WHOSE VIC­TORY?

Pro­gres­sive claim tri­umph over re­lease of mem­bers; au­thor­i­ties as­serts it's for the rule of law

Sun Star Bacolod - - Front Page - BY ER­WIN P. NICAVERA

FOR the na­tional lead­ers of var­i­ous pro­gres­sive groups, the re­lease of their 32 lo­cal mem­ber-ac­tivists re­cently ar­rested in series of op­er­a­tions at dif­fer­ent of­fices in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal is a vic­tory.

De­fend Ne­gros con­venor Ariel Casi­lao, in a press con­fer­ence at the Ne­gros Press Club in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day, said aside from free­ing those “il­le­gally” ar­rested, the in­ci­dent had not par­a­lyzed the ac­tiv­i­ties of the “at­tacked” or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Casi­lao said they claim tri­umph as they were able to

show how fool­ish the gov­ern­ment forces are, and how weak the ha­rass­ment they have done to the pro­gres­sive group mem­bers.

“We will not let this pass with­out a fight, we will hold them ac­count­able,” he said, ad­ding that “legally, we are con­fi­dent that the re­main­ing 11 de­tained lead­ers of our or­ga­ni­za­tions will be set free.”

On Wed­nes­day, the Ba­colod City Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice or­dered the im­me­di­ate re­lease of 31 in­di­vid­u­als for lack of prob­a­ble cause on the charges for il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms and ex­plo­sives filed against them.

They form part of the 55 per­son­al­i­ties ar­rested in search op­er­a­tions in cities of Ba­colod and Es­calante par­tic­u­larly at the of­fices of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilu­sang Mayo Uno, Anakpawis, Gabriela and Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Sugar Work­ers, and a house of a mem­ber last Oc­to­ber 31.

Of the fig­ure, 12 are mi­nors.

Au­thor­i­ties were not able to in­clude in the fil­ing of cases one ar­rested mem­ber as he was ini­tially be­lieved to be a mi­nor. So only 31 charges were dis­missed, they mil­i­tary said.

On the 11 de­tained mem­bers, the pros­e­cu­tor or­dered the fil­ing of non-bail­able charges for il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms and ex­plo­sives against the seven and il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms against the four oth­ers.

Also, six of them were charged of qual­i­fied hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Bong Labog, na­tional chair­man of Kilu­sang Mayo Uno, said the re­lease of the ar­rested mem­bers is a huge vic­tory re­sulted from sol­i­dar­ity among var­i­ous sec­tors.

“It’s a morale booster for us,” Labog said, ex­press­ing con­fi­dence that it will be a prece­dence to the re­lease of 11 de­tained mem­bers and lead­ers.

For Bayan Muna Party-list Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Car­los Zarate, who was also at the press con­fer­ence, this is the vic­tory of the peo­ple.

The na­tional pro­gres­sive group lead­ers, who are mem­bers of the Na­tional Fact Find­ing and Sol­i­dar­ity Mis­sion, fur­ther claimed that, with such de­vel­op­ment, the gov­ern­ment forces failed to silent the crit­ics of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte.

In a sep­a­rate press con­fer­ence in a restau­rant in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day, Philip­pine Army 3rd In­fantry Divi­sion (ID) spokesper­son Army Cap­tain Cenon Pancito III said they abide by the rule of law.

Pancito said from the very start they have made their ef­forts within the le­gal bound­aries.

“Any de­ci­sion that the fis­cal has ren­dered is re­spected as it is the right­ful of­fice rested with the au­thor­ity to de­ter­mine if in­deed there is a prob­a­ble cause,” he added.

The mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said the dis­missal of the charges against the 31 mem­bers has not weak­ened the case. The fis­cal’s rule is that th­ese peo­ple are in­ci­den­tal to the com­mis­sion of the crime.

Pancito said the fact still re­mains that there is crime com­mit­ted, il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms and ex­plo­sives.

“The chal­lenge is still there, why a crime was be­ing com­mit­ted at said premises or lo­ca­tion,” he said, ad­ding that “let us not change our per­cep­tion be­cause the truth is there’s a crime and they have lots of ex­plain­ing to do.”

Colonel Bene­dict Arevalo, com­man­der of the 303rd In­fantry Bri­gade, ar­gued on the group’s claim that au­thor­i­ties failed to silent ac­tivists and crit­ics of the gov­ern­ment.

