“While the likes of Palparan and Reyes who have clear charges against them continue to roam freely, activists and ordinary people are being arrested and detained arbitrarily on trumped up criminal charges to conceal the political nature of their arrests and detention.” – Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Just before Holy Week, eight activists were arrested by state security forces in three separate incidents.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said the eight, including one minor, “have been slapped with trumped up criminal charges such as kidnapping, rebellion, illegal possession of firearms , robbery in band and terrorism.”
On March 28, five activists were arrested in Sta. Rosa town in Nueva Ecija. Those arrested were Efren Delalamon, Andres Ely, Carla Bautista, Ambrosio Ileto and Jan Michael Ileto. Three days later, on April 1, Renante Damara and Santiago Balleta were apprehended in Las Piñas, Metro Manila. On April 3, Christian Tuayon, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros Occidental, was nabbed in Bacolod City.
“While the likes of Palparan and Reyes who have clear charges against them continue to roam freely, activists and ordinary people are being arrested and detained arbitrarily on trumped up criminal charges to conceal the political nature of their arrests and detention,” Karapatan chairwoman Marie Hilao-Enriquez, said in a statement, referring to two high-profile fugitives retired Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. and former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes.
In December last year, a local court in Malolos, Bulacan issued a warrant of arrest against Palparan and four others for charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in relation to the enforced disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. Reyes, on the other hand, was implicated in the murder of environmentalist and radio broadcaster Gerry Ortega.
“We condemn this government’s continuing pretensions of going after erring government and military officials while in reality, its efforts are geared towards hunting down people whom it perceives as its ‘enemies’,” Enriquez said.
Karapatan belied claims by the military that the five arrested in Sto. Niño village, Santa Rosa town in Nueva Ecija are New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging an agrarian revolution for more than 40 years.
In a report, Colonel Hilario Vicente C. Lagnada, commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army said the “rebels” were captured after a ten-minute gunfight.
Karapatan’s Enriquez said, however, that the 100 soldiers of the 56th IBPA and elements of the Nueva Ecija Police Provincial office only staged the gunfight with supposed NPA members and planted evidence to justify the arrest of five people.
Delalamon is a former political prisoner who was released on February 1, 2011 after cases of murder and attempted murder filed against him were all dismissed. Bautista is an assistant program coordinator of the Nueva Ecija Community-Based Health Program (NECBHP). Ely is a peasant organizer. Jan Michael is a minor, only 17 years old.
In a factsheet prepared by Karapatan, at around 4 p.m. of March 8, two teams of soldiers went to the house of Ambrosio, a member of Anakpawis party list and to the house of Ambrosio’s brother, Elpidio.
Ambrosio’s daughter, Rachelle Ann, 20, and her one-year-old daughter were the only ones in Ambrocio’s house. At least 20 soldiers went inside, while many others positioned themselves in front and around the house. Rachelle heard the soldiers fire three shots from the back of their house. Rachelle ran toward a neighbor’s house and saw the soldiers go out of his father’s house after five minutes. She then heard a series of gunshots from a distance.
Meanwhile, Ambrosio was tending to his vegetable farm near Elpidio’s house when he was taken and handcuffed by soldiers. His nephew and Elpidio’s son, Jan Michael, who was about to leave the house was also tied up.
Another team of soldiers fired their guns as they approached the house of Elpidio where Delalamon, Ely and Bautista were staying. Delalamon tried to run away but was hit in the right arm and in the left side of the body. He also sustained several shrapnel wounds as soldiers kept firing at his direction. Soldiers handcuffed Delalamon and Ely. Bautista, who was taking a bath when the firing began, was surrounded by soldiers. She was told to stay inside the bathroom after she had changed, and was guarded by a soldier.
The four, except Delalamon who was brought to a hospital to get his wounds treated, were brought to the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office (NEPPO).
The five were charged with rebellion and violation of the Human Security Act of 2007. Ely was also charged with illegal possession of explosives. Delalamon and Ambrosio were charged with illegal possession of firearm and ammunitions. Elpidio was among those charged with violation of the Human Security Act, along with five other John Does.
On April 4, the five were transferred from the NEPPO detention facility to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Kalikid village, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon where they remain tightly guarded.
In a visit by their lawyers and relatives on April 2, the detainees reported that a total of P239,000 cash and some personal items were taken from them and were never returned.
Elpidio’s two elder daughters, reported that their two youngest siblings aged three and five, suffered from fever after the soldiers fired at their house. Elpidio has gone into hiding after being sought out by soldiers and charged with rebellion. The family is also worried for 17-year-old Jan Michael, who was treated like an adult and detained in a regular cell, and was showing signs of trauma and depression.
Arrested after a rally
Meanwhile, Tuayon, 25, led a protest action at the Bacolod City Plaza on April 3. At around 4 p.m., when he and the other protesters were about to leave the place on board a jeepney, elements of Regional Intelligence Unit Region 6 in civilian clothes and two elements of Police Station 1 of Bacolod City Police Office in uniform stopped them and asked for Tuayon. The policemen presented a warrant of arrest against Tuayon for a robbery in band case issued by Cadiz City Regional Trial Court , branch 60 signed by the executive judge Renato D. Munez.
Tuayon was brought and detained at Police Station 1. He stayed there overnight and was released the following day after posting bail amounting to P40,000.
The warrant of arrest was issued last January 20 but Tuayon did not receive any subpoena or information on the case despite that he has been highly visible in Bacolod City.
Meanwhile, the policemen who arrested Daraman and Balleta said that Daraman has a standing warrant of arrest for a supposed kidnapping with murder charges. Balleta was released after posting bail. Damara is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Enriquez called on the Aquino administration “to stop persecuting people whom it considers as ‘enemies of the state’. The more the government does this, the more it proves to the whole nation that it is no different from the Arroyo regime. The government should instead turn its guns to the real fugitives and enemies of the people, those who are clearly rights violators and criminals, those with real crimes against the people.”