By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – A progressive youth organization has expressed fears on the possible use of “randomized swab testing” against activists after their two members were reportedly nabbed by village officials and later surfaced.
In a statement, Anakbayan said their two members Alicia Lucena and Sofia Bangayan were “invited” by village officials to undergo a random swab testing while they were in the youth group’s office in Manila. But instead of being brought to the San Lazaro Hospital as told, Lucena and Bangayan were instead brought to the village hall.
Lucena’s phone was then confiscated, denying her the opportunity to contact a paralegal or a lawyer. Bangayan said Lucena’s father arrived at the village hall, accompanied by a staff from the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
As village officials continued to question Lucena, her mother, too, arrived with two police escorts. Bangayan said her fellow youth activist was then forcibly brought to a waiting car.
Bangayan, on the other hand, was not allowed to speak with fellow relief workers who arrived at the barangay hall that afternoon. She was later brought to her house in Makati City after undergoing a swab test.
“This is violently disrespectful to health workers and other frontliners (who are) risking their lives (everyday),” said Anakbayan National Spokesperson Jeann Miranda.
As Lucena has yet to be surfaced, Anakbayan expressed fears that she is once again “being kept incommunicado and subjected to torturous psychological warfare by state forces.”
In 2019, Lucena was a subject of news reports after her mother filed kidnapping charges and eventually habeas corpus and amparo pleas against fellow youth activists. These charges were junked by the Justice Department for lack of evidence.
The Supreme Court also dismissed the habeas corpus plea filed by her parents against her activities as an activist.