The four peasant rights workers arrested in Nueva Ecija recently may have been tortured, human rights group Karapatan said.
In a statement, the group said Yolanda Diamsay Ortiz (46) of Anakpawis Party, Eulalia Ladesma (44) of Gabriela Women’s Party, and youth activists Edzel Emocling (23) and Rachel Galario 20 bore visible bruises on their faces when visited by kin last October 14.
The four were arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and elements of the 7th Infantry Division in Sitio Bangkusay, Brgy. Talabutab Norte, Natividad, Nueva Ecija last October 13/
They are being held by the CIDG in their office at the Old Capitol building in Cabanatuan City.
Ladesma’s daughter told Karapatan after their visit her mother recounted that her hair was grabbed and was forced to drop to the ground when the CIDG operatives accosted her.
While on the ground, Ledesma was kicked several times and her hands tied thereafter while being forced to admit to being “Mariz”.
The daughter also relayed that she also saw Ortiz with a bruised face, her left eye swollen and there were hand marks on her neck due to strangulation.
Ladesma and Ortiz repeatedly told the former’s daughter that they were hit every time they refused to answer their captors’ questions.
Karapatan paralegals were not allowed to have access to the four women.
“Karapatan strongly condemns the illegal arrest, detention, and torture undergone by the four women human rights defenders in Nueva Ecija. This is indefensible,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
“This is precisely what happens when you have security forces that have no respect for human rights. This is the kind of police and military that we have – uniformed men with no integrity and not the slightest respect for women and their rights,” Palabay added.
Palabay said the four were arrested two days being Rural Peasant Women’s Day on October 15 when the world honors the struggles of women peasants and their advocates.
Palabay also lamented how abuses against rural women persist in the Philippines despite the ratification of laws that explicitly prohibit such violations, including the Anti-Torture Law of 2009.
This is on top of legislation and policies that seek to protect women from all forms of violence, including the Magna Carta of Women, Palabay said.
Karapatan noted that there has been a spike in the number of arrests of activists on the basis of trumped-up charges and the an increase of harassment cases against rights defenders – all alleged to be “rebels” by the Rodrigo Duterte government.
The 7th Infantry Division for its part said in a statement that the four women were “rebels conspiring against the government.”
Palabay, however, said that the military’s statement has no credibility if the victims were tortured.
“We have no doubt the spin doctors in the military will use this opportunity to forward their deluded narrative, even at the expense of torturing women! This is a shameful act that truly exposes the atrocities of the military and the police. All of those involved should immediately be held accountable,” Palabay said.
Karapatan demanded the release of the four women. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)