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‘Genuine revolutionary, loving father and patient husband,’ Concha says of slain husband

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Concha Araneta-Bocala called her late husband Reynaldo a genuine revolutionary who gave five decades of his life serving the masses of Panay Island.

In a loving tribute to her life-long partner and fellow NDFP consultant, Concha said she grieves for Reynaldo and companion Willy “Ka Ramon” Arguelles, killed in what the Philippine National Police (PNP) said was a simple service of arrest warrants that turned bloody.

“I grieve for my comrade and my husband Ka Reynaldo Bocala, more lovingly known as Ka Hans, Ka Bading and Ka Minoy to the masses in the countryside of Panay. I also grieve for Ka Ramon his trusted and reliable companion. We all grieve for them. Unarmed, they were traitorously and brutally murdered by the fascist mercenaries of the tyrant Duterte,” Concha said.

Herself in hiding as among those listed as terrorists by the Rodrigo Duterte government, Concha said she is torn by the killing of her husband of 50 years but she is proud and happy that he had lived to his pledge of serving the people and the Party (Communist Party of the Philippines) “until his last breath.”

Concha credited Reynaldo as a key figure in the consolidation and upsurge of the underground revolutionary movement in Central Panay and in the anti-fascist struggle south of the island related to the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

She said Reynaldo also organized the island’s indigenous Tumandok to fight for their right to their ancestral lands.

“Ka Minoy (Reynaldo) gave 50 years of his life in the revolutionary struggle. He was well-loved by the masses for his wit and humor, sharing stories and laughing with them, his down-to-earth style when giving lessons to the masses and practicality in guiding them on how to organize and mobilize their fellow peasants,” she said.

Reynaldo and Willy were killed by a team of police and military operatives in Providence Subdivision, Brgy. Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo City on Tuesday, May 29.

A Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees document of identification, ensuring his protection against surveillance, arrest, detention and assassination, was discovered among his possessions after the incident.

Patient husband, loving father

In her tribute, Concha said her husband was a loving father to their four children.

“[Y]our father, tatay loved you so much, too much. You know that and you can feel that,” she said.

Concha said she and Reynaldo met 50 years ago, got married and had two daughters and two sons.

While her husband failed to see their revolution succeed, Concha said she hopes their children, grandchildren and succeeding generations will see its inevitable victory.

“His life and work as a revolutionary may have taken his time away from you but his work was also for you and for all later generations that you may live decently as hard working people, enjoy genuine freedom and live full and happy lives,” she said.

Concha also revealed Reynaldo had been a patient husband to her, a headstrong woman born of privilege.

“To my comrade and husband, thanks for all the love you showered me even as I’m not easy to deal with, impatient, [lovingly] irritating almost always, and prickly as I may have inadequacies [as lover and wife],” she wrote in Hiligaynon.

“I give you my love admiration and respect,” she ended. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another Bloody Friday: Police kill NDFP consultant in Iloilo; gunmen murder former priest and NDFP negotiator in Cebu

Police killed a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant In Iloilo City while a retired NDFP leader and former priest was also gunned down in Camotes Island in Cebu province Friday evening.

Reynaldo Bocala, a known Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and new People’s Army (NPA) leader in Panay Island, was killed in a raid conducted by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) last night at Providence Subdivision, Brgy. Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo.

Local alternative media outfit Panay Today reported that the PNP-CIDG conducted the raid to purportedly serve four warrants of arrests against Bocala.

Pavia, Iloilo City where Bocala was killed by the police.

Bocala was the husband of NDFP peace consultant Concha Araneta-Bocala.

Also killed in the operation was a certain Willy Arguelles who was with Bocala at the time of the incident.

Iloilo police initially announced the incident was an illegal drugs buy-bust operation, local radio reports said.

Panay Today said a Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) Document of Identification was found on Bocala by the members of the operating team.

A Kodao source confirmed Bocala was a JASIG Document of Identification holder.

A JASIG Document of Identification supposedly protects its bearer from surveillance, harassment, threat, arrest and killing as participants in the peace process between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

State agents however have killed and arrested several JASIG-protected peace process participants, especially after formal NDFP-GRP peace negotiations were cancelled by GRP President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017.

Killed in his sleep

In Cebu province, former Roman Catholic priest and NDFP consultant for Cebu Rustico Luna Tan was killed in Purok Caimito, Brgy. Upper Poblacion, Pilar, Camotes Island, Cebu.

Tan was asleep on his hammock when shot on his face and torso by unidentified assailants.

