Groups condemn trumped up terror cases filed against Nat Santiago, other activists

By Nuel M. Bacarra

Progressive groups held a rally Friday morning, May 3, at the Bulwagan ng Katarungan in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija to support the filing of counter affidavits for the four activists charged with violations of RA 11479 or the Anti-Terror Law (ATL) of 2020 and other criminal offenses.

Chants reverberated calling for the junking of the ATL

Charges of alleged murder, attempted murder and violation of the ATL were filed by a certain 1Lt. Michael J. Regario and others of the 84th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (84th IBPA) against Nathaniel Santiago, secretary general of Bayan Muna and also of the Makabayan Coalition; Rosario Brenda Gonzalez of the Assert Socio-economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), a development worker; Anasusa San Gabriel of Bulacan Ecumenical Forum; and Servillano Luna, Jr., the campaign director and former secretary general of Anakpawis.

The four activists charged with violations of the controversial Anti-Terror Law: (From left) Nathanael Santiago, Anasusa San Gabriel, Servillano Luna Jr. and Rosario Brenda Gonzalez. [BAYAN image]

Makabayan said in a statement the charges against the activists have no bases at all.

The military alleges Santiago and his fellow respondents were participants in an encounter between soldiers of the 84th IBPA and the New People’s Army (NPA) that reportedly took place last October 8, 2023 in Brgy. San Fernando, Laur, Nueva Ecija.

A Private First Class Sher Nelson B. Casayuran reportedly died in the incident.

The military claimed residents reported the presence of 10 NPA rebels in the area that prompted the 84th IB to conduct an operation that led to a firefight with the revolutionary guerillas.

The complainants claim they recognized about 20 people among the NPA, including the four respondents and activists Lee Sudario and Norman Ortiz who both subsequently declared missing by human rights groups and believed to be abducted by the military.

Former Anakpawis Party Rep. Fernando Hicap condemns the trumped up charge against peasant movement comrade Servillano ‘Jun’ Luna Jr. (N. Bacarra/Kodao)

Outright lie

Human rights lawyers representing the respondents meanwhile expressed disbelief at the complaints against their clients.

National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) president Atty. Rey Cortez said it is hard to believe that the government troopers can see 20 people in a bushy area in a firefight, can identify faces, and can know their names and addresses.

“It is an outright lie. It is incredible and can happen only in movies. But it is actually happening because we know that they are doing these cases against our leaders and activists,” Cortez said.

The lawyer added he is confident that the complaints will be dismissed as “they are founded on lies.”

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairperson and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said the charges filed against the four activists are not meant for conviction but to derail their pro people activities.

He recalled that other trumped up charges against himself, fellow former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and others were dismissed by the Courts.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Ysagani Zarate also said: “We, in Bayan Muna and Makabayan bloc vehemently condemn the charges of murder, frustrated murder, and Anti-Terror Law violations. This truly shows that we are right in saying that Anti Law Terror Law will be weaponized by the military to suppress the activists and critics.”

“In fact Mr. Santiago is one of the petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law,” Zarate said, adding he and Santiago were together in a meeting that day the reported clash between the military and the NPA happened.”

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas who also accompanied the NUPL lawyers in Cabanatuan in a statement said the complaint against Santiago  

“is an absurd and blatant fabrication of the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC.”

“Their (complainants’) malicious intent is clear—to use these fabricated terrorism and other serious charges as grounds for a wholesale attack on the Makabayan coalition and the progressive parties under its umbrella in order to intimidate, imprison and silence our parties, elected representatives, leaders and members and prevent us from giving voice to the poor and oppressed majority and articulating dissent,” the legislators said.

Former Anakpawis Party Rep. Ariel Casilao and farmer-leader Danilo Ramos condemn the trumped up charges against Santiago and other respondents. (N. Bacarra/Kodao)

Former Anakpawis Representatives Ariel Casilao and Fernando Hicap as well as Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danila Ramos also attended the comdemnation rally at Cabanatuan yesterday.