STOP the Criminalization of Southern Tagalog Political Activists!

November 5, 2008

As of November 3, almost 30 activist leaders from the Southern Tagalog chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and its allied organizations as well as party list groups are facing arrest warrants for criminal charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder while facing separate charges of arson. First to be arrested was Atty. Remigio Saladero, chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno and a resident of Antipolo, Rizal. Three others were subsequently arrested, including a bed-ridden peasant leader.

The trumped-up charges have targeted many of the prominent leaders of the mass movement in Southern Tagalog. This marks a renewed legal and political offensive against the most consistent critics of the Arroyo administration. It should be recalled that the Southern Tagalog region was among the worst hit by the wave of extrajudicial killings and abductions of activists from 2001-2007. The targets then were activist leaders, union leaders, peasant organizers, environment activists and urban poor organizers.

As of March 2008, human rights group Karapatan -Southern Tagalog has documented 167 victims of extrajudicial killing and 31 of enforced disappearance in the region.

The Southern Tagalog 27

On September 30, 2008, volunteers of the human rights group Karapatan in Batangas stumbled upon a complaint filed against 27 persons who included activist leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations in the Southern Tagalog region. The original complaint was filed on August 12, 2008 at the office of the Batangas Provincial Prosecutor’s Office by a certain Marlo Timbreza on behalf of Globe Telecom Inc., regarding the bombing and burning of a Globe cell site in Lemery, Batangas last August 2. Timbreza alleged that the respondents committed arson, the destruction of private property other than arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion.

The August 12 complaint named 19 respondents which included prominent activist-leaders Bayani Cambronero, 8th party list nominee and Southern Tagalog regional coordinator of Bayan Muna; Rolando Mingo, Vice President of the nationwide transport group PISTON, and president of the Southern Tagalog Region Transport Sector Organization; Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Legal Counsel, member of Pro Labor Assistance Center (PLACE), Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL); Agaton Bautista, Anakpawis, Batangas provincial coordinator; Noriel Rocafort, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Batangas secretary general; Isabelo Alicaya, Chairperson of the Fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA-Southern Tagalog and the Haligi ng mga Batangueñong Anak Dagat (Habagat).

Also included in the original complaint is Romy Aguilar of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) in Rizal who is now in a wheelchair due to diabetes.

The complaint would later be amended in September 5, 2008 to include 8 of the 9 grassroots activists who were abducted and tortured by elements of the Calabarzon PNP’s Regional Special Operations Group last August 31, 2008 in Tartaria, Cavite. They include 63 year old Renato Alvarez, Chairperson of the Katipunan ng mga Magbubuikd sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka), who experienced torture at the hands of his abductors.

The supposed witness to the crime of arson is a certain Arvin Leviste who claims to be a Deep Penetration Agent of the military who infiltrated the organization and planned and worked with the respondents in the burning of the cell site.

The Mindoro Case

On October 23, 2008, Atty. Remigio Saladero was reported missing. Later, his colleagues would learn that he was being detained in Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City by virtue of a warrant of arrest.

The next day, Nestor San Jose, another ST 27 respondent would also be nabbed in Teresa town in Rizal.

The warrants of arrest were issued by Judge Tomas Leynes of the Calapan City Regional Trial Court in accordance with a criminal case filed against Atty. Saladero, San Jose and 70 others.

It was only then that lawyers discovered this separate case of multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder filed against 72 persons, including most of the Southern Tagalog 27. The information cited an NPA ambush in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental in March 3, 2006.

The charge was originally filed against a certain Rustum Simbulan, and was later amended to add 71 others. Around 30 of the 71 additional names are active leaders, and members of progressive people’s organizations in Southern Tagalog.

On October 27, 2008, in a court proceeding regarding Atty. Saladero’s case, provincial prosecutor Josephine Caranzo-Olivar admitted that no preliminary investigation was conducted when the names of the 71 were added to the amended information. This means that no inquiry was held to determine if there was probable cause against the additional 71 individuals.

The same day, Crispin Zapanta also among the 72 accused, was arrested in Antipolo City.

Saladero, San Jose and Zapanta are now detained at the Calapan City Provincial Jail.

On November 4, Anakpawis Provincial Coordinator and spokesman of the Katipunan ng Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka) Rogelio Galit was arrested by the PNP in his house in Kaong, Silang, Cavite. Galit is bedridden and is suffering from diabetes.

Also included in the complaint are victims of human rights violations themselves. They include Arman Albarillo, who lost both his parents after they were murdered by military forces, and Orly Marcellana, whose wife Eden Marcellana (Karapatan ST Secretary General) was killed in Mindoro by soldiers under Gen. Jovito Palparan. Albarillo has been a consistent complainant in the impeachment cases filed against Mrs. Gloria Arroyo.

