A witness, a certain Roger Reyes Rodriguez linked all three separate households claiming that he was brought by Ruben Saluta from one house to another in search of a gun that he liked.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The human rights group Karapatan assailed the arrest of a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and 12 other civilians, in a joint military and police operation in Quezon City and Caloocan City last Mar. 4.
Ruben Saluta, an NDFP peace consultant, invoked his Jasig Document of Identification No. ND978240, with his assumed name Lirio Magtibay. This, however, was not recognized.
Jasig Document of Identification refers to the so-called “safe conduct pass” issued under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), which entitles negotiators, consultants, and staff involved in the peace process immunity from surveillance, arrest, among others.
Karapatan said the 13 arrested should be released at once, saying that their arrest and detention “is illegal and smacks of foul play and dirty tricks.” Their arrest, the group added, was based on a search warrant issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 78 for illegal guns.
“When they did not find those fictitious items listed on the warrant, the members of the raiding team ‘planted’ guns and explosives and labeled them ‘evidence.’ All three houses were searched and the raiding teams hauled their belongings,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Arrested with Saluta is his wife Presentacio Saluta, who he was visiting in a house in Quezon City, the rights group said. Others who were arrested include Joseph Cuevas, and those who were renting rooms such as Alexander Raymund Birondo, his wife Winona Onate-Birondo and Ruben Rupido.
Two more houses were raided by the joint police and military operation in Caloocan City. All residents, too, were consequently arrested. They are: Osias Abad, Emmanuel Bacarra, RosaliaReboltar-Bacarra, Roy Baldostamo, Manolito Estrella, Emmanuel Villamor, and Monette Alcantara.
Karapatan stressed that those arrested are not related to each other, except that they are “independent sublessors and sublessees of each other.”
A witness, a certain Roger Reyes Rodriguez, however, claimed that he met Saluta in the province of Antique. The latter, Karapatan said, claimed he was recruited as “gun for hire” in Manila.
Rodriguez linked all three separate households claiming that he was brought by Saluta from one house to another in search of a gun that he liked.
Palabay assailed how such “incredulous sworn affidavit” served as basis for the search warrants.
On Mar. 5, Saluta and five others were brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group office in Camp Crame, Quezon City at around 1:25 a.m. Later that night, they were brought before the Prosecution Office at the Quezon City Hall of Justice for inquest without a lawyer of their choice.
Meanwhile, those arrested in Caloocan City were presented for inquest before the Caloocan City Prosecution Office. They were able to contact Karapatan and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), which agreed to represent them.
“All 13 are now at a cramped holding area at the Major Crimes Investigation Unit (MCIU) and the Anti-Organized Crime Unit of the CIDG in Camp Crame. The nine men are currently in a 3 x 4 meter cell, along with four other prisoners,” said Karapatan.
“The four women are locked up in a similarly-sized cell, which on some days they share with other prisoners as well. Many of those arrested are in their 60s and suffering from various serious ailments,” Palabay added.
Karapatan said such arrest shows the continuing violation of Jasig and the rampant practice of illegal arrest and detention, incriminatory machination, and illegal search and seizure by state security forces in the country.