Two progressive leaders were arrested by state forces in simultaneous early morning raids in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Albay in Bicol region.
Sasah Sta. Rosa, spokesperson of youth group Jovenes Anakbayan was arrested at her home in Villa Obiedo, Cararayan, Naga City, Camarines Sur.
Anakbayan Naga City said in a Facebook post that at least 10 armed men came to Sta. Rosa’s house at 3 a.m. supposedly to serve a search warrant. They forced the family outside the house, then after 40 minutes, came out with a grenade, guns and a red flag.
In the same manner, in Albay, a team who identified themselves with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) served a search warrant to Pastor Dan Balucio, 61, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Bicol. The warrant was issued by Judge Edgar Armes, vice executive judge of the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City. Karapatan Bikol said the Balucio family were made to lie on their stomach on the ground, while the police entered the house.
The Philippine National Police claimed they found a Remington .45 caliber pistol, seven bullets, two M-14 rifle magazines, a hand grenade, and a red flag at Balucio’s home.
Sta. Rosa is currently detained at the Naga city police substation 2. Balucio is detained at CIDG-Albay.
Police also raided the house of Justine Mesias, senior editor of student publication Cassipi Online and Youth Act Now Against Tyranny-Bicol spokesperson, in Daraga, Albay. at least 40 operatives from the PNP and CIDG forcibly entered the residence, pointed their guns at members of the Mesias family, and went through their belongings for two hours. A gun and explosive were allegedly found by the police and military in the said house. Mesias was not in the house at the time of the incident.
The arrests came just two weeks after two other Bicol activists were freed and acquitted of trumped-up murder charges. Jenelyn Nagrampa-Caballero, Gabriel’s national vice chairperson, and Pastor Dan San Andres, also of the UCCP and Karapatan-Bicol’s spokesperson, were arrested in July last year.
Human rights group Karapatan likened the incidents to the pattern of police raids in the operations conducted in Negros, Iloilo, Metro Manila, Central Luzon and the Bloody Sunday raids in Southern Tagalog.
Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an investigation and the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to immediately act on what it calls “disturbing pattern of use of the courts to judicially harass human rights defenders.”
This is a developing story.
(Edited 3:29 p.m. to update article, from 3 activists arrested to 2, as Mesias was not in house at the time of the raid. Also corrected earlier detail that Sta. Rosa is detained at the CIDG. – Ed.)