He was 80-years old.

Rustico Luna Tan as a political detainee. (Karapatan Central Visayas photo)

A former political detainee, Tan was abducted in 2017 by the PNP detained in Tagbilaran City, Bohol for alleged 14 counts of murder.

The charges were dismissed by the Tagbilaran Regional Trial Court in 2019.

The former priest was again slapped with murder charges in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental soon after but was freed in March 2020 by release on recognizance.

Tan had been active since in community organic farming initiatives in Camotes Island until his death yesterday.

Tan was also arrested with 14 others from the Visayas and detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City in 1989 on charges of illegal possession of firearms and rebellion. He was eventually cleared of the charges.

Tan first gained prominence as NDFP peace negotiator for Cebu Province between 1986 and 1987 in the first ever NDFP-GRP peace talks.

Ordained as a priest under the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart congregation, Tan served in various parishes in Surigao and Lapu-Lapu cities.

He later joined the NDFP-allied Christians for National Liberation.

Tan was among the many priests from all over the country who joined the CPP-led revolutionary movement during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Peasant leader’s death sparks outrage, calls for justice

AlterMidya

Longtime peasant leader Joseph Canlas, who had been detained over trumped-up charges, has passed away today, May 11, after he was rushed to a hospital three days ago, according to peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

“We condemn in strongest terms the jail authorities’ neglect and the Duterte government’s unjust incarceration of Ka Joseph which led to his untimely death this morning,” Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said. “We express our deepest condolences to his family.”

Canlas, chairperson of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, was arrested March 30 by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police in Mexico, Pampanga. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives — a criminal case that human rights groups called the “standard” charges fabricated against activists under the Duterte administration.

The peasant leader was rushed to an Angeles City hospital due to low oxygen level and possible stroke. The following morning, he was transferred to an intensive care unit due to acute respiratory failure and COVID-19.

On May 10, Canlas had lapsed into a coma despite being intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator.

Human rights groups earlier decried “unjust treatment” of Canlas under custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. They said the land reform advocate was subjected to severe conditions that made him vulnerable to ailments like COVID-19. Hospital records showed his cause of death as pneumonia.

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), where Canlas served as vice-chairperson, noted that he was in stable condition prior to detention. His health would soon deteriorate under jail custody as proven by his complaints of difficulty in breathing and stuttering speech.

“If jail authorities thoroughly checked Canlas’s health condition, they would have known that he has hypertension and diabetes which makes him more vulnerable to COVID infection,” KMP said.

“If he received proper medical attention while in detention, then the risks could have been lessened,” the group added.

A day after his arrest, Canlas was transferred and put under quarantine at the CIDG Region 3. He was not allowed to receive visitors, including family members and counsel.

According to KMP, Canlas was transferred after two weeks to the BJMP Detention Center in Angeles City after an X-ray examination. Since the BJMP’s facility was full, he was listed to be placed under quarantine.

The peasant advocate was put in BJMP’s quarantine facility along with 100 or more detainees as of April 22. He was transferred to a regular jail after two more weeks.

Who is Joseph Canlas?

Canlas was known in Central Luzon for his decades-long struggle against land grabbing and displacement of farmers in Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Dolores, Pantabangan Dam, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija, Camp Gregg in Pangasinan, New Clark City, and expressways CLEX, TPLEX and SCTEX among others.

He finished BS Forestry at Pampanga Agricultural College and became an employee at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He soon became exposed to corruption in the government agency, especially in the implementation of environmental projects.

Canlas eventually resigned from government work and formed the group Anak Gubat to continue his advocacy of protecting the environment. He became a member of the peasant group Aguman dareng Maglalautang Capampangan (AMC) in 1997. During this time, he was also elected as an officer of  Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Pampanga.

In 2003, he became the chairperson of the AMGL and led a membership reaching up to 10,000 farmer-members. According to a Bayan-Gitnang Luson, Canlas led successful people’s campaigns in Central Luzon such as the agricultural workers’ strike in Hacienda Luisita, and against infrastructure projects like the New Clark City, Balog-Balog Dam, Aboitiz Geothermal Powerplant, massive land use conversion and the displacement of farmers and Aetas.

In the middle of the pandemic while he was being constantly red-tagged and harassed by state security forces, Canlas was still at the forefront of relief efforts and calls for sufficient health services and economic assistance to peasants and Aetas in Central Luzon.

