Rights group assails ‘trumped up charge’ against chairperson and reg’l officer

By Joseph Cuevas

Human rights group Karapatan assailed the attempted murder charges against its national chairperson Elisa Lubi and its Southern Mindanao chapter secretary-general Jayvee ‘Jay’ Apiag.

In a petition filed in a court today, March 29, Karapatan said the “trumped-up and utterly absurd” charges is meant to harass and threaten its officers as the Rodrigo Duterte government has done to other human rights workers.

“This attempted murder charge filed by the military is bereft of any factual basis. Clearly, these charges are pure hogwash and judicial harassment targeting human rights workers,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Lubi and Apiag are facing an attempted murder charge filed by Corporal Elvin Jay Claud at a Davao City court regarding an alleged May 20, 2018 armed encounter between the New People’s Army and the Philippine Army’s 89th Infantry Battalion and 10th Infantry Division in Sitio Balite, Brgy. Salapawan, Paquibato District, Davao City.

However, the case was only filed on June 3, 2020, two years after the alleged encounter.

Karapatan chairperson Elisa Lubi

Lubi said in her motion filed before the same court there is an abundance of evidence showing her presence in Metro Manila in the days, weeks and months preceding and following the alleged incident.

Lubi, who is of an advanced age and laden with illnesses common of an elderly person, added she is physically incapable of engaging in combat.

Apiag for his part said it is public knowledge he was in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, interviewing the kin of Ariel Maquiran at reported date of the incident.

Maquiran was an industrial worker in a banana plantation shot dead by suspected agents of the Philippine Army’s 16th Infantry Battalion on May 17, 2018.

“Both were likewise denied of their right to due process as they did not receive copies of subpoenas to participate in the preliminary investigation on the case. Clearly, these charges are pure hogwash and judicial harassment targeting human rights workers,” Palabay said.

Karapatan called on the court to recall the warrants against Lubi and Apiag and to reinvestigate the case to allow them to disprove the military’s absurd fictional accounts.

Constant targets of harassments

Karapatan revealed that both Lubi and Apiag had been constant targets of harassments by government forces.

In 2018, Lubi was included in a failed proscription by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against leaders of so-called ‘communist organizations’.

The Department of Justice eventually trimmed down its list of so called communist leaders from 658 to 8 and excluded Lubi.

In 2019, Lubi was also charged with perjury by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon but the prosecutor’s office in Quezon City dismissed the allegation after a few months.

In 2020, Apiag received several death threats and was red-tagged in posters bearing alleged ‘communist leaders’ in Southern Mindanao.

“Human rights workers from Karapatan are being targeted by these lies and fabricated charges in order to stop us from doing our work. We are being branded as ‘terrorists’ to vilify us and they have killed many of our colleagues in their desperate efforts to silence us,” Palabay said. #