Posts

Start inoculating prisoners, rights group presses gov’t

A support group for political detainees pressed the government to start inoculating prisoners, citing the higher possibility of coronavirus outbreaks inside the country’s overcrowded and poorly-ventilated jail facilities.

“Kapatid presses the national government to release a clear schedule for the vaccination of all prisoners, including the 704 political prisoners, in the national deployment plan for COVID-19 vaccines because the congested prison system places them at significant higher risk for the disease,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

The group Kapatid made the call after justice secretary Menardo Guevarra said that ordinary prisoners are not yet part of the priority list for the government’s vaccination activities against the increasingly contagious and deadly COVID-19.

Guevarra said that only elderly prisoners are eligible for early vaccination.

“[W]hile waiting for their turn to get vaccinated like the rest of the population, these [non-elderly] PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) will just have to follow minimum health protocols to reduce the risk of viral transmission,” Guevarra, Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Against COVID-19 member, said.

‘Mixed messaging’

Lim said Guevarra’s statement however contradicts an earlier assurance by the Department of Health (DOH) that “all persons deprived of liberty as determined by Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) are included under the Priority Eligible Group B-9.”

Kapatid asked DOH secretary and IATF Against COVID-19 chairperson Francisco Duque last March 2 to included all prisoners among the first to be vaccinated as part of the most “at-risk populations.”

DOH undersecretary and National Vaccine Operations Center chairperson Dr. Myrna Cabotaje told the rights group that prisoners are already identified for inclusion in the priority eligible population on the basis of stratifying the risks for contracting COVID-19 infection.

“So we quote to Secretary Guevarra the very words of the DOH in their reply to us: ‘Health is an absolute human right. No Filipino will be denied their right to get vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine. The national government assures you that every consenting Filipino will receive the appropriate COVID-19 vaccine, to protect the life and health of every citizen, including all Political Prisoners,’” she added

“Shouldn’t the DOJ and the whole national government be saying the same thing to everyone?” Lim asked.

Lim said it is ironic that the DOJ whose mandate includes the supervision of the BuCor should contradict the DOH statement and ignore the plight of over 215,000 prisoners compelled to live in subhuman conditions.

“This apparently may be yet another case of mismanagement from the top that results in mixed messaging,” Lim said.

 ‘Death traps’

Kapatid said extreme congestion inside the country’s prisons makes them “death traps” during the pandemic.

In November 2019, the BJMP reported that its 467 jails nationwide were at 534 percent of capacity as of March of that year while the BuCor said that the congestion rate in its 125 prisons was at 310 percent as of January 2019.

In October 2018, the Commission on Human Rights said “deplorable jail conditions” in the country are aggravated by the failure of the government, including police officers, to faithfully comply with even the minimum human rights standards and laws, such as the Anti-Torture Act (RA 9745). # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Myanmar crackdown intensifies as air strikes lead to more killings and displacement

46 children have died during the protest crackdown and air strikes

By Global Voices South East Asia

This article originally appeared on Medium and was written by a blogger who doesn’t wish to be identified. An edited version is published here.

Note: This article contains disturbing images of violence.

Throughout March 2021, Myanmar’s military regime continued its brutal suppression of civilian movements that were calling for the restoration of democracy in the country since the military coup of February 1.

Since February, protests across the country have been challenging the military rule. Starting in March, the junta ramped up its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

As pressure from the ethnic armed organizations (EAO) grew stronger, the final week of March saw the bloodiest reprisals from the Myanmar military, which launched airstrikes on villages in EAO-controlled areas. As of April 2, 550 protesters, including 46 children, had been killed while around 12,900 villagers have fled their homes to escape clashes between the military regime and EAOs in Karen and Kachin states.

Below is a timeline of violence inflicted by the junta on civilians and protesters during the second half of March:

On March 19, a military operation in a small city of Aung Ban in Shan state was responsible for the deaths of nine protesters.

Starting on March 21, the regime intensified the violence in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan state. Footage shared on Facebook showed soldiers shooting protesters and torturing civilians in their homes.

On the same day, the military ramped up night crackdowns in parts of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, and killed five people, including a 15-year-old boy. The crackdown continued in Mandalay the next day with the killing of four more people, one of whom was a 13-year-old boy.

On March 23, soldiers raided a home and shot a seven-year-old girl while she was in her father’s arms. Her 19-year-old brother was also severely hit in the head with a rifle butt and was arrested by the soldiers. These children were the first of many victims of military’s intensified attacks against the youth.