His organizations KMP, AMGL, Bayan, as well as other progressive groups have denounced the injustice against the peasant leader. In a statement, the KMP said “we could only blame the Duterte administration for his untimely death. His unjust detention led to the swift deterioration of his health condition.”

“We point our fingers to the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that subjected Canlas to constant red-tagging, Angeles City RTC Executive Judge Ma. Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao who issued the search warrant against Canlas, the PNP-CIDG that executed the defective warrant and carried out the illegal arrest last March 30, and the BJMP for consciously neglecting Canlas’ health condition,” the peasant group said.

According to KMP, peasant organizations and land reform advocates will hold a series of protests, starting with an indignation rally at the Commission of Human Rights complex in Quezon City this afternoon, May 11.

With reports from Ratziel San Juan and Pokus Gitnang Luson 

Joseph Canlas in a coma; KMP blames neglect by jail authorities

Detained Central Luzon-based peasant leader Joseph Canlas tested positive of the dreaded coronavirus disease and is now in a coma in a Pampanga hospital, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.

The farmers’ group said Canlas has low oxygen levels despite being intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator since his transfer to the intensive care unit Sunday morning.

Canlas complained of difficulty in breathing and stuttering speech on Saturday, leading his family to suspect he both has Covid and has suffered a stroke.

The veteran land reform advocate, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon chairperson and KMP vice chairperson, was arrested in Mexico, Pampanga on March 30 on the standard charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police.

Joseph Canlas after his arrest. (KMP photo)

KMP said Canlas was in stable physical condition before his arrest and detention but his health quickly deteriorated due to neglect by jail authorities as well as severe and miserable jail conditions.

“If jail authorities thoroughly checked Canlas’s health condition, they would have known that he has hypertension and diabetes which makes him more vulnerable to COVID infection,” KMP said.

“If he received proper medical attention while in detention, then the risks could have been lessened,” the group added.

KMP said Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Angeles District Warden Jail Supt. Rebecca Manalo-Tiguelo belittled Canlas’ initial complaints as well as those of other detainees.

“Last week, Canlas expressed that he was not feeling well but Manalo-Tiguelo simply dismissed Canlas’s ailment as ‘umaarte lang’ (just putting up an act),” KMP said.

The group also said Canlas and fellow detainees were refused Covid testing to determine if they were COVID positive.

“We highly suspect that Joseph Canlas got COVID infected while under quarantine inside BJMP jail facilities,” KMP said.

How he contracted Covid

In a statement, the KMP presented a timeline of Canlas’ health troubles:

March 30 – Canlas was illegally arrested in Barangay Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga. He was then brought to PNP Camp Olivas in San Fernando, Pampanga;

April 1 – He was transferred and put under quarantine at the CIDG Region 3. While quarantined, he was not allowed to receive visitors even from family members and counsel;

April 15 – After 14 days, he was transferred to the BJMP Detention Center in Angeles City after an X-ray examination. He was listed to be put under quarantine, as BJMP’s facility was full;

April 22 – He was put in BJMP’s quarantine facility, along with 100 or more detainees;

NNARA Youth UP Diliman photo

May 6 – After another 14 days, he was transferred to a regular jail, Selda 25;

May 7 – In a phone call with relatives, Canlas exhibited stuttering in speech. He also exhibited physical weakness and needed help in eating, walking, etc. By night time he had difficulties breathing;

May 8 – On Saturday evening, Canlas was rushed to a hospital in Angeles City due to a possible stroke and low oxygen level (74%, compared to the 95% and higher normal level);

May 9 – On early Sunday morning, he was transferred to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to acute respiratory failure and COVID;

May 10 – He is already in a coma, and still has low oxygen levels despite being intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator.

Human rights groups and activists conducted an online rally on Monday calling for Canlas’ immediate release.

“Ka Joseph does not even deserve a day in detention, yet he is now in a life-threatening situation due to grave government neglect and deprivation of necessary health and medical attention,” KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Central Luzon’s most prominent political detainee fights for life in ICU

Detained peasant leader Joseph Canlas is in an intensive care unit (ICU) of a Pampanga hospital, suspected to have suffered a stroke and contracted the dreaded coronavirus disease in jail.

Canlas’ daughter Jenette announced his father was rushed to a hospital on Sunday morning after complaining of breathing difficulties as early as Saturday afternoon.

The elder Canlas experienced breathing difficulties and stuttering speech on Saturday afternoon and his family pleaded to jail authorities to bring him to a hospital.

He was eventually admitted to the hospital’s ICU while awaiting his Covid-19 test result.

