Activists arrested in Quezon City are humanitarian workers – group

Karapatan-Caraga said that Gomez and Velasco are both engaged humanitarian work over the years. In fact, the group said that “officers and personnel of some of government agencies in the region know them personally as they have coordinated activities particularly with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units in the Surigao and Agusan provinces and several municipalities.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The two Caraga-based activists arrested in Quezon City on Friday, July 16, are not members of the New People’s Army.

This is the assertion of the human rights group Karapatan-Caraga adding that the firearms and flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confiscated from the two are all planted by the authorities.

Arrested were Julieta Gomez, a Lumad-Manobo from San Luis, Agusan del Sur and currently a council member of Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KASALO Caraga), and Niezel Velasco, formerly the project coordinator of Bread for Emergency and Development, Inc. (BREAD, Inc.) until 2017. Bread, Inc. is a relief and rehabilitation institution in Caraga.

The two were presented before the media last Friday as high-ranking members of the NPA.

“Such claims are preposterous and at the height of implausibility as who in their right mind would attempt to purchase and transport such, at a time when checkpoints and lockdowns are in effect, let alone store such munitions in the house where you were staying? And why would they bring a CPP flag and education materials?” the group said in a statement adding that Philippine National Police Chief Guillermo Eleazar should look into the arresting officers for planting evidence.

Karapatan-Caraga said that Gomez and Velasco are both engaged humanitarian work over the years. In fact, the group said that “officers and personnel of some of government agencies in the region know them personally as they have coordinated activities particularly with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units in the Surigao and Agusan provinces and several municipalities.”

The group believes that this is but another attack against those who are critical of the government as the two are constantly red-tagged in Caraga region. Their photos and names were posted in tarpaulins together with church people, teachers, peasant and labor leaders and humanitarian advocates, tagging them as members of the NPA.

They also added that both Gomez and Velasco, along with several activists, have been charged with trumped-up cases of murder and attempted murder related to NPA actions in different courts in Caraga despite evidence disproving their involvement.

“The arrest of Gomez and Velasco are but attempts to silence activists in Caraga and the country. Unable to destroy the revolutionary movement in Caraga they attack those in the progressive movement and pass them off as members of the CPP-NPA-NDFP. They vilify, red-tag, file trumped-up charges, kill or arrest and plant evidence,” the group said.

Leading relief work and organizing fellow Lumad

According to Karapatan, Gomez has devoted her time in organizing the local Lumad communities and led campaigns in exposing the plight of the Lumad in Caraga. She is also at the forefront in defending their ancestral lands against large-scale plunder through mining and plantations.

“In 2010, she actively campaigned for the 1 percent royalty from mining profits for the Lumad affected by large-scale mining in Caraga, particularly in Surigao del Norte. In the same year she was elected by the general assembly of KASALO as secretary general and in the succeeding years remained as one of its council members,” the group said.

Gomez also led the Manilakbayan of the Lumad people from Mindanao in 2015 and 2016 where they exposed the dire situation and grave human rights violations committed against the Lumad in Mindanao.

In July 2017 to June 30, 2018, Gomez became the provincial focal person of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, Local Affairs Coordinating and Monitoring Services (NAPC-LACMS) for Agusan del Sur.

Velasco on the other hand has led the implementation of marine sanctuary protection and livelihood projects for fisherfolk in Siargao Islands in coordination with the local government unit of General Luna from 2007 until 2014.

She also led and joined relief projects in communities in the region affected by floods and devastation brought about by Typhoon Sendong in 2011, Typhoon Pablo in 2012, Typhoon Seniang in 2014, Tropical Depression Auring in 2017 and Basyang in 2018, and in Leyte at the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.

She was also designated as the provincial focal person of the NAPC-LACMS for Surigao del Norte also in July 2017 to June 30, 2018. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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