Rampage, human rights group says of arrests of consultants and civilians after talks suspension

Human rights group Karapatan said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have gone berserk in arresting as many as 19 peace consultants, activists and other civilians after the suspension of formal peace negotiations between the Rodrigo Duterte government and the Left.

Karapatan said those nabbed from February 3 to 12 are civilians and activists arrested on “trumped-up criminal charges.”

Fifteen of those arrested are still in detention, Karapatan reported.

“President Duterte’s ‘cancellation’ of the formal peace talks of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has further emboldened State security forces to arrest and detain activists, development workers, peace consultants and civilians on trumped up criminal charges, in line with the counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan,” Karapatant secretary general Cristina Palabay said at a rally at Camp Crame, Quezon City yesterday.

“Instead of releasing political prisoners, the Duterte administration seems to be in a rampage to increase the number of individuals suffering from this kind of injustice,” Palabay added.

Karapatan held an indignation rally at the PNP headquarters over the arrest of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region campaign officer Ferdinand Castillo who they said was blindfolded for nearly four hours and taken to a safe house for interrogation by police and army intelligence operatives before being brought to Camp Crame.

Castillo is reportedly facing charges of murder and attempted murder at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 63 in Calauag, Quezon Province.

An additional illegal possession of firearms charge was reportedly slapped against Castillo who said the arresting team “planted” a gun in his bag after he was arrested.

Among the arrests listed 18 by Karapatan after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s announcement of an all-out war against the New People’s Army (NPA) were:

  • NDFP consultant Ariel Arbitrario who was arrested along with his two companions in Toril, Davao City last February 6;
  • Rogina Quilop, administrative officer of the Center for People’s Resources and Services (CPRS), who was arrested last February 7, 2017 in Bacolod City by PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIIDG) operatives for murder charges. She is currently detained at the Handumanan Female Dorm;
  • Sarah Abellon-Alikes, member of the Board of Directors of the Regional Development Center – Katinnulong Dagiti Umili ti Amianan (RDC-Kadaumi), who was accosted by elements of the AFP while on her way to downtown Baguio City last February 9. She was detained for two days without charges before she was turned over to the PNP station on February 11 for charges of arson and robbery. She is now temporarily released on bail. Alikes, a Kankanaey-Igorot, is a pioneer of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA);
  • Last February 11, after an encounter between the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the (NPA) in Sitio Tangis and Sitio Salutan, Brgy. Datal Anggas, Alabel in Sarangani Province, the AFP launched an aerial bombing operation in the area, dropping a total of six bombs on the said community. Around 100 families evacuated to the center of Brgy. Datal Anggas, while the military also arrested eight (8) civilians were used as guides in their operations. They are still currently in the custody of the military, as the AFP troops remain encamped in the community.

Karapatan said they are investigating the seven other cases reported to them by their regional offices.

Impending arrest of NDFP consultants

The National Union of People’s Lawyers for its part said the Office of the Solicitor General has started filing motions with various courts across the country to cancel bail as well as for the issuance of commitment orders against the NDFP consultants released last August for the formal peace negotiations.

It also reported the reissuance of the warrant of arrest against NDFP peace consultant for the Visayas Concha Araneta Bocala by the RTC Branch 33 in Iloilo last Monday.

“The GRP and its State security forces should account for the continuing violations of JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) despite clear provisions on the obligations and commitments of both Parties, especially the GRP, even if formal peace talks are suspended, cancelled or terminated,” Palabay said.

“We reiterate our call for the continuation of the formal peacetalks between the GRP and the NDFP and for the GRP to honor previously signed agreements,” Palabay concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)