By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – Two more were arrested by combined elements of the police and military in Quezon province, yesteray, October 6, at around 2:00 am.
According to Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Batangas Spokesperson Erlindo “Lino” Baez and Anakpawis Partylist Batangas Coordinator Willy Capareño were arrested in sitio Centro, barangay Manggalang 1, Sariaya, Quezon province by no less than 50 members of the Sariaya police and the Philippine Army’s 59th Infantry Battalion.
The arrest was made by virtue of a warrant of arrest on charges against Baez for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. A press release from the CALABARZON Police Regional Office meanwhile tagged Baez and Capareño as “high-ranking members” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Both Baez and Capareño are no strangers to red-tagging and state harassment. The warrant issued against Baez came from the March 7 raid of his home in Santo Tomas, Batangas, where police and military supposedly “found” firearms and explosives. The raid was part of “Bloody Sunday”, which resulted in the deaths of nine activists and the arrests of seven others.
No warrant was issued for Capareño; however, he was allegedly found to be in possession of one hand-grenade. It is not yet clear what the charges against Capareño are.
Baez is the head of a family of activists. His son, Ronilo, is a political prisoner currently detained since June 3, 2010 on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. He was one of three activists arrested in Taysan while they were integrating in a farming community.
Another son, Edrean, was a member of Anakbayan before he was killed by state forces on May 26, 2021 near Padre Garcia, Batangas, in a supposed “encounter” between members of the New People’s Army.
In 2019, Capareño received a text message from someone he does not know, telling him to go back to his home in San Juan, Batangas or else he would be arrested. This threat was part of a series of harassment against known leaders and progressives in the province.
Baez and Capareño’s arrest come one day shy of seven months since Bloody Sunday. Progressives in Southern Tagalog have long since contended that Bloody Sunday marked an “intensification of crackdown” against activists and community leaders in the region.
Multiple reports of human rights violations have come to light since March 7, including the murder of labor leader Dandy Miguel on March 28; the disappearance of former Kabataan Partylist coordinator Kemuel Ian Cometa on May 21; the arrest of peasant organizers Dana Marcellana and Christian Relao on June 25, as well as multiple icidents of threats, harassment, and intimidation by state forces.
Youth organization Gabriela Youth Quezon has called the arrests “a manifestation that despite the crisis caused by the pandemic, there is a proliferation of harassment of silencing against progressive individuals who are fighting for people’s rights.” Other groups have similarly called for the immediate release of Baez and Capareño.
Both Baez and Capareño’s families have yet to make contact with their loved ones. Initial reports indicate that they were brought to the Sariaya Municipal Police Station but no confirmation has been made yet as of press time. Karapatan-Southern Tagalog is currently spearheading efforts to locate the two activists and ensure their safety. (RVO)