“He believes that aside from using arts which he is good at, to amplify people’s calls, electing officials who truly represent the marginalized in Congress is also another way of advancing their rightful demands like genuine agrarian reform. For this, he untiringly campaigned for Anakpawis Partylist. And while doing this, he was arrested.”
Updated: March 14, 2019; 12:51 p.m.
MANILA – A theatre worker was arrested by combined members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and the police in Guindulman, Bohol on Monday, March 4.
Alvin Fortaliza, artistic director of the Bol-anong Artista nga may Diwang Dagohoy (Bansiwag) Bohol Cultural Network was reportedly accosted by the authorities while campaigning for Anakpawis Party-list at Guindulman town market and was immediately brought to detention. Fortaliza was among the names listed in a warrant of arrest for the charge of murder.
The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) condemned the arrest of Fortaliza saying that artists who are critical of President Duterte’s administration are not spared from being arrested.
“Fortaliza’s arrest happened after the harassment and killings of progressive party-list campaigners in the Visayas region. But this also points to a disturbing shift in the attacks against artists and cultural workers,” the group said in a statement.
According to Humabol, a peasant group in Bohol, Fortaliza was known for his socially relevant performances in and outside the province. His performances depict the lives and aspirations of poor farmers, workers, youth, women and other marginalized sectors. He also conducts theater workshops for youth groups around Central Visayas.
Fortaliza is also a provincial leader of Anakpawis Party-list in Bohol.
“He believes that aside from using arts which he is good at, to amplify people’s calls, electing officials who truly represent the marginalized in Congress is also another way of advancing their rightful demands like genuine agrarian reform. For this, he untiringly campaigned for Anakpawis Partylist. And while doing this, he was arrested,” the group said in a statement.
The group said that Fortaliza’s arrest brought about by false charges against him are meant to harass, demonize and silence activists who are critical of the government’s policies such as Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law and Rice Tarrification Law which was recently signed by President Duterte.
“This is also what they did to Nelson Lumantas, Humabol deputy secretary general, who was slapped with poorly concocted murder charges December last year, over an incident that happened almost 20 years ago,” the group said.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao demands for the release of Fortaliza. He also said that they will formally inform the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of the harassments and killing of their leaders and members by the state forces. Just recently, a leader of Anakpawis was killed in Pangasinan. Robert Mejia, a leader of Anakpawis and vice president of Bayambang Farmers Association was shot dead on Feb. 19 in a cultivation site in Sangcagulis village, Bayambang town, Pangasinan.
“Activists are not criminals; the criminals are the plunderers, mass murderers, allied with the administration,” said Casilao.
“Why the Duterte regime is targeting artists and cultural workers at this point is clear. A government that is kept afloat by bullying, cover ups, deceit, fake news, falsehoods, red-tagging, rights violations, fascist repression, silence, whitewashing, and organized trolling can only be threatened by art’s potential to speak truth to power and to help unite more people towards collective action,” CAP said in a statement.
The group calls on their fellow artists to support the call for the immediate release of Fortaliza. “Let us not wait for any more of our colleagues from the art and cultural sector to be arrested, assaulted, killed, or disappeared amidst the rising attacks. Let us stand for freedom of expression, human rights, and justice to prevent another dictatorship from rising to power.”
Erratum: Alvin Fortaliza is the provincial leader of Anakpawis Partylist in Bohol and not a volunteer. Robert Mejia was killed in a cultivation site in Sangcagulis village, Bayambang town, Pangasinan and not in Tayug as earlier reported. We regret the mistake.