Implications

The current legal offensive against progressive leaders and activists in Southern Tagalog is not an isolated incident. It has been preceded by similar baseless criminal charges against Bayan and other mass leaders such as in the provinces of Negros and Davao. It should also be recalled that trumped-up murder charges were filed against Rep. Satur Ocampo, peasant leader Randal Echanis and other progressives in relation to alleged mass graves in Hilonggos, Leyte. Rep. Ocampo is out on bail while Echanis is detained at the Manila City Jail. New cases have recently been filed against Ocampo, Echanis et al in Hilongos.

The cases against the ST activists is particularly alarming because of their wholesale and sweeping nature: Almost all high-profile regional and provincial leaders have been charged. Even more disturbing are the legal shortcuts that were resorted to by the prosecutor in implicating 72 respondents without the benefit of any preliminary investigation and the hasty issuance of arrest warrants by the Calapan RTC .

It appears that the principal impetus for the filing of these new cases against the 72 is consistent with the communist-labeling/demonizing being resorted to by the Arroyo regime and the state security forces. The cases portray and subsequently accuse legal activists to be members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. But instead of simply filing rebellion cases against them, they are instead charged with common crimes such as murder and arson.

Like in the previous rebellion cases against partylist lawmakers and activists, the current multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges were filed through highly irregular procedures thereby denying the accused their right to due process.

These trumped-up charges have all the imprints of the Department of Justice, the InterAgency Legal Action Group (IALAG), the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

What the Arroyo regime could no longer accomplish through extrajudicial killings and abductions, it now tries to accomplish through the filing of non-bailable criminal charges. The objective is clearly to neutralize the activist leaders by detaining them illegally or forcing them to go into hiding. At the same time, there is the intention to terrorize the remaining leaders, activists and the political mass base of Bayan and other progressive organizations and party list groups.

It is therefore necessary that freedom loving Filipinos oppose this crackdown on progressive activists with the same vigor as when we opposed extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Four people have already been arrested and there is a great possibility that there may be more in the near future. While the issue is being fought in the legal arena, it is of crucial importance that people rise up and speak out against these abuses and outright political persecution and repression. It is important that pressure be made to bear on the Arroyo regime to put a stop to its drive to put democratic and nationalist leaders behind bars and out of commission.

Activists included in the list of the accused 72:

1. Arman Albarillo

§ Secretary General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog

§ Signatory in the 2008 impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

§ In April 2002, Arman’s parents Expedito Albarillo (Bayan Muna municipal Coordinator) and Manuela Albarillo (Gabriela member) were brutally killed by suspected elements of the 204th brigade, then led by Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan. Before his death, Expedito was incarcerated for 9 months Judge Tomas Leynes regarding an alleged murder case.

§ After his parents’ death, Arman, his family and relatives became internal refugees who had to fled their hometown in Mindoro due to continuous threats by the military.

2. Bayani Cambronero, 48 yrs old

§ 8th Partylist Nominee and Southern Tagalog Regional Coordinator, Bayan Muna Party

§ A student activist leader during his college days in UP Los Baños, Bani was Chairperson of the University Student Council

§ After leaving college, Bani joined the labor movement. He became the Deputy Secretary General of Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (Pamantik-KMU) and the Executive Director of the Institute for Workers Leadership Development.

§ former Secretary General of Bayan-ST

§ ST 27 Respondent

3. Orly Marcellana,

§ Secretary General, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK)

§ Chairperson, Bayan-ST

§ In April 21, 2003, Orly’s wife, Eden Marcellana and colleague Eddie Gumanoy were abducted in Mindoro Oriental along with 9 other human rights volunteers, while they were conducting a Fact Finding Mission. The following day, the brutally murdered bodies of Eden and Eddie were found in a shallow ditch near the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, Suspects to the crime were elements of the 204th brigade then led by Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan.

4. Romeo Legaspi,

§ Chairperson, PAMANTIK-KMU

§ National President, Organized Labor Association in Line Industries and Agriculture (OLALIA-KMU)

§ President, Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Honda ( NLMH- OLALIA),

§ Chairperson, Anakpawis-Timog Katagalugan

5. Rolando Mingo,

§ President, Southern Tagalog Region Transport Sector Organization, (STARTER)

§ Vice President, Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON)

§ ST 27 Respondent

6. Doris Cuario

§ Secretary General, Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights – Southern Tagalog (KARAPATAN)

7. Helen Asdolo, 41 yrs old

§ Secretary General, National Alliance of Women’s Organizations in the Philippines (GABRIELA) – Southern Tagalog

§ 5th partylist nominee, Gabriela Women’s Party

8. Atty. Remigio Saladero

§ Legal Counsel, KMU

§ Founding Member, National Union of People’s Lawyers

§ Labor Lawyer, Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE)

§ Regular columnist, Pinoy Weekly

§ ST 27 Respondent

9. Emmanuel Dionida

§ Board of Director, LEADERS (Labor Education Advocacy Development Research Services Inc.)