Canlas was apprehended by the Central Luzon Criminal Investigation and Detection Group unit of the Philippine National Police (CIDG-PNP) last March 30 in what the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said is a questionable arrest using a defective search warrant.

The police said guns and explosives were found at the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) staff house where Canlas was staying.

Canlas, a prominent land reform activist and peasant leader, is AMGL chairperson and KMP vice chairperson.

“The extreme stress of his unjust detention and cramped jail conditions led to the deterioration of Canlas’ health. He has hypertension and diabetes, both comorbidities of COVID-19,” the KMP said in a statement.

KMP demanded Canlas’ immediate release on humanitarian grounds as well as full medical attention until his recovery.

“This is an urgent matter of life and death and justice. The congested jail conditions will only worsen Canlas’ health,” the KMP said Sunday.

The group said the CIDG-PNP and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology JMP will be liable for any untoward incident that may befall Canlas under detention.

“Canlas does not even deserve a day in jail. The evidence and charges against him are all fabricated,” KMP said.

KMP said there are 3,500 reported Covid cases in BJMP facilities nationwide as of March 22.

Kapatid, the support group for families and friends of political prisoners, also called on the government and the trial court in charge of Canlas’ case to release the detainee, saying that he deserves to be proper taken care of by his family and be given full medical attention.

“Let him fight for his life without the burdens brought by his continued unjust imprisonment for planted firearms,” the group’s spokesperson Fidel Lim said.

“We renew our call to the Supreme Court to fast-track the release of sick and elderly prisoners like Canlas as they are at great risk from the upsurge of the deadly COVID-19,” Lim added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Restless night for rights defenders, activists

It had been a restless night for human rights defenders and activists who had been on alert against more police raids after the arrests of activists on Holy Tuesday, March 30.

“We are on alert tonight and expecting more raids in the offices of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan(Bayan)-Timog Katagaluganand Gabriela Southern Tagalog, all in Cabuyao, Laguna,” KMU’s regional chapter Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik) yesterday said.

 “Residents near the offices have seen police elements in full battle gear roving the areas near the offices,” the group added.

Pamantik’s alert status was announced after operatives of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group raided the abandoned office of its affiliate, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Engklabo (AMEN) in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna also on Tuesday.

As in almost all raids against activists throughout the country, the police alleged it found firearms and explosives in the property.

“Nagtanim ang mga ito (PNP-CIDG) ng tila isang ‘armory’ ng mga baril, granada, bala at bomba,” KMU said after the Laguna raid. (The police again planted a seeming armory of guns, grenades, ammunitions and bombs.)

The raid came after the Bloody Sunday killings in four Southern Tagalog provinces last March 6, and just two days after the death of Dandy Miguel, Pamantik vice-chairperson.

It also followed the raid and arrests of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon chairperson and concurrent Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas vice chairperson Jose Canlas in Pampanga and Bayan-Gitnang Luzon chairperson and KMU vice chairperson for Central Luzon Florentino “Pol” Viuya in Tarlac on Tuesday.

Karapatan paralegal May Arcilla was arrested along with Viuya after vigorously protesting so-called irregularities in the operation.

As in the Sta. Rosa raid, the police alleged it found guns and explosives in the houses it raided in Central Luzon.

The “huli” (arrest, capture) week actually started in Bulacan province last Friday with the arrest of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-Pandi chapter chairperson Connie Opalla by the police.

The police have yet to announce Opalla’s whereabouts despite announcing her arrest on its Facebook page.

“Huli Week” had been a moniker invented by Karapatan human rights workers since the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to describe the spike in the number of arrests of activists during Holy Week.

The PNP is known to favor the filing of so-called trumped up charges such as illegal possession of firearms and explosives, an unbailable criminal offense, to frustrate human rights lawyers from securing the victims’ early release. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Huli week’ in full swing in Central Luzon; 3 arrested on Holy Tuesday

[UPDATED, 2:47 PM] “Huli” (arrest, capture) Week is in full swing in Central Luzon in the middle of Holy Week as at least three human rights defenders have been arrested and activists’ offices and houses were raided this morning, Holy Tuesday.

Alerts by various organizations said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luzon chairperson Pol Viuya was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in his residence in Barangay Anupul, Bamban, Tarlac.

The alerts said Viuya was presented with a warrant of arrest but no details of his alleged offense had been provided.

Viuya is also Kilusang Mayo Uno vice chairperson for Central Luzon and member of its National Council.

