Antipolo City, November 25, 2010—The office of local chapter of Karapatan in Camarines Norte was “ransacked” by the elements of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines last November 23 and arrested four persons found in the office, reports Karapatan national office in Quezon City.
Calling the raid, “Gestapo-style,” Amaryllis “Marie” Hilao-Enriquez, national chair of Karapatan said the persons in the shared office of Karapatan, Makabayan and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, were surprised when the search and arresting team composed of the elements of the Daet police and the 9th nfantry Division of the 902nd Infantry Brigade, trooped in the office, around 10:30 AM the aforementioned date.
The team, says Hilao-Enriquez in her statement, immediately arrested Smith Bardon, chair of the local KMP; Denver Bacolod, a staff of Karapatan; Mherlo Bermas, a member of Kabataan Partylist; and Elpidio de Luna, who is a political prisoner just released last month. As of this writing, the four were said to be in the custody of the Daet-PNP and Bardon is now facing murder while the three are awaiting inquest tonight as they are held in the police station still without formal charges yet.
However, it is reported that the authorities have recovered some explosives in the area, but Karapatan doubts that the evidence were authentic.
“This is a very alarming trend of raiding legal offices of non-government and human rights organizations; planting evidences and then saying that the office is a “safe house”of the rebels who ‘recruit the youth to become rebel NPA’s.’ This goes to show that the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program is very much operational, resorted to by the state security forces to silence legitimate dissent and criticism,” says Hilao-Enriquez.
She also said that the raid is “a direct attack on legal progressive organizations and human rights defenders.”
“We know that trumped-up charges have been conjured against leaders and members of these organizations in Bicol and elsewhere. But this could not justify the state’s violence against them. We hold the Aquino administration directly accountable for the raid of our office, and illegal arrest of our staff and other activists. We will certainly file counter-charges. The international human rights community will hear of this. And Aquino will sooner or later have to answer for that,” Enriquez furthered.
Meanwhile, fisherfolks’ organization Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) also denounced the raid and the arrest of the four in Bicol, and urges the Department of Justice to intervene with the case.
In a joint press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores had asked Secretary de Lima to step in following reports that the raid conducted had no warrant and was merely based on false reports and hearsay by witnesses of the 9th Infantry Division of the 902nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and PNP-Daet.
“The local PNP had said that they had sought the assistance of the military after receiving reported sightings of members of the NPA group in said safe house. Citing reports allegedly from local folks, the four suspects were said to be recruiting young residents to join the New People’s Army (NPA). However, this is not true,” said Hicap.
It is said that the raiding team also confiscated a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a photocopying machine, blasting cap and electrical wires allegedly used to make improvised explosives and subversive documents, the military spokesman added.
Hicap and Flores also said the house located in F. Pimentel Avenue, Pasig, Barangay II, Daet, Camarines Norte, is not a safe house but a legitimate office shared by Makabayan, KMP, and Karapatan and the four are not NPAs as earlier reported.
“Madam Secretary de Lima, the raid is an offshoot of Morong 43 which is fabricated and orchestrated by top counter-insurgency operators of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in cahoots with their counterparts in PNP. What happened on Nov.22 is Martial Law to the highest order. We ask the good office of the justice secretary to immediately order the city prosecutor in Daet to immediately junk the case against the four activists,” Hicap and Flores said in their joint statement.
They also said that the raid and the arrests happened in Bicol is but a “a signal to all militant organizations [that] it would soon experience the same political harassment and persecution suffered by their colleagues in Daet.
Nevertheless, KMP and Pamalakaya also urged Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to order the miltiary to stop this dirty war against political activists. They said the raid on the office of KMP, Karapatan and Makabayan constitutes gross violations of guaranteed constitutional rights and an extreme example of state-sponsored terrorism which the AFP orchestrated in the tradition of the extended Oplan Bantay Laya and “newly” US drafted counter-insurgency program. (Noel S. Barcelona/CBCPNews)