MANILA — Cultural workers and activists were preparing for the commemoration of the Escalante Massacre when policemen and soldiers flagged down their vehicle in sitio Barca, barangay Jonob-jonob in Escalante City, around 3 p.m. of Sept. 18.
The eight activists were arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, according to the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA). They were brought to the Escalante City police station.
1.Kenneth Serondo, 19, Teatro Obrero vice chairperson
2.Carlo Apurado, 20, Teatro Obrero member
3.Rolly Hernando, Teatro Obrero member
4. Reynaldo Saura, 17, Teatro Obrero member
5. Joel Guillero, 40, NFSW-North Negros spokesperson
6. Leon Charita, 60, NFSW-Toboso
7. Benvenido Ducay, 55, NFSW member
8. Aiza Orbeso, 32, Kadamay regional vice-chairperson
Police claimed in a report that they recovered .45 at .38 pistols, rifle grenades, and petrol bombs.
NNAHRA maintained that the firearms and explosives were planted.
Ernie Militar, NNAHRA spokesperson said the team only had a sound system, leaflets and personal effects. The team was holding an information drive for the commemoration of the 34th anniversary of the Escalante Massacre.
Teatro Obrero leads the annual reenactment of Escalante Massacre, which claimed the lives of 21 farmers on Sept. 20, 1985.
Mario Tambiga, Teatro Obrero chairperson, said in a statement, “Progressive culture and artistic expression are the only weapons we wield against fascism and repression.”
Tambiga criticized the statement of Gen. Benedict Arevalo of the AFP’s 303rd Infantry Brigade linking the cultural group to the New People’s Army (NPA).
Tambiga said authorities have also confiscated the cellphones and camera of the team.
“That the police and military had no qualms to perform these repressive acts only shows that Martial Law is no longer just a dark era in history that we should mark and remember. Martial Law is currently imposed in Escalante and the whole island of Negros, and the Filipino people should all the more be vigilant and persistent in fighting tyranny and repression,” Militar said.