By JUSTIN UMALI
MANILA – The family of human rights activist Alexandrea Pacalda filed a motion for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court, September 23, in an attempt to release her from military captivity.
Pacalda, 23 years old, has been under the custody of the 201st Brigade in Calauag, Quezon for nine days now without any charges filed against her. The Armed Forces of the Philippines insists that she is a New People’s Army guerrilla who voluntarily surrendered to authorities.
Her father Arnulfo said, “I’m worried because my daughter has been detained for so long with the [201st] Brigade. I don’t know what they’ll do to her. I hope they release her immediately.”
“She was only helping farmers; is that a crime? Please release my child,” he added.
In an open letter written by the Pacalda family dated September 20, Arnulfo said that her daughter was deprived of sleep and of food for more than 24 hours before she was coerced to sign a document stating that she is a rebel returnee.
Arnulfo’s open letter also insisted that Alexa was “taken by four men in civilian clothes while she was in one of the farmers’ houses. She was made to be an NPA surrenderee when she is actually a human rights worker conducting a consultation in the area.”
Pacalda was taken by elements of the 201st Infantry Brigade of the AFP on September 14 in barangay Magsaysay, General Luna, Quezon. The state-owned Philippine News Agency reported that Pacalda “voluntarily surrendered” two days later, on September 16.
An investigation by the Commission of Human Rights concluded that as there were no charges filed against Pacalda. The CHR has called on the commanding officer of the 201st Brigade to release her to her family immediately.
Despite this, the Pacalda family has been told that Alexa will only be released “once the insurgency in Quezon is finished.”
Human rights group Karapatan supports the Pacalda family and stated that the AFP’s “baseless attempts at holding people captive” have been discovered.
Nimfa Lanzanas, spokesperson of Karapatan Southern Tagalog, said, “The AFP continues to lie through its teeth, now that its inconsistency has been unveiled following Alexandrea’s personal statement. The military’s lies blew in their faces, and has now wanted to go on its old ways of filing trumped-up charges.”
“The public should know that Alexandrea’s case is one of the actual faces of Oplan Kapanatagan in the countryside. Farmers and townsfolk are forced to surrender by the military, while local governments are forced to sign templates of persona non grata declarations that have also targeted people’s organizations in the areas”, Lanzanas added.
Pacalda’s arrest comes at the height of AFP operations in Quezon under the scope of Oplan Kapanatagan, which has already resulted in the evacuation of coconut farmers due to fears of being branded as communist sympathizers or members of the NPA.