By JUSTIN UMALI
CALAMBA, Laguna – Peasant organizers Dana Marie Marcellana and Christian Relao were arrested by elements of the police and military, June 25 in barangay San Gabriel, San Pablo, Laguna, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan Southern Tagalog.
According to initial reports received by the group, elements of the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Force Battalion – Region 4A, PNP San Pablo, and the military arrived at Marcellana and Relao’s house approximately 1 a.m. and arrested the two individuals. No warrants were issued for the two, but they were charged with kidnapping, murder, rebellion and illegal possession of firearms.
Marcellana and Relao are peasant organizers under the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK). According to KASAMA-TK, they are both active in peasant communities around Laguna and Quezon provinces. Additionally, Relao was a volunteer for Anakpawis Partylist Quezon in the last 2015 elections.
Dana is the eldest daughter of Orly and the late Eden Marcellana. Eden was the secretary general of Karapatan-TK and a staunch human rights defender. She was slain alongside KASAMA-TK Chairperson Eddie Gumanoy in April 2003 by soldiers under then-Colonel Jovito Palparan Jr. as part of Gloria Arroyo’s counterinsurgency plan codenamed Oplan Habol Tamaraw.
Orly, meanwhile, is the former spokesperson of KASAMA-TK and an active peasant organizer. He has been the target of multiple threats since his wife’s death. Dana herself was the victim of these threats: as a child, she was told by soldiers that she would be killed “once she turned 18.”
Marcellana and Relao’s arrests mark the sixth and seventh instance of an activist arrested in Laguna since March 2021. It is also the third time an organizer was arrested in the city of San Pablo, following the March 4 arrest of COURAGE organizer Ramir Corcolon.
Laguna has also experienced a marked increase in killings and enforced disappearances since March this year. Notably, labor leader Dandy Miguel was shot dead last March 28 on his way home in barangay Canlubang, Calamba, while another incident on May 21 in barangay Macabling, Santa Rosa resulted in the deaths of three individuals and the disappearance of former Kabataan Partylist Southern Tagalog coordinator Kemuel Ian Cometa. A June 9 incident in barangay Dela Paz, Luisiana also resulted in the slaying of Francisco Oblepias, Jr. at the hands of elements of the 202nd Infantry Battalion.
Progressive organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Laguna has initially called the arrests as “proof of the Duterte regime’s desperation to silence its critics.” Karapatan ST, meanwhile, is calling out the irregularity of the arrests and demands the immediate dismissal of the charges filed against the two.