Bagong alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luzon chairperson Pol Viuya. (Bayan image)

Reportedly arrested with Viuya was Karapatan-Central Luzon paralegal May Arcilla.

“As Karapatan paralegal, she fearlessly questioned the validity of the search warrant served and was arrested for speaking her mind. She is currently detained at Camp Macabulos, Tarlac City,” Karapatan said.

In Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga, the police arrested Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) chairperson Jose Canlas.

In a CLTV 36 interview, AMGL staffer Joyce said the police ordered them to get out of their hut, entered and later claimed to have found a .45 handgun inside.

Joyce said Canlas, concurrent Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas national vice chairperson, was never known to have owned a gun.

She added that Canlas protested his arrest as the search warrant belatedly presented by the police bore the name of Joseph Canlas, instead of his real name Jose.

The police responded by forcibly taking Canlas down to the ground that alarmed even children of the five-house compound, Joyce revealed.

Joyce added that monies amounting to at least P20,000 and other items have gone missing after the police operation.

Canlas had been taken to Camp Olivas in San Fernando City, PNP-Region 3 headquarters.

A source said activists in other provinces are also being arrested this morning, declining to name the other police targets pending verified reports from human rights organizations in the region.

The police had been known to conduct arrests of activists during Holy Week, taking advantage of lulls in activities of progressive organizations.  

Karapatan Central Luzon paralegal May Arcilla (Karapatan image)

‘Surface Opalla’

Meanwhile, urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) demanded that the police surface its Pandi chapter leader Connie Opalla who was arrested last Friday in the Central Luzon province of Bulacan.

Opalla, Kadamay said, was able to inform her colleagues after her arrest she would be held at the San Rafael police station in Bulacan.

The PNP however has subsequently denied being in custody of Opalla despite already announcing her arrest on its Central Luzon Regional Command Facebook page.

The police said Opalla’s lawyers and family are being given the run-around by the police as her whereabouts is being withheld, along with other documents needed to secure her bail.

“They are hiding her from us, her family and lawyers. After two days of being incommunicado, she should be categorized as a missing person already,” Kadamay secretary general Mimi Doingo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(This is a developing story. Click for updates.)

Groups welcome Senate bill criminalizing red-tagging

Several groups welcomed a bill filed by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon criminalizing red-tagging, promising to strongly lobby for its passage.

Both the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they support the measure that seeks to penalize the act.

“This is a very welcome development in the people’s fight against State-sponsored red-tagging and human rights violations. We are hoping for the approval of this measure. Farmers will lobby for the passage of this bill,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.  

The farmers’ group said it is being consistently red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and its Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“Many of our leaders and members who were subjected to red-tagging were either extrajudicially-killed, illegally arrested, and charged with trumped-up non-bailable charges. Red-tagging kills. We want masterminds of red-tagging to be held accountable accordingly,” Ramos said.

In a separate statement, the NUJP said it also welcomes Drilon’s bill seeking to define and penalize red-tagging by State actors.

“These dangerous accusations, when done by state agents as part of a so-called counter-insurgency program, are no longer private opinions and conspiracy theories but official actions and policy,” the NUJP said.

Like the KMP, NUJP has been openly and repeatedly accused by government officials of fronting for the Communist Party of the Philippines, an allegation it has consistently denied.

“Red-tagging has often led to harassment and violence against its targets and NUJP welcomes moves that will protect journalists from these threats and hold those making them to account,” it said. Filed on Wednesday, March 24, Drilon’s measure seeks to define red-tagging as “the act of labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping or caricaturing individuals, groups or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning subversives, communists or terrorists, or as part of counter-insurgency, or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary or military personnel.”

The Senate Bill also seeks a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office for violators. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Laborer rebuffs PNP’s order to spy on KMU; reveals assassination plot vs NDFP consultants

A construction worker said police intelligence operatives tried recruiting him to spy on labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and help in the planned abduction and assassination of remaining National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants.

The laborer however rejected the offer and reported the incident to his former KMU colleagues.

James (an alias), a construction laborer and a former KMU driver, said two men who identified themselves as Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group members allegedly tried to intimidate and bribe him agree to be a police spy on KMU.

In a press conference, James said he was fetched by barangay security personnel (tanod) and was taken to Barangay Banaba Hall in San Mateo, Rizal last Friday, March 19, on the pretense he needed to secure a permit for a construction project.

The victim was working at a renovation project at KMU secretary for human rights Eleanor de Guzman’s house at the time of the incident.