In three days of continuous violence in Mandalay, 22 people were reportedly killed.

On March 24, a nationwide “silent day” strike was organized across the country, where people “protested” by not going out on the streets while shops and markets were also closed.

“Day of shame”

On Saturday, March 27, while junta leaders celebrated “Armed Forces Day” in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, the forces of the regime unleashed the most ruthless attack against protesters causing a bloodbath in 40 cities across the country. The death toll reached 114.

That day, five children were also killed. A 13-year-old boy from Mingalar Taung Nyunt ward of Yangon was shot by riot police while he was playing on the street. His body was taken by the police. A one-year-old child was also severely injured with a rubber bullet. By that time, 29 people under 18 had already been killed by the military across the country.

In the city of Dawei, CCTV footage showed the regime’s soldiers on a truck trying to kill three civilians on a motorbike that was merely crossing the street. Two escaped but one person was shot dead.

Perhaps the most heinous crime was a military raid during a night in Mandalay when they burned a resident alive.

Before the bloodbath, the regime confirmed in a state television announcement that it was enforcing a policy of shooting people in the head, and warned that it would do more if people continue protests.

Because of this and the high number of fatalities, the international community dubbed Myanmar military regime’s Armed Forces Day as a “Day of Shame.”

The Armed Forces Day was originally known as Resistance Day when the Myanmar army expelled Japanese forces during the Second World War. Later on, the military junta changed it to Armed Forces Day, locally known as Tatmadaw Day (တပ်မတော်နေ့).

As a symbol of fascist resistance, activists asked the people to come out for nationwide demonstrations on March 27.

Continuing impunity

On Sunday, March 28, the military crackdown in the central city of Monywa, where mass protests had been going on every day, saw five people killed.

In Yangon, there were also reports of the military using live grenades in the neighborhood of Hlaing.

At night, the military launched a crackdown in the city of Pathein in the delta region amid electricity and internet blackouts.

Similarly in Yangon’s South Dagon township, the military used submachine guns during the night crackdown.

The crackdown continued in March 29 in South Dagon, where the regime’s forces used RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) launchers to break down the strong resistance of the protesters. Another person was also found with his/her body burnt at night in the street by the military (it was not clear if he/she was still alive at the time of burning). Twenty-one people were confirmed dead during the two-day clampdown.

Civilians from the city of Kalay and nearby areas, where there is a majority of Chin ethnic people, had been also putting up a tough fight against the military forces for three days since March 30. Seventeen civilians died during that clash.

Air strikes in ethnic villages

Since March 11, the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) had been attacking military bases near Hpa-Kant, a northern town in the Kachin state. The military reportedly retaliated with air strikes against the KIA.

A decade-long civil war between the KIA and the Myanmar military has been ongoing since 2011 with occasional ceasefire agreements.

The KIA claimed that it renewed offensives against the junta because of the Tatmadaw’s atrocities against civilians.

On March 23, the AA (Arakan Army) from the Rakhine state also condemned the violence of the Tatmadaw forces. This was significant because the military granted a ceasefire with the AA when the coup began, which ended bouts of intensified fighting in the Rakhine state that began in 2018. On March 11, the military council had also removed the previous designation of the AA as a terrorist group.

On Armed Forces Day, March 27, the KNU (Karen National Union) attacked and captured a military base near Thee Mutra in the Karen state.

On the same evening, the Myanmar military started retaliating with airstrikes in KNU controlled territories. Continuous aerial bombings during the weekend had forced over 10,000 people from nearby villages to flee their homes. Air attacks continued until March 30 which killed at least 20 civilians.

By March 28, the KIA had captured four military bases near the city of Hpa-Kant. The next day, the military retaliated with an air strike. More people had fled due to the fighting in the Hpa-Kant area.

On March 30, a coalition of ethnic armed groups, namely the MNDAA (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army), the AA (Arakan Army) and the TNLA (Ta’ang National Liberation Army) released a statement saying they will defend and stand with civilians if military crackdowns continued.

Over 46 children have died in the past two months during the protests and the air strikes since February 1.

People’s defiance

Throughout the second half of March, many cities across Myanmar continued to show defiance by demonstrating in the streets.

In Yangon, having experienced inhumane clampdowns, young people continued to show up in random street lanes within neighborhoods using guerrilla-style tactics to evade military forces.

Protesters also chose unusual hours like dawn or night in organizing actions. Other protests used symbolic actions such as red balloons or flowers, without people to avoid being arrested or killed.