“It’s not true,” Arevalo said, stress­ing that “it is the vic­tory of the rule of law, the rule of law is the vic­tory of the armed forces and po­lice.”

Counter charges

In the bid to hold gov­ern­ment forces li­able for the ar­rest of their mem­bers, the pro­gres­sive groups are pre­par­ing for the fil­ing of counter charges against the mil­i­tary and po­lice per­son­nel.

Ne­grense hu­man rights lawyer and ac­tivist Neri Col­menares, also the for­mer Bayan Muna Party-list rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said while they are work­ing on the re­lease of the re­main­ing de­tained mem­bers, the groups are also mak­ing sure that there are counter charges.

Col­menares said there’s al­ready a res­o­lu­tion in Congress to in­ves­ti­gate the “mass ar­rest” in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal.

“Counter charges will vary in­clud­ing plant­ing of ev­i­dence, il­le­gal machi­na­tion and ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion, among other cases that fall un­der the Re­vised Pe­nal Code,” he said, ad­ding that there are also spe­cials laws un­der Anti-graft and Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act.

The cases against gen­er­als and colonels will be filed at the Om­buds­man. They will also be in­cluded on the fil­ing of cases for vi­o­la­tion of Repub­lic Act 9851 for per­se­cu­tion and crimes against hu­man­ity and also An­ti­tor­ture Law, Col­menares said.

The counter charges will also cover the in­volved in­clud­ing the jus­tices and pros­e­cu­tors and fake wit­nesses, he added.

“Hu­manda kayo, kami na­man [Be ready, it’s our time],” Casi­lao said.

Re­spond­ing to this, Arevalo said “now na [do it now].”

For the 3rd ID, Pancito said they wel­come the move to file counter charges against state law en­forcers.

“This will like­wise give the chance for us to present our side to the proper court,” he said, ad­ding that “we hope th­ese group will fol­low the same of fac­ing the charges in proper body.”

Ne­gros as lab­o­ra­tory

More­over, Bayan spokesper­son Teodoro Casiño said the re­cent in­ci­dent has caused ap­pre­hen­sions among na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions be­cause this is first time that a “mass ar­rest” hap­pened since mar­tial law.

With this, Casiño said, Ne­gros is ap­par­ently be­com­ing a lab­o­ra­tory for a full na­tional crack­down against ac­tivists and crit­ics of the gov­ern­ment.

“This is an ur­gent sit­u­a­tion,” he said, ad­ding that it has to be stopped so it won’t hap­pen in other ar­eas in the coun­try.

Pancito, how­ever, said there’s no na­tional crack­down. “Th­ese groups are just hal­lu­ci­nat­ing.”

“As long as crime is com­mit­ted, we will do our task of main­tain­ing peace and order,” he added.

Fact find­ing

Among other mem­bers of fact find­ing team and pro­gres­sive group lead­ers present at the press con­fer­ence in­clude Gabriela Party-list Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ar­lene Brosas, Fr. Melvin Fa­jardo of Igle­sia Filip­ina In­de­pen­di­ente, Clarissa Sing­son-da­gatan of Kara­p­atan, and for­mer Agrar­ian Re­form Sec­re­tary Rafael Mar­i­ano of Kilu­sang Mam­bubukid ng Pilip­inas and Anak Pawis.

Aside from the al­leged forcible en­tries, planted ev­i­dence and mal­treat­ment, the group claimed that based on their two-day fact find­ing mis­sion un­til yes­ter­day, all search war­rants came from a search war­rant “fac­tory” in Que­zon City.

Seven of which were served in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal. Of which, four in Ba­colod City and three in Es­calante City.

Two other war­rants were served in Manila.

“We are still look­ing for the two other search war­rants,” the pro­gres­sive group lead­ers said, as they con­tinue to slam gov­ern­ment forces for “this is noth­ing more than a crack­down on the op­po­si­tions and dis­senters dis­guised as a counter in­sur­gency op­er­a­tion.”

But for the army, “the peo­ple have spo­ken, if in­deed they are truly for the peo­ple then they should head on the call to end in­sur­gency,” Pancito said.*

EPN PHOTO

Pro­gres­sive group lead­ers and mem­bers of the na­tional Fact Find­ing and Sol­i­dar­ity Mis­sion call on the Gov­ern­ment to stop the al­leged full na­tional crack­down against crit­ics and ac­tivist as they claim vic­tory over the re­lease of their 32 ar­rested mem­bers dur­ing the press con­fer­ence at the Ne­gros Press Club in Ba­colod City.

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