Photo from Karapatan
MANILA, Philippines – Human rights and progressive groups on Wednesday, November 6, took the initiative of opening their offices to inspection so that, they said, the police would have little opportunity to plant evidence against them.
Acting on the request of the groups, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) inspected the offices of Karapatan, Bayan, the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, and Kodao Productions in Quezon City – days after the police raided offices of their allies in Manila and Bacolod.
The offices of youth groups Kabataan Party-list, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, National Union of Students of the Philippines, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines were also inspected by CHR.
The inspections yielded no firearms or explosives.
Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo Clamor said the group requested the inspection “to deprive the police any opportunity to plant evidence should a search warrant be suddenly served.”
“We likewise want to put an end to these baseless and absurd accusations that our offices – with known addresses – are being used as safehouses,” he said. “What we have are papers and documentation of reported human rights violations.”
Aside from a team from CHR, officials from Barangay Central in Quezon City also took part in the inspection.
Cops raided several offices and residences of progressive groups in Manila and Bacolod based on search warrants issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. (READ: Crackdown? Same QC judge issues search warrants vs activists in Manila, Bacolod)
On October 31, cops in Bacolod City arrested 56 persons affiliated with Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers, and other progressive organizations.
On the same day, two members of Gabriela-Metro Manila and a Kadamay officer were also arrested after a raid in Paco, Manila. Three more were detained during a raid of Bayan’s office in Tondo, Manila past midnight Tuesday, November 5.
Authorities accused those arrested of being members of “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The groups said the firearms and explosives recovered during the raids were planted.
According to Karapatan, at least 2,370 human rights defenders have been charged by the government from 2016 to 2019, the biggest number in more than a decade. (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.