A revered Catholic Church shrine in Parañaque and a building housing activist organizations in Quezon City complained of harassments Thursday, reporting that police officers and suspected military agents are out to further intimidate institutions and organizations critical of the Rodrigo Duterte regime.
In an alert, human rights group Karapatan said its national officers and staff members observed increased presence of suspected military and police agents within the vicinity of Erythrina Building in Barangay Central in Quezon City since morning.
The building houses Karapatan, National Union of People’s Lawyers, Kodao Productions and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, among other organizations.
Aside from armed men in civilian clothing surrounding the building, a small Philippine Army truck was seen parked nearby.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police officers had been swarming the Baclaran Church compound in Parañaque since Wednesday, forcing a bazaar meant to raise funds for indigenous peoples to suspend operations.
Instead of staying at the church gate, the police reportedly insisted on visiting the clergy’s living quarters because of an alleged bomb threat.
Baclaran Church, formally known as The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, is known to regularly host indigenous peoples who suffer forced evacuation by the military.
The Redemptorist priests administering the shrine has yet to issue a formal statement but has reportedly asked the police to stay outside the church gate.
Karapatan blamed the activities on President Duterte’s latest tirade against human rights defenders.
“We are warning government forces – stop harassing rights defenders, lawyers and alternative media practitioners; and do not plant evidence in our offices. We shall make you accountable in different fora in time,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
Karapatan later reported that suspected military and police agents circling the area have already left as of seven o’clock in the evening.
“We attribute this temporary respite to the vigilance of NUPL lawyers, human rights workers and staff members of Karapatan, Bayan and Kodao Productions, and allied lawyers and members of the media who responded to the call to monitor the increased presence and activity of suspected military agents and police in our offices,” Palabay said.
Karapatan said it will remain vigilant and defiant against any attempt to intimidate and harass their ranks as well as all human rights defenders and communities who bear witness to the Duterte regime’s repressive policies. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)