Photo from Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines – Police arrested 3 members of progressive groups during a raid in Tondo, Manila past midnight Tuesday, November 5, as part of a "series of arrests of activists leaders and members."
Carrying a search warrant, personnel of the Manila Police District (MPD) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Manila District Field Unit raided the office of Bayan along Clemente Steet in Barangay 183 at 1 am.
They arrested Bayan Muna Manila campaign director Ram Bautista, Manila Workers Unity secretariat member Alma Moran, and Kadamay Manila coordinator Reina Nacino.
The search warrant, issued on October 30, said there was probable cause that a violation of Republic Act (RA) 9516, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, has happened or about to happen.
The warrant was issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, the same judge who issued search warrants for the residences and offices of activists both in Bacolod and Manila.
In an official statement sent to reporters, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Colonel Bernard Banac said: "The series of arrests of activist leaders and members shows the rule of law and criminal justice system at work."
He added: "The PNP performs its mandate to enforce the law following established procedures with utmost respect for human rights."
Last Thursday, October 31, law enforcers in Bacolod City arrested after a series of raids 56 persons affiliated with progressive and human rights groups. (READ: Crackdown? Same QC judge issues search warrants vs activists in Manila, Bacolod)
Elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Western Visayas and Army’s 3rd Infantry Division raided the offices of Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno Gabriela, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
The authorities alleged that those apprehended were members of “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The groups said that the firearms and explosives recovered during the raid were planted.
Also arrested that day in Paco, Manila were the spokesperson of Gabriela-Metro Manila and an officer of Kadamay.
Creeping martial rule
Byan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate and Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenaras condemned the continuous harassment against progressive groups, citing it as part of “creeping martial rule” and crackdown on dissent by President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to Colmenares, the intensity of the crackdown now has not been seen since the time of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“This type of blitzkrieg bombardment of attacks bodes ill for civil liberties and rights fought hard for by the Filipino people against dictatorship,” he said.
Rights group Karapatan said the allegations that the groups are in possession of firearms “defies logic” and are “brazen violations of right to association and other civil liberties.”
“The narrative that there are guns and bombs in the said office, as what the government has peddled in the raids of offices in Negros, is preposterous and a barefaced lie meant to justify these patently arbitrary arrests and to silence social justice workers and activists,” the group said.
The Duterte administration has been widely criticized for its treatment of dissent since 2016, as well as his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
According to data from rights group Karapatan, at least 2,370 human rights defenders have been charged by the government from 2016 to 2019, numbers that are clearly the worst of the last 3 government administrations. (READ: Duterte's war on dissent) – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.