On the night of March 31, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (a counter government body set up by ousted parliament members), introduced the Federal Democracy Charter as a roadmap to move forward the country’s political future in the fight against the brutal military regime, and declared that the 2008 Constitution, drafted by the previous junta, had been abolished.

Over the next few days, people protested by burning the constitution and also its flag across different cities.

= = = = = =

Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

PLM names new gender and development program after Liliosa Hilao

The Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila launched on Monday, April 5, its new gender and development (GAD) program and named it after an activist alumna.

University President Emmanuel Leyco said PLM’s Liliosa Hilao Gender and Development Corner (LHGDC) honors its student leader and honors graduate who was the first political prisoner killed under President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law.

“Liliosa Hilao remains relevant today. We look up to her as an icon of empowerment. More than gender emancipation, she exemplifies how the youth can spark important conversations on human rights, equality, and justice,” Leyco said.

“It is our privilege and honor to call Ms. Hilao as one of our own and to name our GAD corner after her and the causes that she represents,” he added.

Located at the Celso Al Carunungan Memorial Library, the corner will carry various materials that will promote gender equality and equitable opportunities for all members of the PLM community, the university said.

PLM said LHGDC shall organize annual lectures and forums as well as film showings and exhibits on gender and development as its initial set of activities once the coronavirus-19 pandemic is over.

The launch, held virtually, coincided with Hilao’s 48th death anniversary.

Lilliosa Hilao (PLM image)

Who was Lilli?

Hilao was associate editor of PLM’s pre-martial law student newspaper Hasik and held other positions with the student government while an honors student throughout her academic life.

She also organized the university’s Communication Arts Club, founded its women’s club Alithea and represented PLM College Editors Guild of the Philippines conventions.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani, an institution that honors and remembers martial law heroes and martyrs, wrote “Lilli”, Hilao’s nickname, had a strong sense of justice and a mind of her own.

“This was expressed in the thoughtful essays she wrote for the student paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (where she was associate editor); some had titles like ‘The Vietnamization of the Philippines’ and ‘Democracy is Dead in the Philippines under Martial Law,’” Bantayog said.

In April 1973, mere days short of her class’ graduation rites, Philippine Constabulary’s Anti-Narcotics Unit personnel raided their house to look for Lili’s brother, an engineer and activist.

“When the young woman insisted that they produce a search warrant or an arrest order, the soldiers beat her up, then handcuffed and took her away. She was brought to Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police),” Bantayog said.

She would not be seen by her relatives until she was returned dead –– her body mangled, tortured, and reportedly raped.

The authorities claimed Hilao committed suicide by drinking muriatic acid.

The LHGDC logo

At the graduation ceremonies held two weeks afterward by PLM, a seat was kept vacant for Lilli, who was still conferred her degree, posthumously and with honors.

PLM Regent Wilma Galvante said during the launch their class wore black armbands on their graduation day in Lilli’s honor.

 Galvante said her classmate was a “true leader who wielded her pen to fight for what is right.”

Lilli’s name is inscribed at the Bantayog’s pantheon of heroes and martyrs.

In her birthplace and hometown Bulan, Sorsogon, a street was named after her in 2001.

Lilli’s sisters Alice and Josefina attended the launch in behalf of the Hilao family. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Employees and senators fight back vs. NICA, Badoy

The Senate employees union and several Senators condemned National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) director general Alex Paul Monteagudo and communication secretary Lorraine Badoy’s latest anti-communist witch-hunt.

The Sandigan ng mga Empleyadong Nagkakaisa sa Adhikain ng Demokratikong Organisasyon (SENADO) said Monteagudo’s allegation it exists as the eyes and ears of Communist groups in the Senate was malicious, baseless and dangerous that endangers the lives of its leaders.

“We are apprehensive that our leaders will now be the subject of vilification, harassment, arrest as they did to other union leaders affiliated with COURAGE (Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees) and, worse, killing which is happening now against unionists,” SENADO said.

The group said it believes it is being attacked for condemning earlier red-tagging activities by government agencies against legitimate public sector unions.

SENADO demanded that Monteagudo take down his post and apologize to all Senate official and employees “for his disrespect and profanity directed to the institution that is the stalwart of democracy and human rights.”

NICA chief Alex Monteagudo’s Facebook page that earned condemnation from Senators and government employees.

In a Facebook post, Monteagudo alleged that the Senate union serves as the eyes and ears of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines to hijack government projects and plans.

Communications secretary Lorraine Badoy also red-tagged the union in a column published by the Philippine News Agency.

Senators have come to the defense of the union.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he should know if the union is hijacking the government from within.

“[Monteagudo]) must have been misinformed. I would be the first to sense of such if ever. I’ve been there (in the Senate) since 1992,” Sotto said. 

He lauded SENADO for having led the passage of three Collective Negotiating Agreements for Senate employees’ rights and benefits.

Four opposition senators also condemned Monteagudo and Badoy’s allegations as “dangerous.”

“These are not just baseless attacks and vilification against the employees but against the institution of the Senate they represent,” minority bloc senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima said in a statement.

The four senators pressed for the passage of Senate Bill 2121, or the proposed “Act Defining and Penalizing Red-Tagging”.  

COURAGE meanwhile said its ranks will not back down under such repeated attacks and vowed to work harder for wage increases, job security, union rights and democratic and nationalist governance. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Health workers say hospitals ‘on the brink of collapse’

By Joseph Cuevas

Health workers said hospitals are on the brink of collapse amid the spike in new number of coronavirus cases around the country.

In a press conference Tuesday, April 7, Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) members said hospitals are overwhelmed with new patients every day and employees themselves are falling ill from the virus.

A number of health workers also resigned or have taken early retirement options due to fear, fatigue, frustration and severe demoralization, AHW said.

Emergency rooms, intensive care units, wards, isolation facilities of private and public hospitals are overcrowded and overflowing, the group said, while tents or modular container vans are full of patients waiting admission.

“Even ordinary rooms are now being used as COVID wards. Outpatient departments are closed in most hospitals and many patients are being bumped off,” the group added.

AHW said understaffing schemes by hospitals force health workers to be on duty for at least 12 hours or even 24 hours while some hospitals only have skeletal forces.

Contractualization in some hospitals, such as job order and contract of services especially for nurses, has worsened during the pandemic, AHW revealed.

AHW officer Sean Velchez said 117 out of 180 Philippine Orthopedic Center employees are Covid-positive.

Screenshot of the AHW=led online press conference.

Delayed benefits and other issues

Union officers of the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and National Kidney and Transplant Institute said their hazard pay, performance bonus and health risk allowances have been delayed since 2019.

Meal and transportation allowances are also on hold after the Department of Health (DOH) recalled funds for said benefits, the unions said.

Cristy Donguines of the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Hospital said medical equipment like personal protective gears and gloves as well as medical supplies like oxygen tanks and others are also on low supply.

Philippine General Hospital’s Karen Faurillo complained of failed contact tracing as well as lack of mass testing, isolation and treatment for health workers.

Kodao file photo of an AHW protest action. (Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Collapsing health care system

Solidarity of Health Advocates and Personnel for a Unified Plan to Defeat COVID-19 (SHAPE-UP) convenor Dr. Eleanor Jara revealed that primary and secondary health care systems are also failing to help the spread of the virus.

Jara said important community level Covid interventions such as mass testing, contact tracing, equipped quarantine and isolation facilities are inadequate.

Jara, whose husband was among the first medical workers lost to Covid in 2020, said the situation will only worsen as the Department of Health continues to deny government’s inept and failed Covid response.

“The government must also held accountable for the death of 97 health workers since the pandemic and the rising cases of Covid-19 among health workers and people,” she said.

The AHW demanded an overhaul of the inter-agency task force’s militaristic response to the pandemic as well as the resignation of health secretary Francisco Duque.

The group said the Rodrigo Duterte government must also be held accountable for its failed pandemic response. #

QC houses demolished amid strict Covid lockdown

[UPDATED, 7:00 AM, April 6, 2021] Amid an extended round of the latest Covid pandemic lockdown, several houses had been demolished today along Maginoo Street, Barangay Pinyahan in Quezon City.

Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) reported that elderly residents who lived in the demolished houses have been forced out on the streets, raising fears they may later be arrested by the police for curfew and lock down violations.

Eleven families were affected and no relocation has yet been offered to them, Kadamay told Kodao.

Private claimant-couple Nicolo and Luzviminda Junsay led the demolition, Kadamay said.

The group claimed the demolition is illegal and that barangay officials had no prior knowledge of the incident.

Kadamay said that prior to today’s incident, the affected residents were being forced to sign certain documents but no court order and notice have been presented before the demolition team swooped down on the community.

Demolition along Maginoo Street, Brgy. Pinyahan, Quezon City. (Kadamay photos)

“While we are under the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), the demolition pushed through. No notice, no relief goods, no assistance had been given to those affected and straight out on the streets they went,” Kadamay said in an alert.

The group blamed both the National Housing Authority and President Rodrigo Duterte as promoters of demolitions.

