Obito Marquez, 31, a peasant activist from Occidental Mindoro, was taken just outside his house in Taguig City on June 21 by four armed men in civilian clothes. A search by relatives and colleagues led to the Philippine police headquarters. His lawyer said Marquez was tortured, blindfolded and handcuffed for four days, refused access to legal counsel, and interrogated.
By RONALYN OLEA
Human Rights Watch
MANILA — A peasant activist who was abducted in Taguig City on June 21 has been found after 10 days. His family located him inside the police headquaters in Camp Crame in Quezon City, detained without formal charges, a human-rights lawyer told Bulatlat.
Obito Marquez, 31, a peasant activist from Occidental Mindoro, was taken just outside his house at the Maharlika Village in Taguig City at around 10 p.m. on June 21 by four armed men in civilian clothes. According to witnesses, Marquez was forced inside a beige Toyota Innova. The other abductors rode a white Nissan Sentra sedan.
The next morning, Marquez’s wife discovered one of his slippers outside their home while looking for him. Only then did she realize that her husband was missing.
Marquez is just one of the recent cases of abductions of activists in the Philippines, where many activists have been abducted, tortured and killed by state security forces.
Marquez was one of the 72 activists from Southern Tagalog who were charged with murder in connection with a New People’s Army raid in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, a charge that the activists had denied.
In February this year, however, the case was dismissed on technical grounds.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said elements from the Philippine National Police in Southern Tagalog were responsible for Marquez’s abduction.
Members of Karapatan organized a quick reaction team to search for Marquez. On July 2, Marquez’s family and Karapatan staff saw Marquez’s name on the list of detainees at Camp Crame, the general headquarters of the PNP. They were, however, not allowed to see Marquez.
The next day, lawyer Rex Fernandez, legal counsel of Karapatan, went to Camp Crame to visit Marquez. Fernandez told Bulatlat that Marquez was tortured, blindfolded for four days and handcuffed.
“He said no warrant was shown to him when he was arrested. He was denied access to his family and to legal counsel. He was made to sign and thumb mark documents under duress,” Fernandez said.
The human-rights lawyer added that the authorities have not informed them of any pending case against Marquez.
Fernandez said Marquez was taken to two other places before he was brought to Camp Crame. “He was interrogated and was being made to admit that he is a member of the New People’s Army,” Fernandez said.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Ghay Portajada, secretary-general of Desaparecidos, said that while they were happy to see Marquez alive, they denounce the violation of Marquez’s rights.
Marquez’s father Ernesto called on the authorities to release his son. “He did not commit any crime. He just wants to help our fellow farmers,” Ernesto said.
In a statement, the KMP said the Arroyo government has “a huge blood debt to the peasantry” for implementing its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) 1 and 2.
The counter-insurgency program, the KMP deemed, is characterized by extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arrest and detention of members and leaders of people’s organizations.
Antonio Flores, convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka (Defend Peasants) and spokesman of the KMP, said 553 or more than half of the total victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime were peasants. According to Karapatan, more than a thousand activists have been killed since 2001, still a thousand more were tortured and more than 200 have disappeared.
Flores cited the killing of Fermin Lorico of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental) who was killed on June 10 after attending an anti-charter change rally in Dumaguete; the killing of Eddie Gumanoy of Kasama-TK and Renato Pacaide of KMP Far Southern Mindanao Region, the enforced disappearance of Nilo Arado of KMP Panay and the continuing detention of Randall Echanis, KMP deputy secretary general for external affairs.
“This is the legacy of the Arroyo government, almost a decade of being in a dark age for human rights in the country. All democratic forces and groups and those concerned for human rights should work together to call for justice and force the Arroyo government to answer for her bloody and deadly rule over the people,” Flores said. (Bulatlat.com)