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Mga inaresto sa Bacolod, lalo pang pinahirapan matapos dakpin

Isinalaysay ni Jefer Alipo-on, 23 anyos, ang kanilang naging karanasan nang sila ay inaresto noong Oktubre 31 sa ginawang raid ng mga pulis sa opisina ng Bayan Muna sa Bacolod City. Isiniwalat ni Alipo-on sa bidyo na ito ang karagdagang tortyur sa kanila ng mga pulis matapos silang dakpin.

Matapos ang halos isang linggo, isa si Jefer sa nakalayang 11 miyembro ng Teatro Obrero, kasama ang 21 na mga manggagawa ng Ceres Bus Line noong Nobyembre 6. Subalit mayroon pang siyam na nakakulong at sinampahan ng anila’y gawa-gawang kaso na iligal na pag-iingat ng baril at granada. (Music: Tangerine Dream Valley of Sun Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Activists vow legal pushback vs state forces

By Visayas Today

BACOLOD CITY–Those responsible for the October 31 mass arrest in Bacolod City, from state security personnel to the judge who issued the search warrants, should expect a wave of countercharges to hold them accountable, activist groups have vowed.

“We will make sure there will be countercharges,” Bacolodnon Neri Colmenares, who chairs the Bayan Muna party-list and used to represent it in Congress, told a press conference Thursday, November 7.

In all, the joint police and Army units under the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that carried out the raids on three offices and a private residence in Bacolod City arrested and detained 57 persons, among them a dozen minors.

They claimed to have recovered more than 30 firearms and some explosives from the offices of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, women’s organization Gabriela – both in Barangay Bata – and the National Federation of Sugar Workers in front of the Libertad market, and the home of Romulo and Mermalyn Bito-on in Barangay Taculing.

The security forces said the offices, particularly the compound that houses the office of Bayan and other groups, were being used to train “recruits,” including minors, of the New People’s Army.

However, on November 6, 32 of those arrested – 21 laid off workers of Vallacar Transit who were consulting the Kilusang Mayo Uno and 11 members of cultural group Teatro Obrero, all arrested at the Bayan office – were released after the city prosecutor dropped the charges against them.

Only 11 persons remain in detention, seven of them facing non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Colmenares said the release of the 32 “proves the falsity of the charges” that those arrested were rebels and that the offices were training facilities.

He said those they intend to charge, both before trial courts and the Office of the Ombudsman, include the “generals, colonels,” and enlisted personnel of police and Army units that carried out the raids, prosecutors, judges who issue “fake” warrants, and the “false witnesses” on whose testimonies the warrants were based.’

The search warrants covering the Bacolod raids were all issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. She also issued the warrants that led to the arrests of two other activists in Escalante City and at least five others in Manila around the same time as the Bacolod raids.

While there is a special rule issued by the Supreme Court allowing the RTC executive judges of Manila and Quezon City to issue warrants for areas outside their jurisdiction, activists accuse Villavert of abusing this privilege and issuing “wholesale” warrants that abet human rights violations.

Colmenares said among the charges the security forces can expect are those related to their alleged “planting” of evidence and violations of the anti-torture law. #

32 nabbed in Bacolod raids freed

By Visayas Today

In what human rights advocates said was a clear victory and an indictment of government’s ham-fisted efforts to stifle dissent, 32 of 57 persons arrested and detained following simultaneous raids on what authorities claimed were communist rebel safehouses in Bacolod City on October 31 were released on Wednesday, November 6, after prosecutors cleared them.

Those who walked out of detention at the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office were 21 laid-off workers of Vallacar Transit Inc., which operates the Cere Bus line, and 11 members of the cultural group Teatro Obrero.

All of them were arrested at the office of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Barangay Bata where authorities claimed to have recovered 32 guns.

A number of minors who were also rehearsing with Teatro Obrero at the Bayan office had been released earlier.

Wednesday’s releases left only 11 persons in detention and facing criminal prosecution.

Seven of them are charged for non-bailable offenses:
1. Cheryl Catalogo
2. Karina Mae Dela Cerna
3. Albert Dela Cerna
4. Noly Rosales
5. Proceso Quiatzon
6. Romulo Bito-on
7. Mermalyn Bito-on

The Bito-on couple, who were nabbed during a raid on their home, are accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The others, who were arrested in the raid on the Bayan office, were charged with illegal possession of multiple firearms.

Those charged with illegal possession of firearms, a bailable offense, are:
1. Anne Krueger
2. John Milton Lozande
3. Danilo Tabora
4. Roberto Lachica

Krueger, a community journalist from alternative media outfit Paghimutad, was arrested at the Bacolod office of women’s organization Gabriela, from where authorities claimed to have recovered two .38 caliber revolver and ammunition.

