By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A human rights group assailed the illegal arrest of peasant leader Antonio Pajalla in Quezon province, saying that the rebellion charge against him was long extinguished when he was granted amnesty under former President Fidel Ramos.
In a phone interview, Karapatan-Quezon spokesperson Alex Pacalda said the peasant leader held with him his copy of the certificate from the National Amnesty Commission when he was arrested at around 9 a.m. Aug. 12, while riding a jeepney en route to the Anakpawis Partylist’s office in Catanauan town.
The rebellion charge against Pajalla, which is the ground for his arrest, was first filed in 1995. But Pajalla was granted amnesty by President Ramos in 1997, said Pacalda.
“The case of Pajalla is a concrete representation that the remnants of the previous regimes’ fascist counterinsurgency programs still remain in the Duterte administration. With the case filed way back in 1995 against Pajalla, the dirty tactics under the counterinsurgency program of filing trumped-up charges to individuals as part of Oplan Lambat Bitag of then president Fidel Ramos still persist,” Pacalda said in a statement.
Human rights activists and members of progressive organizations held simultaneous protest actions in the provinces of Quezon and Laguna as they assailed Pajalla’s arrest. The group underscored the irony that while the Philippine government is supposedly working on the release of peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, its Armed Forces of the Philippines is continuing its political repression and harassment against members of progressive groups.
Pacalda said Pajalla noticed that he was being followed when he left his house to go to the Anakpawis Partylist’s office in Catanauan at around 9:00 a.m., Aug. 12.
His colleagues phoned him at around 11 a.m., asking his whereabouts. But Pajalla did not divulge he was arrested yet as his arresting officers, who are elements of the Third Maneuver Platoon of the Police Provincial Mobile Group, coerced him not to. It was only until 3:00 p.m. that Pajalla was able to call his colleagues and inform them of his situation.
Immediately after his arrest, Pajalla was brought to Gumaca Regional Trial Court Branch 61, which his arresting officer said had jurisdiction over him. After that, he was brought back to the Macalelon police station.
As of this writing, Pacalda said the police have yet to show the peasant leader’s warrant of arrest to his family and paralegals.
Pajalla is the national vice chairman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. He is also the provincial coordinator of peasant group Piglas-Quezon, and one of the lead campaigners for coconut farmers’ claim to the $5-billion coco levy funds.