Groups urge CHR to probe trumped-up murder charges against human rights defenders

Members of rights groups and people’s organizations urge the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the practice of filing of trumped-up charges against activities. (Photo by Kodao Productions)
“The arrest warrant is the legal cover for the potential commission of other human rights violations and irregularities such as the planting of firearms and explosives to justify additional non-bailable charges. Such was the experience of other activists such as Rey Casambre, Maoj Maga, Alexander Reyes and many others.”


MANILA – Colleagues of human rights defenders recently charged with fabricated murder charges urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate how red-tagging translates to filing of criminal charges, arrests and detention.

Members of Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Katribu and International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) sought the assistance of the CHR this week about the cases of Karapatan’s national council membe Daisy “Jackie” Valencia, Bayan’s Lutgardo “Boyette” Jurcales Jr., Agnes Mesina of Makabayan-Cagayan Valley, Reynaldo Gameng of DAGAMI-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and other rights defenders charged with murder at the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 in Tagum, Davao del Norte.

Colleagues and family of Cordillera Peoples Alliance’s chairperson Windel Bolinget submit their letter of concern to the Commission of Human Rights-Cordillera Administrative Region. (Photo from the Defend Windel Bolinget Facebook page)

Leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) also submitted a similar letter to the CHR-Cordillera Administrative Region together with the family of the group’s chairperson, Windel Bolinget.

In a statement, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan’s secretary general, said that this recent form of judicial harassment “comes as state security forces and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) intensified its red-tagging spree against activists and political dissenters and as the Anti-Terrorism Law comes into full force.”

“We appeal to the CHR to take urgent action to emphasize that Windel, Boyette, and many other activists and rights defenders are not criminals or terrorists, especially at this time when the State, the police and military want to legalize such a narrative,” the IPMSDL said, pertaining to the Anti-Terror Law.

Bolinget, Karapatan, Bayan and IPMSDL filed petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law before the Supreme Court.

The charges stemmed from the alleged murder of a certain Garito Tiklonay Malibato on March 22, 2018, in Kapalong, Davao del Norte. He was a member of Karadyawan, an organization of indigenous peoples in the area.

The case was filed by Police Major Ruth Dizon, chief of the Kapalong Police Station which Karapatan said was based on questionable testimonies of alleged former New People’s Army members, more than two years after the killing of Malibato.

Right to due process

Bayan decried the violation of the right to due process of Jurcales and other accused, adding that Jurcales was not accorded the right to be heard via a preliminary investigation. He only learned about the case when the warrant of arrest was issued, the group said.

While the group said it is confident that Jurcales will be able to dispute the allegations of the alleged witness, what concerns them is that Jurcales is now vulnerable to attacks due to the issuance of the arrest warrant. Bayan cited the shoot-to-kill order against Bolinget who had to submit himself to the National Bureau of Investigation to prevent harm against him.

“The arrest warrant is the legal cover for the potential commission of other human rights violations and irregularities such as the planting of firearms and explosives to justify additional non-bailable charges. Such was the experience of other activists such as Rey Casambre, Maoj Maga, Alexander Reyes and many others,” Bayan said.

Jurcales is Bayan’s director for the Popular Struggles Commission which coordinates different mass campaigns of their group’s member organizations. He is also an official of Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan, the relief arm of Bayan.

Before Bayan, Jurcales worked with different cause-oriented groups. He is a founding member of AGHAM, a mass organization of scientists and technologists and the coordinator of the international formation Ban the Bases, which is composed of anti-bases groups in the US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. He also heads the department for organization of the Makabayan Coalition.

He has been working in Bayan for the past 30 years.

Red-tagging against Valencia

Like Bolinget, Valencia said that she has never been to Mindanao in 2018 or she was involved in an alleged incident.

Valencia was also red-tagged for her human rights work. For instance, on Oct. 12, 2018, names of Valencia and Karapatan-Cagayan, along with other organizations and activists appeared on leaflets and streamers in Isabela and Cagayan provinces tagging them as “leaders” or “recruiters” of the New People’s Army (NPA) or as “NPAs in the city.”

Her name and that of other activists were also written on streamers in different public places in the region from May 20 to 26, 2020, accusing them of being recruiters of the NPA and and Communist Party of the Philippines.

In their letter to the CHR, Palabay also said that in 2018, she received a text message accusing late peace consultant Randy Malayao, Isabelo Adviento, Mia Liquigan, Agnes Mesina, Cita Managuelod and Valencia of the same.

“We are citing these incidents because we believe that these acts of red-tagging of activists like Valencia incite violence and attacks against them and lay the pretext for graver forms of violations such as trumped up charges, arrests or illegal search, or worse, extrajudicial killings,” Palabay said, citing the killing of Malayao’s and the raid in the house of Adviento’s home on Dec. 2 last year. 

Valencia has been working with Karapatan since 2009. Her work includes leading fact-finding and documentation missions, providing paralegal and other forms of assistance to victims of rights violations and their families and communities. She assisted victims of Marcos’s martial law in their applications for reparations, the group said.

Read: Human rights work as a vocation 

“We call on the Philippine government to stop its attacks on human rights workers, activists, political dissenters and the Filipino people. We demand the dropping of charges against Valencia, Bolinget, Jurcales, Gameng and Mesina,” Palabay said. (

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