Lozande, secretary general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, was also nabbed at the Bayan office, while Tabora and Lachica were at the NFSW office when it was raided.

Aside from the firearms and explosives charges, Lozande, Rosales, the Dela Cernas, who are father and daughter, Catalogo and Quiatzon are also set to be charged for human trafficking.

Immediately after the raids, a joint military and police operation under the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Army proclaimed a major victory and predicted the imminent destruction of the communist rebel movement on Negros.

The military had also claimed the offices of the organizations that were raided, particularly the Bayan office which occupies a large compound, were training facilities where the rebels were supposedly molding “child warriors.”

However, the organizations, all tagged as rebel “fronts,” denied the accusation and insisted the guns and explosives supposedly seized had been planted.

It turned out the laid-off Ceres workers were consulting Rosales, who heads the Kilusang Mayo Uno labor union, about their dismissal from work.

Members of the cultural group Teatro Obrero march out of the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office where they had been detained since October 31, when they were arrested during simultaneous raids on the offices of activist organizations in Bacolod City. (Visayas Today photo)

The Teatro Obrero members, on the other hand, were rehearsing for a play, “Papa Isio,” about the legendary hero of the revolution against Spain and the war against the American colonizers, which they were supposed to have presented on November 5, which commemorates the liberation of Negros from the Spaniards.

Former Bayan Muna representative and Bacolod native Neri Colmenares, who visited the detainees with Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna and Arelen Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party, said he expected the release of the 32 detainees to substantially weaken the cases against the remaining 11.

“The release of the majority of the people arrested during the raids essentially means that the charges against them are not true,” he explained.

Incidentally, it took them more than two hours, or close to the end of visiting hours at 5 p.m., to gain access to the detainees and escort those to be released out of Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. after police guards refused them entry, saying they were under orders from Col. Romeo Baleros, the provincial director.

Lawyer Joemax Ortiz, counsel of the laid off transport workers, slammed authorities for arresting and forcing them to “go through the inconvenience of proving their innocence” when “they should have been released then and there because they were clearly innocent.”

Progressive groups said the Bacolod raids and the arrest of other activists in Manila signaled the start of a widespread crackdown on legal dissenters and critics of government. #

‘Hindi lakas kundi kahinaan’

Hinggil sa pag-aresto sa mga sibilyan sa Bacolod: “Hindi pagpapakita ng lakas kundi kahinaan at desperasyon ng gubyernong Duterte itong ginagawa niya.”–Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna

Kung saan bihasa ang PNP at AFP

” Kung ang mga magsasaka ay nagtatanim ng palay at butil, ang PNP at AFP ay bihasa sa tanim-bala, tanim-baril at tanim-explosives.”–Danilo Ramos, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson

21 sacked Ceres workers among Bacolod raid detainees – Bayan

By Visayas Today

Twenty-one laid off workers of the Ceres Bus line who were consulting a labor leader were among the 55 persons (not 62 as earlier reported by authorities) arrested and detained in simultaneous raids last week on four locations in Bacolod City that state forces claimed harbored communist rebels in training.

This was bared by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which held a press conference in Metro Manila on Sunday, November 3, to denounce what it called the “tanim baril, tanim ebidensya” (planting of guns and evidence) tactics alleged used by the Army and police to justify the raids and boost their claims that those arrested are members of the rebel movement.

Also nabbed and detained were 25 youth, among them 13 minors, of the grassroots cultural group Teatro Obrero who were rehearsing for a presentation of their play “Papa Isio,” on the legendary Negros hero of the revolution against Spain and the war against America.

The youth and Ceres workers were among those arrested at a compound in a residential area of Barangay Bata that serves as the office of leftist party-list Bayan Muna and other organizations. The Army and police claim the place, where 30 firearms and explosives were supposedly recovered, served as a “training area” for rebel recruits, including potential “child warriors.”

Also netted in the raids were several officers of progressive groups like the National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Karapatan, all of which the government and state forces openly tag as “legal fronts” of the rebels, and Anne Krueger of the alternative media outfit Paghimutad, all of whom were accused of being part of the rebels’ regional leadership in Negros.

Aside from those arrested in the October 31 Bacolod raids, two succeeding raids in Escalante City on November 1 also led to the apprehension of NFSW staff Imelda Sultan and Ma. Lindy Perucho. As with the Bacolod operations, the Escalante raiders also claimed to have recovered weapons and explosives from the two women.

Also on October 31, Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Michael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay, were arrested and weapons and explosive also supposedly seized.

Incidentally, all the search warrants used as the basis for the raids were issued on October 30 by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89.

Bayan, in a statement, said the raids signified “how low the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines have sunk in their effort to comply with Duterte’s orders to crack down on activists and political dissenters.”

