(UPDATED) A human rights worker, environmentalist and columnist of a regional newspaper in northern Luzon has been arrested by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Ilocos Sur tonight, a regional human rights organization announced in an alert.
Sherwin de Vera, Coordinator of the Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) and columnist of the Baguio City-based newspaper Northern Dispatch was arrested on his way home Tuesday night by the PNP, the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) said.
“He took a ride on a Partas bus but was waived down at a checkpoint. He was approached [inside the bus], identified by the police and was told that he is being invited [to a police headquarters],” the group’s deputy secretary general Mary Ann Gabayan said.
De Vera asked for a warrant of arrest from the accosting police officers, but his request was initially refused.
De Vera is being held at Camp Elpido Quirino, Ilocos PNP regional headquarters, at Barangay Bulag, Bantay, Ilocos Sur on charges of rebellion.
Gabayan said De Vera was only shown a rebellion charge document with case number 2014-155 filed in Abra dated September 4, 2014 when he was already at the PNP HQ.
In an earlier text message from detention, De Vera said his arrest is a testament to Duterte’s crackdown of political dissent.
“The lurking martial law and tyranny is now at hand. Our democracy, our democratic rights, are now in clear [and] present danger. We must rise up and oppose this tyranny,” he added.
Victim of harassment
Last July 18, Kodao reported De Vera had been tailed by unidentified men while he was going around on some errands in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.
The following day, unidentified men believed to be military agents went to the University of the Northern Philippines (UNP) in Vigan and asked De Vera’s whereabouts from the people he visited the previous day.
De Vera said that harassment and intimidation against him by state agents had been relentless, as confirmed by family and friends who noticed he was being followed around by unidentified men.
“This is one of the reasons why terrorist groups like Dawla Islamiyah get away from under the authorities’s noses. Instead of using their time and funds to stop criminal elements, they are aiming their guns and money against political dissenters and truth seekers,” De Vera said at the time.
“No wonder, the Philippines is the second most dangerous place for journalists and environmental defenders,” he added.
Defend Ilocos was the environmentalist organization that led the opposition to the black sand mining activities in the coastal areas and extractive mining applications in the interior parts of the Ilocos region.
De Vera is active in helping uplift the economic and political wellbeing of Ilocos farmers, the group said.
De Vera writes the column Ilocandia Rumblings for Northern Dispatch. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)