By Joseph Cuevas
Quezon City—Human rights group Karapatan and other progressive organizations formed a network to defend activists and and rights defenders in Mindanao against trumped-up charges and harassments by state forces under the Rodrigo Duterte government Wednesday, February 12.
Defend Mindanao, a campaign network in defense of Mindanao human rights defenders and development workers, also called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate and facilitate remedies for the embattled activists.
According to Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, co-convenor of Defend Mindanao and herself a Manobo tribal leader, Mindanao has been a factory mill of trumped-up criminal charges against activists.
Last March 2019, the Provincial Prosecutors Office of Bayugan City filed charges of kidnapping, arson, robbery and serious illegal detention against 468 individuals, including 78 known activists in Caraga and Northern Mindanao.
Cullamat added that although martial law in Mindanao has been lifted last December 2019, the arrest of Nestor Amora, a businessman and former barangay captain in Surigao City, and Karapatan national council member Engr. Jennifer Aguhob in Oroquietta City, prove that martial law still exists in the island through Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70.
She added that EO 70 allows the implementation of a de facto martial law in Mindanao and all over the country.
Other forms of human rights violations
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) denounced the inclusion of teacher Ophelia Tabacon, ACT Region 10 chairperson, among the 467 persons charged with kidnapping, serious illegal detention and destructive allegedly commited against police personnel from December 2018 to February 2019.
ACT said Tabacon also recieved death threats through her social media accounts and subjected to various form of surveillance and harassments by suspected State security forces.
Aside from the teachers’ group, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) also reported villifications and red-tagging by State forces.
KMU said leaftlets linking its allied National Federations of Labor Union have been distributed in Caraga region they said are the handiwork of the military.
Sr. Emma Cupin, current regional coordinator of RMP in Northern Mindanao, is also included in a warrant of arrest.
Defend Mindanao said the arrest warrants for the 468 respondents is a hitlist of the Duterte government that often leads to extra-judicial killings of activists.
The group said the red-baiting tactics of the government lump together civilian activists with the armed combatants of the New People’s Army in a bid to make them targets of military combat operations and legal offensives.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that such tactics is an illegal practice and weaponization of law against critics and disenters.
The lawyers’ group cited issued warrants from courts they said are without complete examination of complainants and witnesses as well as submission of evidences.
The NUPL challenged the Department of Justice to investigate public prosecutors who handle what they say are trumped-up cases against the activists. #