Her arrest “demonstrates the tendency of the Duterte government to weaponize the law in aid of its self-declared war waged against terrorism at the detriment of the lives and well-being of innocent people working in legal organizations in order to help the basic sectors of our society fight for and defend their basic, fundamental rights to uphold their human dignity.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Organizations who worked closely with arrested and detained human rights defender Jennefer Aguhob belied military’s claims, saying Aguhob is a “tireless paralegal worker.”
Aguhob, an engineer by profession, was arrested on Feb. 5 in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental by state agents. She is a also a recent law graduate and national council member of Karapatan from Region 13.
Igelesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Obispo Maximo Rhee M. Timbang also expressed alarmed over the arrest of Aguhob. Timbang said as paralegal worker, Aguhob helped in the case of Bishop Carlo Morales in 2017. Aguhob also worked in IFI’s Abundant Life Program as a volunteer.
“She provides assistance to the IFI in giving updates on the case, in facilitating the appearance of legal counsels in court hearings and in ascertaining that documents appertaining to the case are attended to,” Timbang said in a statement.
Timbang said her arrest “demonstrates the tendency of the Duterte government to weaponize the law in aid of its self-declared war waged against terrorism at the detriment of the lives and well-being of innocent people working in legal organizations in order to help the basic sectors of our society fight for and defend their basic, fundamental rights to uphold their human dignity.”
Meanwhile, Ephraim Cortez, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), described Aguhob as “a tireless and dedicated paralegal who regularly attends court hearings of political prisoners as part of her work.”
Cortez added that Aguhob was an official delegate of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) to the 5th NUPL National Congress in Manila last October 2019.
According to Karapatan, Aguhob’s arrest was based on a warrant for charges of murder issued on July 26, 2019 by Judge Victoriao Lacaya, Jr. of Regional Trial Court Branch 9 in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte. She is now detained at the Oroquieta City Police Station.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said Aguhob had no knowledge that there was such a complaint filed against her and others.
“She was deprived of her right to due process, when she was arrested based on the said complaint,” Palabay said in a statement.
In a report, the military accused Aghuhob as the finance, liaison officer of Sub-Regional Military Area II of the New People’s Army.
Karapatan debunked this, saying that last October 2019, Aguhob participated in the organization’s council meeting. She was also preparing to take the bar exams this year.
Karapatan added that Aguhob experienced threats and harassment in the past two years. She was terminated from the Oroquieta City engineer’s office after military officials talked with her superiors, Karapatan said.
Cortez pointed out, “The question is simple and straightforward, if not rhetorical: How can high profile and visible people working in open legal organizations doing perfectly legal and constitutionally-protected advocacy commit or be committing patently criminal acts and yet not be in hiding?”
“This is illegalizing otherwise legal acts, behavior, and individuals,” he added.
Karapatan said the filing of trumped up charges against activists is a policy and practice by administrations in an attempt to stifle dissent.
“The Duterte administration is more viciously implementing this with Executive Order No. 70 and martial law, declared or otherwise, in Mindanao,” Palabay said.
The groups demand that Aguhob and those arrested with trumped charges be released. They also pressed for the withdrawal of Executive Order No. 70 and the enactment of measures for the protection of human rights defenders.