By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — Three days after President Duterte’s threats to crackdown on Leftist activists and classify the New People’s Army (NPA) as a “terrorist” group, nine peasant activists were arrested today in Batangas province.
In an urgent report from the Batangas Human Rights Alliance (BHRA)-Karapatan, nine members of their quick reaction team (QRT) were arrested at 7:30 PM tonight, Nov. 20, by the Philippine National Police and soldiers of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) who branded them as NPA members.
The QRT was earlier flagged down at a PNP checkpoint along Banana Street, Barangay (village) 6, Nasugbu, allegedly for a traffic violation. They were on their way to Utod village, Nasugbu, Batangas to monitor civilian casualties from an earlier encounter between the military and the NPA.
The nine individuals arrested are members of Samahan ng Pinagbuklod na Damdamin (Sapida), a farmers’ group in Calaca, and Habagat, a fisherfolk group in Lian, Batangas.
The five farmers from Calaca are: Leonardo delos Reyes Jr, 44; Carlos Sanosa, 64, Joey Castillano, 47; Roberto Hernandez, and Peping Murillo. The four others from Lian are: Jocelyn Cabadin, 44; Jennylyn Bayani, 30; Orlan Cabadin, 19; and Anthony Bañaga, the jeepney driver.
The nine are being detained at the Nasugbu municipal jail, but police are yet to file charges.
In September this year, the military conducted aerial bombings in Batangas after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had an encounter with NPA. More than a week later, on October, four peasant leaders were arrested in Calatagan, also in Batangas.
In a statement, the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) condemned what it called “illegal arrest” of the peasant activists.
“How then can human rights and humanitarian organizations function and aid civilians amidst armed conflict when rights of human rights workers are being curtailed?” Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay said.
(This article was updated to correct the number of arrested, earlier reported at 10.)