A woman’s right advocate in Butuan City and a union leader in Quezon City have been added to the list of political prisoners arrested and detained under the Duterte administration.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Two human rights defenders were arrested in separate incidents this week.
On May 31, women’s rights advocate Nerita de Castro, was arrested by combined elements of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Davao and Caraga and the Army’s 402nd Infantry Battalion at Emenville Subdivision, barangay Ambago, Butuan City.
According to Gabriela Women’s Party-Caraga chapter, de Castro has been slapped with “trumped-up” murder and frustrated murder charges filed in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Two days later, on June 2, Juan Alexander Reyes was taken by five men in civilian clothes in barangay San Antonio, Quezon City. He forced inside a white SUV with plate number ABB 9926 and brought to the CIDG-National Capital Region at Camp Crame. .
Reyes is a leader of the Sandigang Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC) and Bayan Quezon City. According to Defend Job Philippines, the arresting officers told Reyes he would be charged with arson filed in Agusan del Sur and illegal possession of firearms filed in Quezon City.
In a statement, Atel Hijos, secretary general of GWP-Caraga, said it took 24 hours before charges were filed against de Castro.
Hijos condemned the military for denying de Castro’s right to call her family and her lawyer and inform the latter of her arrest and her condition. Hijos said de Castro remains at the CIDG, and is “constantly under interrogation” by personnel from the CIDG-Davao City, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Presidential Management Staff and members of the Philippine National Police of Caraga.
The Army immediately released a statement accusing de Castro of being a high ranking member of the New People’s Army (NPA), the new finance officer of Komisyon sa Mindanao and the secretary of the Regional White Area Committee of the NorthEastern Mindanao Region.
Advocacy, unionism not a crime
Hijos said de Castro has been a volunteer of GWP since 2006. She described de Castro as “a small businesswoman who devoted part of her time towards the promotion of women’s rights in Caraga.”
During the ‘80s, de Castro was with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). She became a member of Karapatan-Surigao del Sur during the ‘90s. She was also a former a diocesan worker, serving as the executive director of Pulso Micro Media Services (PMMS) since the ’90s until 2006. PMMS was the media apostolate of the Diocese of Tandag under its Social Action Center.
“De Castro’s arrest is a misogynistic move to silence women who refuse to cower in fear in the face of Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao,” Hijos said.
Meanwhile, Reyes is active in the the campaign for regularization and against the termination of workers of Pearl Island Commercial Corporation and other local workers’ struggles in Quezon City.
Christian Tiamzon, executive director of Defend Job Philippines said in a statement, “Trade unionism is not a crime.”
Both the GWP-Caraga and Defend Job Philippines called for the release of all political prisoners.
According to human rights alliance Karapatan, there have been 297 victims of illegal arrest and detention since Duterte came to power until March this year.