§ Despite his “Polio,” Emmanuel has been active in the labor movement for almost 2 decades now

10. Dina Captillo, 28 yrs old

§ Spokesperson, Karapatan- Batangas

§ Staff, Gabriela-Batangas

§ Former Chairperson, League of Filipino Students – Philippine Normal University Chapter

§ Former Chairperson, Student Christian Movement – Philippine Normal University Chapter

§ Member, Alliance of Concerned Teachers

§ ST 27 Respondent

11. Renato Alvarez, 63 yrs Old

§ Chairperson, Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite/Kilusang Magbubuikd ng Pilipinas (Kamagsasa-Ka/KMP)

§ Chairperson, Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Tartaria (SAMATA)

§ ST 27 Respondent

12. Nestor San Jose, 53 yrs old

§ Rizal Provincial Coordinator, Anakpawis

§ Coordinator, Makabayang Organisasyon ng Tsuper at Operator sa Rizal (MOTOR) –PISTON

§ ST 27 Respondent

13. Crispin Zapanta, 60 yrs old

§ Chairperson, Bayan Muna – Antipolo City

14. Romeo Aguilar

§ Secretary General, Kalipunan ng mga Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) – Rizal

§ Organizer, Bayan Muna Rizal

§ Former Chairperson, Bagong Lakas ng Nayon (BALANA)

§ Romeo is suffering from diabetes and is now confined to a wheelchair

§ ST 27 Respondent

15. Rogelio Galit

§ Spokesperson, Kamagsasaka-Ka

§ Public Relations Officer, Kasama-TK

§ On the night of November 3, 2008, Rogelio was arrested by 15 armed men in plainclothes at his house in Kaong, Silang, Cavite. Galit, who is already bedridden due to his diabetic condition, was forcibly taken despite his condition and brought to the PNP Regional Headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim. The following day, Galit was brought to Calapan City Provincial Jail

16. Luz Baculo

§ Secretary General, Pamantik-KMU

§ National Council Member, KMU


17. Pedro Santos Jr.,

§ Secretary General, Anakbayan-Southern Tagalog

§ Regional Coordinator, Kabataan Party

§ Convenor, Youth Act Now – Southern Tagalog

18. Jojo Bernardino, 49 yrs old

§ Secretary General, Bayan-Laguna

§ Secretary General, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Probinsya ng Laguna (ALMAPILA)

§ Former Chairperson, Bisig at Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Kapalaran Bus Line

19. Berlin Justo

§ Calamba City coordinator, Bayan Muna

§ Secretary General, Calamba Federation Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association

§ Former Baranggay Councilor, Brgy. Palingon, Calamba City

20. Agaton Bautista, 36 yrs old

§ Batangas Provincial Coordinator, Anakpawis

§ Secretary General, Samahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Batangas (SAMBAT)

21. Leng Jucutan

§ Staff, Kongreso ng mga Magsasaka Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo – Quezon (KOMPRA)

22. Amelita Sto. Tomas, 53 yrs old

§ Chairperson, Gabriela-Cavite

§ Cavie Provincial Coordinator, Gabriela Women’s Party

23. Samuel Dizon

§ Coordinator, Samahan Pang-transportasyong Rumuruta sa Kalakhang Probinsya ng Laguna (SPARKPLAG) – Piston

24. Lucio Amarante

§ Staff, Transport Organizer, STARTER-PISTON

25. Henry Halawig

§ Paralegal staff, Banzuela Law Office

§ Former Borad of Director, OLALIA-KMU

26. Emmanuel Assuncion

§ Municipal coordinator, Bayan Muna

§ Vice Chairperson for External Affairs, Spokesperson, Bayan=Cavite

§ Council of Leaders Member, former Public Relations Officer, former Secretary General, former Chairperson, Solidarity of Cavite Workers

27. Karen Ortiz

§ Deputy Secretary General, Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP)

§ Former Provincial Coordinator, Student Christian Movement – Cavite

§ Former Cavite Provincial Coordinator, Kabataan Party

§ Former Provincial Coordinator, Anakbayan-Cavite

28. Sheryll Villegas

§ Secretary General, Bayan-Cavite

§ Former Provincial Coordinator, Anakbayan-Cavite

29. Rommel Valdez

§ Chairperson, Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Intsikan

Prepared by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and BAYAN-Southern Tagalog,

November 5, 2008

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: