The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) accused President Rodrigo Duterte of rapidly collecting political prisoners under his administration following the simultaneous arrest of three farmers in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur Friday.
Two days before the observance of International Human Rights Day, KMP said eight armed men in civilian clothes arrested Ruben Maloloy-on, 55 years old, a former village chief and the current provincial vice chairman of Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Dur (NAMASUR).
Two more local peasant leaders–Jonathan Mambras of Brgy. Libertad and Junjun Balicuat of Brgy. Mabuhay, Prosperidad town in Agusan del Sur–were also arrested, KMP said.
The three are currently detained at the Agusan del Sur Provincial Jail in Prosperidad and facing “trumped-up charges.”
“While more than 400 political prisoners are still languishing in jail, this government has no qualms on illegally arresting and detaining known leaders and members of progressive organizations,” KMP in a statement said.
“Instead of freeing the sick, elderly and long-time political detainees, Duterte is taking in more,” the peasant group added.
KMP said majority of political detainees are farmers and indigenous peoples.
Human rights group Karapatan said a total of 1,172 illegal arrests were documented from July 2016 to December 5, 2017.
“If authorities would indeed launch mass arrests then Duterte would need bigger detention cells. They can imprison a person but not the cause and principles of the people’s movement,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.
Ramos noted that the latest arrests in Caraga Region took place after Duterte threatened to have alleged supporters and members of New People’s Army (NPA) arrested.
“Those arrested are unarmed farmers. The victims were arrested based on fake warrants implicating them to a military action by the NPA,” Ramos said, noting that fake warrants are now being activated and used by the military and police to arrest activists.
Last September 14, 74-year old Marcos Aggabao died at a hospital in Kalinga province following the death of ailing political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla at the Manila City Jail September last year, Ramos said.
“We demand the release of all political prisoners,” the KMP leader said.
“With the kind of justice system that we have, being imprisoned in the Philippines is just like a death sentence,” Ramos said.
The peasant group said it will join the nationwide rallies on today at Liwasang Bonifacio and Mendiola. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)