“They order us to stay at home while new coronavirus cases are on the rise, but they continue to endanger people. Those affected have lost their houses and are likely to be arrested while they are out on the streets,” Kadamay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Curfew violator dies after ‘cruel police punishment’

[UPDATED, 7:08 AM, April 6, 2021] A man died in General Trias, Cavite after being punished by the police for violating the pandemic lockdown curfew, an activist organization reported.

The League of Filipino Students (LFS)-University of the Philippines in Los Baños chapter said a certain Darren Manaog Peñaredondo died on Easter Sunday, April 4, as a result of being ordered to perform about 300 cycles of an exercise routine.

The LFS said the victim stepped out of their house Thursday evening to buy drinking water but was apprehended by Barangay Tejero security personnel and turned over to the police

Facebook page Go Cavite also reported the incident, saying Peñaredondo and fellow arrestees were ordered by the police to perform 100 “pumping” exercises but were told to repeat them twice as they were not in sync.

“Pumping” is a series of punishing exercises that may include air squats, sit-ups and push ups.

The incident happened at the vicinity of the General Trias Municipal Hall, Go Cavite said.

Peñaredondo’s death was first reported by his cousin Adrian Luceña who also wrote on his Facebook page the victim was allowed to come home on Friday morning at about eight o’clock in the morning but already had difficulty walking.

“At dawn of Saturday, he (Peñaredondo) suffered repeated convulsions and was revived. But he eventually became comatose until he died at 10 o’clock (on Saturday evening),” Luceña wrote in Filipino.

Luceña added that Peñaredondo told him he collapsed several times as they were being punished.

He said they will demand justice for Peñaredondo’s death.

Luceña’s post has gone viral on various social media platforms.

A video taken by the victim’s common law wife Reichelyn Balce was posted by GMA Network showing Peñaredondo unable to stand up and rolling on the floor in agony.

The news report said the victim was taken to a hospital where he died.

The LFS said the victim’s death was a case of police brutality.

The Gen. Trias police chief Lt. Col. Lieutenant Colonel Marlo Solero meanwhile denied they punish curfew violators and said they only lecture those arrested.

He added the police only order some sort of community service to those they have apprehended for curfew violations.

Gen. Trias Mayor Antonio Ferrer said an investigation has been launched. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group appeals for release of detainee who recently gave birth

Another political prisoner gave birth and a support group appealed for her freedom to take care of her newborn.

Elizabeth Estilon was taken from the Sorsogon City District Jail to a hospital last March 27 and gave birth to a baby boy, political detainee support group Kapatid said.

Kapatid appealed for Estilon’s release to allow her to take care of her newborn.

“We appeal for compassion for Elizabeth Estilon and her newborn as our country observes Holy Week which is about compassion, fairness and mercy. Drop the false charges against her. Let her take care of her infant outside the confines of the country’s densely crowded prisons to give her child a better chance of survival,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

“But time is of the essence to keep Elizabeth and her baby together during a health crisis that brings the worst threats to one’s life,” she added.

Right after childbirth, mothers need to breastfeed their infants as breast milk provides unsurpassed natural immunity and nutrition unavailable in artificial milk supplements, which can in fact be harmful to infant health, Lim’s group explained.

Kapatid recalled the recent deaths of babies of political prisoners Reina Mae Nasino and Nona Espinosa as dire reminders.

Nasino gave birth to an underweight River on July 1, 2020 but the baby got sick in September and died on October 9 at the Philippine General Hospital from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Last February 14, Carlen died of an infection in the lungs and blood, around three days after being separated from her mother, political prisoner Nona Espinosa who is held at the Guihulngan City Jail in Negros Oriental.

Elizabeth Estilon at her arrest. (Photo from Karapatan)

Lim reminded authorities of Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, which stresses the critical window of opportunity to prevent malnutrition and its lifelong consequences.

 “We ask prison and government authorities to respect domestic and international laws, which provide that prisoners who gave birth have the right to take care of their child,” Lim said.

Estilon was arrested with 62-year-old Enriqueta Guelas in Barangay Lalod, Bulusan, Sorsogon last December 24, 2020 after being red-tagged by the military as New People’s Army rebels.

Karapatan-Sorsogon reported that a day prior to their arrest, members of the 31st and 22nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army searched the house where Estilon and Guelas were staying but saw nothing except for household things.

The following day, the residents were shocked after the military placed a bag on a table containing firearms, wires and explosives, which the military claimed they found inside the house, Karapatan said. # (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.)