On International Human Rights Day, one journalist, 6 activists arrested in separate raids

Protesters march along Espana Avenue in Manila to condemn the rights abuses under the Duterte administration. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Updated 6:11 p.m.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Impunity reared its ugly head as elements of the police arrested one journalist and six activists in four separate incidents of raid this morning, December 10.

At around 3 a.m., elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) searched the house of couple Dennise Velasco and Diane Zapata in Fairview, Quezon City. Zapata told Bulatlat the CIDG asked them to drop to the floor facing down. After more than one hour, firearms and explosives were found inside the couple’s home, which Zapata maintained were all planted. Velasco is now in the custody of the Philippine National Police at Camp Karingal.

Hours later, CIDG raided the house of Lady Ann Salem, editor of online media outfit Manila Today and communication officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), in Mandaluyong City. She and labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago were brought to CIDG-National Capital Region headquarters in Quezon City.

Manila Today is one of the alternative media outfits labeled by the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as part of the so-called communist propaganda machinery during a Senate hearing on December 1.

Police also raided the house of Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo and Jaymie Gregorio in South Triangle, Quezon. The three were also arrested for charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Elements of the CIDG also arrested another labor organizer, Joel Demate, after raiding his residential unit in Santa Ana, Manila.

Human rights advocates condemned the latest incidents, noting the trend of “planting evidence and filing fabricated charges against activists and rights defenders.”

All search warrants used for the simultaneous raids were issued by Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, executive judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 89. Villavert was also the judge who issued the warrants for for the arrest of National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, Alexander and Winona Birondo, and Villamor couple, and the warrants for the raid of offices of porgressive groups in Negros last year, which led to the arrest of more than 50 activists.

An activist reminds the Philippine government that dissent is a right. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

In his speech at the protest action in Manila, lawyer VJ Topacio, whose parents were gunned down in a pre-dawn police raid last Nov. 25, quipped, “Sa galing nilang magtanim ng ebidensya, dapat ang tawag sa PNP ay ‘Plantito at Plantita National Police.'” (With the way policemen plant evidence, PNP [Philippine National Police] should instead be called ‘Plantita and Plantito National Police.’)

According to human rights alliance Karapatan, there are now 656 political prisoners, of whom 426 were arrested under the Duterte administration.

This morning, Karapatan and othe progressive organizations under the banner of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched from Espana avenue toward Chino Roces bridge, a stone throw away from Malacañang, marking the 72nd anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Teddy Casiño of Bayan said the UDHR was signed to ensure that states uphold and respect human rights. He added, however, that in the Philippines, the Duterte administration is the “number one human rights violator.”

Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) recalled Duterte’s ‘shoot to kill’ order.

In his speech on October 30, 2018, Duterte said, “My orders to the police and the soldiers, shoot them. If they resist violently, shoot them. If they die, I do not care,” pertaining to drug suspects.

Ramos said that innocent civilians have been victims of extrajudicial killings, with 290 farmers shot dead. Karapatan documented 488 victims of politically-motivated killings under Duterte.

‘Red-tagging prelude to heightened state terrorism’

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna President Neri Colmenares criticized the red-tagging by state security forces as prelude to more attacks on the opposition.

In his speech, Colmenares said Duterte’s camp is escalating the attacks on Makabayan partylist groups and other members of the opposition as it prepares for the coming elections.

Recently, Duterte singled out Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, linking the legislator to the New People’s Army (NPA).

The newly-enacted Anti-Terror Law, Colmenares added, would be used against critics of the administration.

For the progressives, there is no other way but to push back.

“We are not afraid,” Topacio declared.


Casiño said the UDHR also upholds the right of the people to rebel, as a last resort, in the face of tyranny.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, “There is never any lockdown for people’s rights and our continuous struggle to defend and advance them — and it is in our collective action that we win this battle against tyranny and dictatorship.” ()

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