By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Urban poor group Kadamay said the arrest of their seven members last Feb. 4 was illegal.
“The action of the MPD (Manila Police District) is tantamount to illegal arrests and abuse of authority,” Gloria Arellano, Kadamay national national chairperson, said.
Members of Kadamay were about to hold a candle lighting protest in front of the gate of Malacanang Palace when they were arrested even before they started their program. The arrested activists are Rodel Adiao, 17 years old; Jonaliyn Adiao, 19; Harley Largo, 21; Christian Concepcion, 22; John Dick Austria, 22; Val Jayson Dimayuga, 26; and Rudy Aparil, 26.
The seven urban poor activists were brought to the Manila Police District along United Nations Ave.
Kadamay was protesting the deplorable conditions of affected residents of Typhoon Pablo that hit Mindanao two months ago.
The arrested members of Kadamay were held for more than four hours at the police headquarters. Supporters from other progressive groups held an indignation rally outside. They were released at around 1:00 p.m. and no charges were filed against them, Carlito Badion, vice chair of Kadamay, told Bulatlat.com.
“Our members were treated like criminals, handcuffed and forced to enter into a police mobile car while the real criminal lurks in the Palace,” Arellano said, adding that the government should be held responsible for the deaths of some 2,000 Filipinos from Typhoon Pablo.
Means to silence
Kadamay, in its statement, said the arrest of their members is part of the Aquino government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan that “aims to silence critics of the administration to maintain a positive image to prop up its daang matuwid (straight path) – good governance political gimmickry.”
“Authorities cannot silence militants who tried to expose Aquino’s direct involvement in the outcome of the Pablo tragedy,” Arellano said, adding that the arrest of the members of Kadamay is no different from the filing of charges against organizers of the protest rally of typhoon victims in Compostela Valley last Jan. 15.
Davao Today reported that Police Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, PNP Provincial Director in Compostella Valley, filed a case against Barog Katawhan’s (People Rise Up) leaders Grace Curso, Bello Timdasan and Carlos Trangia; Balsa-Mindanao’s Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa; environmental rights group Panalipdan’sJulandSuazo; BagongAlyansangMakabayan’s (Bayan) Sheena Duazo; peasant group KilusangMagbubukidngPilipinas’ Tony Salubre; and Leny Camino, apparently for leading the protest action demanding for the distribution of relief goods and to put a stop to the large scale mining in their area.
Charges include unlawful appearance, public disturbance, and obstruction of traffic under the Revised Penal Code.
The filing of charges against the victims of Typhoon Pablo was earlier criticized by several progressive groups. Vencer Crisostomo, chairperson of Anakbayan, said the Aquino government is merely protecting the interests of logging and mining companies in Mindanao by shifting the blame on the people.
“These companies and the local government should be the ones charged, not the residents who hunger for relief,” Crisostomo said.
Kadamay supported their call to put a stop to these large-scale mining and logging operations, adding that the Aquino administration should be held accountable. In their statement, the group said foreign, large-scale mining operations intensified under Aquino through his Executive Order No. 79.
“Massive land use conversion under the Aquino administration, which turned farmlands and forests into big banana and coconut plantations for export, has also diminished the capacity of Mindanao terrains to withstand natural calamities,” the statement of Kadamay read.