MANILA – Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas is calling for the release of their two elderly and ailing leaders who were arrested on “trumped-up charges” in separate incidents in Caraga region on May 14.
Police arrested Marcela “Silay” Diaz, 59, who was taken at 4:30 A.M. on May 14 from her home in barangay Bayan, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur; and Virgilio “Yoyong” Lincuna, 70, who was taken at 11 A.M. in barangay Banza, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.
Diaz, a member of Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KAMASS-KMP) is a stage 4 cancer patient who is in remission, while Lincuna is a former political detainee and a stroke patient who suffers from partial paralysis, said KMP.
The two elderly and sickly activists were charged with murder and attempted homicide.
The arrests happened on the same day of the burial of KMP national vice chairperson Joseph Canlas who died after contracting COVID-19 in jail. Canlas, who died on May 11, was arrested on March 30 in Pampanga on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Although he had hypertension and diabetes, Canlas was well and stable when he was arrested. He was transferred from one detention facility to another, and was denied medical attention when he complained of feeling ill. He was rushed to a hospital only when his condition worsened.
“The brutality of the Duterte regime is boundless,” said KMP in a Facebook post, as it denounced the arrest and detention as “a form of silent extra-judicial killing via COVID.”
The group said that Diaz and Lincuna both faced constant red-tagging and harassment from government forces. “Both are veteran peasant leaders campaigning for farmers’ right to land and against the militarization of peasant and indigenous communities in Caraga region,” KMP said.
Diaz is charged with attempted homicide, while Lincuna is accused of two counts of murder. The case against Diaz was in connection with a shooting on 29th infantry soldiers on combat patrol in Santiago, Agusan del Norte on Nov. 21, 2020, said PNP Region 13.
Lincuna, who has been an activist since the 80s, was first arrested in October 2019 on a trumped-up case of attempted murder. He was released on bail after several days in detention. He later suffered from stroke, and now “can barely walk and needs constant assistance in his daily chores,” said KMP.
The Philippine National Police Region 13 said the arrest warrant for Diaz was issued by the municipal circuit trial court, 10th Judicial region, Tubay-Santiago, Agusan del Norte. The arrest was made by a combined force of the Regional Intelligence Unit 13, Butuan City Police Intelligence Unit, Butuan City Mobile Force Company, Surigao del Sur Police Provincial office Intelligence unit, 1st Surigao del Sur Provincial Mobile Force Company, and 7th Special Forces Company of the Philippine Army.
Diaz is detained in Camp Rafael Rodriguez in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, while Lincuna is in PNP-Lianga, Surigao del Sur.