“I know that we [activists] are targets since this is a desperate act of the government to silence its critics and to paralyze the legal movement.” – Christian Tuayon
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Activist Christian Tuayon was released in the evening of March 20.
“We consider it as harassment. I was arrested and put behind bars for almost 29 hours by virtue of a bench warrant issued by Branch 1 presiding judge Jose Paolo G. Ariola just because of my failure to attend the scheduled hearing for a maltreatment case last Dec. 6, 2013,” Tuayon told Bulatlat.com in a text message.
On Mar. 19, 2014, Tuayon was arrested and detained at the Police Station 2 in Bacolod City at around 8:30 a.m. His warrant of arrest was issued on Jan. 29 purportedly because of his failure to attend the hearing for a case filed against him by Police Officer 1 Albert Villahermoso.
The alleged maltreatment, Ma. Clarizza Singson-Dagatan, regional director of human rights group Karapatan – Negros, told Bulatlat.com, happened in a lightning rally on May 5, 2012, when President Aquino visited Talisay City.
Police senior inspector Jovil Sedel said in a Visayan Daily Star report that the police checked with the Municipal Trial Court if the warrant of arrest could still be a served before arresting Tuayon.
Tuayon was arrested inside the Bacolod City Hall of Justice, a local newspaper reported.
Dagatan sai Tuayon did not receive a subpoena for the said hearing.
“The court issued a subpoena to notify me about the scheduled hearing but court records show that the subpoena was returned in court because the PNP did not find me at the given address,” Tuayon said.
Tuayon found it “malicious” that the police could not find him in his home address and why his lawyer was not furnished a copy of the subpoena.
“I know that we [activists] are targets since this is a desperate act of the government to silence its critics and to paralyze the legal movement,” Tuayon added.
Dagatan said the arrest of Tuayon is part of the “clearing operation” against progressive groups in the region.
Tuayon is the third activist arrested in Negros Occidental this year.
On Jan. 28, Regimio Espinas, a retrenched worker from Victorias Milling Company, was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms. It was followed by the arrest of Romulo Bitoon Jr. on Feb. 17, who is charged with murder.
“The warrant of arrest have been issued on Jan. 29. And Tuayon never left Bacolod. He attended and spoke in various press conferences and protest actions. He was even one of the speakers during the March 8 protest (International Women’s Day),” Dagatan said.
“But Tuayon did not receive the subpoena. He does not even know that there was a warrant of arrest. Why was he arrested only now?” she said.
Dagatan said Tuayon’s arrest is in preparation for US Barack Obama’s visit in Manila in April.
“This is their way to neutralize us and to prevent us from putting them into shame during Obama’s visit,” Tuayon said in a news report.
“We condemn in strongest terms the continuing harassment of the secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Negros Chapter Christian Tuayon. He and other activists continue to face trumped-up charges from state security forces, in the vain hope that they will be silenced,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. Said.