It also noted the similarities in the operations:

1. Police gets a search warrant from a friendly, uninformed or intimidated judge, in this case from Quezon City which is outside the area of jurisdiction where the operation is made;
2. Occupants of the raided office or home are forced to go outside while police operatives, some in plain clothes, come in to search the area;
3. Occupants are then allowed back in only to discover illegal guns and explosives that police allege were found in their possession;
4. All persons are then arrested, detained and interrogated for prolonged periods while being denied their right to their lawyer or to be visited by relatives and friends. In the worst case like the Kanlaon, Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina incidents last March 30, 14 farmers were killed by police serving such search warrants;
5. To justify and muddle their illegal conduct, police and military officials go the rounds of the media vilifying the victims and claiming that these are members or supporters of the New People’s Army.

Bayan called the raids “a portent of worse things to come” and predicted “an escalation of the Duterte regime’s fascist crackdown on groups and individuals critical of the government, whose crime is to merely exercise their constitutional right to organize, express and seek redress for their grievances.” #

KMP: Guns, grenade in Bacolod raids are from the police

The firearms and explosives the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it confiscated from its raids of offices of activist organizations in Bacolod City Thursday night are recycled from their old anti-loose firearms operations, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.

“The loose firearms are from their own ‘Tokhang Kontra Guinadili-an nga Pusil’ that were rounded in previous police operations,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement, adding the “planting” of evidence is an old trick in the government’s playbook of political repression.

“Matagal nang ginagawa ng pulis itong tanim baril, tanim ebidensya,”  Ramos said. (The police had long been known to plant guns, plant evidence.)

Ramos pointed out to the video posted by community journalist Anne Krueger before she herself was arrested as proof the guns and grenades were from the composite police and military raiding teams.

In the video, Krueger, who was then at the Gabriela office, and a companion could be heard saying they do not own the bag police operatives said were found in a dark corner of the office’s backyard.

“We just cleaned that area and this is the first time we are seeing that bag. That is not ours, that is yours,” the unidentified Gabriela member said in the video.

Buking na buking na ang pulis at militar sa mga pagtatanim nila ng mga baril at ebidensya,” Ramos said in his statement. (The police and the military are notorious for planting guns as so-called evidence.)

The Bacolod PNP said it seized 14 caliber .45 pistols, nine caliber .38 revolvers, and a hand grenade from the local offices of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, and Anakpawis in Barangay Bata, and two other offices, including the one occupied by the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Barangay 33.

“It was CIDG operatives who brought and planted the pistols, revolvers, submachine guns, ammo magazines, and live bullets. The Bacolod City Police Office and the PNP Regional Office-7 have an armory of almost 10,000 old and rusty firearms that they usually recycle for planting of evidences,” Ramos added.

Presidential Communications and Operations Office secretary Martin Andanar meanwhile defended the police and the military, denying the guns and grenade were planted.

“We assert that any allegations that the raids conducted were a form of harassment are simply false and we have hard evidence secured to prove our argument,” Andanar added.

Bayan Muna Party however said the judge who issued the search warrant used in the Bacolod raids must publicize her special docket book to prove that court procedures were strictly followed.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate pointed out that while Manila and Quezon City (QC) executive judges are authorized to issue warrants upon application by the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation, the applications “shall be personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies.”

“Did the OIC PNP Chief endorse it? Under the rules the judge must ensure that the application is endorsed by the head of agency, otherwise she would be violating the rules for issuing the warrant,” Zarate asked.

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares also pointed that the executive judges “shall keep a special docket book listing names of Judges to whom the applications are assigned, the details of the applications and the results of the searches and seizures made pursuant to the warrants issued.”

“We are calling on the Supreme Court, especially Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, to review the actions of the QC RTC Judge, and for the Supreme Court to provide mechanisms to discipline judges who abuse legal processes and merely accede to baseless applications for search warrant by state forces,” Colmenares said.

Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Branch 89 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City issued the search warrants. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bacolod raids and arrests are Espenido’s handiwork—farmers

The mass arrest of 62 civilians, including three minors, and the raid on three offices in Bacolod City last Thursday, October 31 are the handiwork of controversial police officer Jovie Espenido, a farmers’ group reported.

“A real-life horror story is unfolding in Bacolod City and it is orchestrated by evil incarnate Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido – the newly-installed newly assigned deputy city director for operations of Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO). These vile acts attacking civil liberties deliberately intend to sow terror and fear across Bacolod City and Negros island anew,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

KMP’s reaction came after combined police and military operatives simultaneously raided the office of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Bayan Muna and Gabriela starting at five o’clock Thursday afternoon and arrested the activists.

Those hauled to the city police station included six minors the authorities allege are undergoing “training and “indoctrination”.

