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Elderly peasant leader arrested in Bohol; family, union groups cry foul

John Sitchon

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Elderly peasant leader arrested in Bohol; family, union groups cry foul

FILE PHOTO. Civil rights groups and farmer organizations call for the release of Adolfo Salas Sr. on Thursday, May 25.

BANSIWAG Bohol Facebook Page

Police confiscate various firearms when it raided the house of 75-year-old Adolfo Salas Sr., but his family says these were planted

CEBU, Philippines – Police arrested 75-year-old Adolfo “Tatay Opong” Salas Sr., a former farmers movement leader, in his residence in Barangay Tubod, Candijay town in Bohol on Thursday morning, May 25, in what his family claimed was a case of the cops planting evidence,

According to Master Sergeant Julius Saavedra, chief of the Candijay Municipal Police Station, a joint operation with members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine National Police Maritime Group among others, was conducted at the Salas residence at around 2:45 am.

“During the search, they were able to confiscate pieces of evidence which include a .45 caliber pistol, .45 caliber magazines, 6 units of live ammunition, and another unit of a steel magazine,” Saavedra told Rappler in a phone call interview on Thursday afternoon.

In the search warrant issued by Judge Jorge Espinal of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 51 in the municipality of Carmen, Bohol, Salas was accused of violating Section 28 of Republic Act 10591 otherwise known as “illegal possession of firearms and ammunition”.

After the operation, police brought Salas to Camp Francisco Dagohoy in Tagbilaran City for inquest proceedings.

Milagros Salas, a daughter of Adolfo, told Rappler in a phone interview on Thursday evening that it was impossible for her father, a farmer, to gain access to firearms, especially at his age.

Makaingun ko nga fabricated to tungod kay naay duha ka wala naguniform nga taw nga nakasulod adto sa kusina namo nga nagcommotion ako inahan ug igsuon—adto na nila gibutang [and ebidensya],” she said.

(I could say it was fabricated because two men with no uniform entered our kitchen while my mother and siblings were having a commotion—that was when they planted [the evidence])

The Salas family has now called for the release of their patriarch and a stop to the harassment of farmers who are fighting for their rights.

Civil rights groups and unions have condemned the arrest of Tatay Opong, calling it an attack against peasant leaders, human rights defenders, and activists alike.

Silencing farmers

Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (HUMABOL-KMP), organization that calls for genuine land reform and better quality of living for farmers in the province of Bohol, has led multiple protests and rallies that have caught the attention of government agencies and state forces.

As a founding member of HUMABOL-KMP and a former chairperson of Alayon sa mga Mag-uuma sa Candijay, Salas and his colleagues have allegedly received multiple red-tagging and death threats in the past.

In June 2018, unidentified armed individuals fired several shots at the training center of the La Swerte Farmers Association , a chapter of HUMABOL-KMP, in Pilar town.

“The arrest of Adolfo Salas Sr. follows a disturbing pattern and scripted narrative employed by the CIDG, PNP, and AFP in the arrest of other peasant leaders in Bohol, such as Carmelo Tabada and Pastor Nathaniel Valiente last June 25, 2021,” KARAPATAN Central Visayas said in its statement.

In Cebu, Elena Tijamo, a program coordinator of the Farmers Development Center (FARDEC) in Central Visayas, was abducted in her own home on June 13, 2020.

In 2021, FARDEC and similar organizations were red-tagged by the army and the Department of National Defense (DND) in a congressional briefing. – Rappler.com

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