A cause-oriented group has condemned the Arroyo administration for “(continuing) to brazenly use the country’s trial courts to silence its staunchest critics.”
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) issued the statement as activists led by members of its Southern Tagalog regional chapter trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila to protest the arrest Monday night of peasant leader Rogelio Galit and the “wholesale political persecution of activist leaders” in the region.
Galit is one of the 30 Southern Tagalog-based activist leaders (from a longer list of 72 people) facing arrest warrants issued by the Calapan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) based on trumped-up charges of multiple murders and frustrated multiple murders as well as separate charges of arson. His detention followed the arrest of Remigio Saladero, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) chief legal counsel, on Oct. 23. Also earlier arrested were Nestor San Jose, Rizal provincial coordinator of party-list group Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Crispin Zapanta, chairperson of the Antipolo City chapter of party-list group Bayan Muna (People First). Galit, Saladero, San Jose and Zapanta are all currently detained in Calapan City.
“The current legal offensive against progressive leaders and activists in Southern Tagalog is not an isolated incident,” Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo said. “It has been preceded by similar baseless criminal charges against Bayan and other mass leaders such as in the provinces of Negros and Davao.”
“What the Arroyo regime could no longer accomplish through extrajudicial killings and abductions, it now tries to achieve through the filing of non-bailable criminal charges,” the Bayan leader added. “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.”
Araullo noted that the case of the Southern Tagalog activist leaders is particularly alarming because of its sweeping nature.
“In one stroke of an RTC (Regional Trial Court) judge, almost all of the region’s high-profile leaders are either being detained or under continuing threats of detention,” she said. “Even more disturbing are the legal shortcuts that were resorted to by the prosecutor in implicating the respondents without the benefit of any preliminary investigation and the hasty issuance of arrest warrants by the Calapan RTC.”
Even as the cases are currently being fought out in the courts, the Bayan chairperson called on the public to “rise up and speak out” against the use of the legal system “to persecute and silence the critics of the Arroyo administration’s anti-people policies, rampant corruption and grave abuse of power, and intensifying human rights violations.”
“There is no substitute to a vigilant and united people,” Araullo said. “Only through our collective action can we safeguard our civil, political and economic rights especially under a fundamentally flawed social order where the legal system can be used by the powers-that-be to repress us and undermine our human rights.” (Bulatlat.com)