The police said several firearms and grenades were reportedly recovered during the raids on the offices as well as in the home of Bayan Muna’s Romulo Bito-on and his wife Mermalyn, who were both arrested.

All three organizations have long been openly red-baited by the police and the military of being “legal fronts” of the communist movement.

The KMP however said the raids are “real-life horrors” that only add up to “the long list of state-sponsored atrocities under Memorandum Order No. 32.”

President Rodrigo Duterte issued MO 32 in November 2018 ordering more military and police troops in three regions including Negros.

Recently, the controversial Espenido, alleged to have ordered the bloody July 2017 raid in Ozamiz City that killed Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and his wife and 13 other persons, was assigned to Bacolod City.

A few days ago, Espenido said “it would be God’s will if blood would flow in Bacolod City” in the course of his anti-drugs and anti-criminality campaign.

“The conduct of these mass raids was clearly illegal and unjust that the raiding teams had to come up with preposterous accusations that the civilians were allegedly conducting firearms and explosives training in the offices. Napakasinungaling ng mga pulis at militar,” Ramos said. (The police and the military are such liars.)

“These attacks happened with the knowledge and authorization of President Rodrigo Duterte. This is de facto martial law creeping in Negros Island and the rest of the country,” Ramos added.

‘Gestapo-like raid’

Other human rights groups and some of those apprehended denied the accusations they were rebels and said the weapons had been “planted.”

A video taken of the search at the nearby office of Gabriela showed a police officer inspecting a revolver and ammunition taken from a backpack at a corner of the yard.

Among those arrested were known activist leaders John Milton Lozande and Danny Tabura of the NFSW, Proceso Quiatchon of the human rights group Karapatan, Nilo Rosales and Aldrin de Cerna of the Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Lozande said the raiders held them for around an hour and then he was called to a house in the compound and showed “an obviously planted” gun supposedly found in his bag.

Nine other persons were arrested at the Gabriela office and two more from the NFSW.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said among those arrested at the Gabriela office was Anne Krueger of the newly established alternative media outfit Paghimutad, which has been covering social issues, including extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses.

They were all taken to the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office.

Interestingly, the raids were covered by search warrants issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Branch 89 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City.

Karapatan, in a statement, called this suspicious and said this was reminiscent of the Oplan Sauron 2 operations in Negros Oriental in March, which were covered by search warrants issued in Cebu City.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate also condemned the “dastardly Gestapo-like raid … simultaneously conducted by state forces against the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela and NFSW in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.”

He noted that the raids were conducted “at night before a long weekend so as to ensure that the courts are closed tomorrow so that the planted pieces evidence and subsequent trumped-up charges filed cannot immediately be challenged.”

Karapatan called the raids part of a “full-blown crackdown on activists and red-tagged legal organizations,” noting that earlier in the day, police arrested Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Mickael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay, and claimed a .45 caliber pistol and two grenades were seized from their home.

However, Pancito told media the raids, which he described as “part of cutting the source of manpower to Red areas,” or territory were the rebels operate, would prove to be a “big blow to the Red fighters of the New People’s Army” and would “trigger the downfall” of the insurgency on Negros. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports by Visayas Today)

Drug ‘bagman’ and ‘whistleblower’ Ricky Serenio shot dead in Bacolod ambush

by Visayas Today

Ricky Serenio, the self-confessed drug syndicate bagman who blew the whistle on persons, including policemen and politicians, he claimed were on the take from the illegal trade, was ambushed and killed in Bacolod City Saturday afternoon, August 31.

Two wounded suspects were arrested soon after following a brief chase by police.

Serenio, who was on his way home to Pulupandan town south of Bacolod, had just turned onto the highway after picking up a friend in a subdivision when he was attacked by the motorcycle-riding killers.

He was rushed to the nearby Bacolod South Hospital but was declared dead on arrival from at least five gunshot wounds.

A passing police patrol chased the gunmen, resulting in a multi-vehicular accident. The suspects then tried to flee on foot.

They were identified as Joemar Dumip-ig, 30, of Barangay 14 in Bacolod, and Allan Bustamante, also 30, of Barangay Mabuhay 2 in Toboso town. Both had gunshot wounds in the leg and were taken to the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital for treatment.

Serenio gained notoriety when, shortly after his arrest in Talisay City in January 2017, he admitted being the “bagman” of the Berya drug syndicate, which operates in Western Visayas, and then started naming law enforcers, judges, politicians and even media practitioners he claimed received protection money from his gang.

Soon after, in April of the same year, Serenio’s brother Wilmar was gunned down. The next month, his father Wilfredo was also shot dead outside their home in Barangay Singcang-Airport.

Before Serenio was killed, a younger brother said he visited their home and had lunch there. #