, and critics as it ramps up its crackdown on dissent in the most brazen of ways,” rights group Karapatan said in a statement, condemning the arrests. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.