At the barangay hall, he was isolated in a room with the two police personnel who ordered him to return as KMU staff driver and spy for the police.

Makipagtulungan kang maayos, pagkatapos naman ay peace-peace tayo. ‘Yang pagtatrabaho mo, kayang-kaya naming ibigay ang pangangailangan mo, basta bumalik ka lang sa Balai para mag-spy,” the alleged police officers told James. (You cooperate properly, and then there would be peace between us. We will give you what you need as long as you return to Balai to spy for us.)

Balai is KMU’s national headquarters formally known as Balai Obrero (Workers’ House).

The unnamed officers told James they are particularly interested with de Guzman and her father, NDFP peace consultant Rafael Baylosis.

Assassination of peace consultants

The police told James they intend to abduct and assassinate all remaining NDFP peace consultants.

“Matagal na naming kayong minamanmanan, buti nga kami ang kausap niyo kasi may isang unit naming ang dudukot sa inyo,” James quoted the officers as saying. (We have you under surveillance for a long time. You should be grateful it is us who are talking to you because we have one unit tasked to abduct all of you.)

“Uubusin daw nila ang mga consultant,” he added. (They said they will finish off all consultants.)

James said the two officers took photos of him and demanded to reveal his phone number.

He also noticed at least eight other men on board motorcycles and heavily-tinted cars who followed him to his next destination. All vehicles did not have license plates, he added.

De Guzman and KMU national chairperson Elmer Labog said they condemn the police’s “criminal act” as direct and dangerous attacks against labor unionists and other human rights defenders.

The KMU said they are reporting the incident to the Commission on Human Rights to ask for an investigation.

Labog also called on the Supreme Court, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Justice to use their powers to put a stop to the killings and unjust arrests of workers and human rights defenders. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another activist arrested with same warrant, same allegation and same judge

A second unionist was arrested on Thursday, March 4, with a search warrant of the same allegation and from the same judge, leading a human rights organization to ask if the country’s courts have become factories of “bogus search warrants.”

Lakas ng Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda and Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Enklabo member Arnedo Laguinias was arrested at his house in Barangay Pulong, Sta. Rosa, Laguna by Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) operatives.

Like Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees National Council member Ramir Corcolon who was arrested at 4:30 AM at his home in San Pablo City, Laguna yesterday, Laguinias is alleged to have illegally possessed a rifle grenade.

Instead of rifle grenades, however, the police claimed they found identical .45 caliber handguns at both raids.

Laguinias was an illegal surveillance, harassment and red-tagging victim of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict last year that alleged the unionist is a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog said

Laguinias and Corcolon are detained at the PNP-CIDG Southern Luzon headquarters at Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna.

The search warrant used to raid the unionist’s home was also issued by Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court (RTC) Presiding Judge Divinagracia Bustos-Ongkeko.

‘Factories of bogus search warrants’

Karapatan said the Judge and her Court are “notorious” for issuing “bogus search warrants.”

Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Judge Divinagracia Burgos-Ongkeko delivering a speech before the Laguna Provincial Police office. (Photo from Judge Burgos-Ongkeko’s Facebook page)

The group likened Burgos-Ongkeko with fellow Sta. Cruz, Laguna Judge Cynthia Mariño-Ricablanca and Quezon City Regional Trial Presiding Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert as “factories” of orders that inevitably result in planted evidence.

Karapatan revealed that Mariño-Ricablanca have in the past issued invalid warrants against Calaca, Batangas  sugar cane farm workers who the police accused to have illegally possessed guns and explosives.

The charges against the farm workers were later dismissed because the search warrant, aside from its inherent irregularities, violated due process, the group said.

Burgos-Villavert’s search warrant against journalist Lady Ann Salem and labor union organizer Rodrigo Esparago was also dismissed by the Mandaluyong City RTC as it violated due process and inconsistencies in the testimonies provided by the police.

Karapatan accused Burgos-Villavert as the most notorious among the three, having issued the most warrants that arrested activists in Metro Manila and Negros island with the same allegations: illegal possession of guns and explosives.

One such order by Burgos-Villavert resulted in last year’s arrest of women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino who was seven months pregnant when Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Tondo, Manila office was raided by the same police unit: the CIDG.

Nasino was forced to give birth while in custody, but was denied the chance to nurse her infant.

The child’s death became an international scandal because of the “inhumane” manner jail guards conducted his internment.

Karapatan said it appears that some judges have become accomplices in the Rodrigo Duterte’s “witch hunt” against activists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)