By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – Incidents of harassment and attacks against local and provincial chapters of progressive party-list Anakpawis in the Southern Tagalog region have ramped up over the past week, according to reports on the ground.
Four incidents were reported by various rights groups and people’s organizations in the Southern Tagalog region from March 6 to March 11.
On March 6, Karapatan Southern Tagalog received reports that Felizardo Repaso and his wife have been the victims of continued harassment from elements of the military. According to the group, soldiers have been spotted in the area near their home in Atimonan, Quezon province for at least three days.
Repaso is a member of Coco Levy Fund Ibalik Sa Amin (CLAIM Quezon) and a volunteer for Anakpawis Quezon.
Three days later, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Laguna reported that two plainclothes officers were looking for Red Clado, Anakpawis Laguna coordinator and a staff member for Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Probinsya ng Laguna (ALMAPILA-KMU). The two officers met with Clado’s mother and told her that her son was a “high ranking member of the CPP-NPA-NDF” (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) and was “slated to join the NPA.” The two officers then offered to ‘talk’ with
Clado and promised not to arrest him.
The next day, elements of the Cavite police in barangay Mayugam, Silang, resulted in the arrest of Jonathan Mercado, spokesperson of Teatro Kabataan Mula sa Nayon (TEKA MUNA) and a member of Anakpawis Southern Tagalog’s regional campaign staff. Mercado was arrested without a warrant at approximately 8:30 a.m., and his whereabouts are yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDA) in Cavite launched drug-related operations in sitio Bagong Silangan, barangay Talaba 7 in Bacoor, resulting in the arrest of ten Anakpawis volunteers. At least nine volunteers, meanwhile, were physically assaulted and harassed, including Joel Salabania, vice chairperson of Anakpawis Cavite. According to reports from Bagong Silangan, PDEA agents are still conducting operations in the area as of March 11.
Follow up to Bloody Sunday
Human rights alliance Defend Southern Tagalog has described the series of attacks as a “follow up to Bloody Sunday,” referring to the massacre which took place last March 7, 2021 and resulted in the deaths of nine activists and arrests of six more.
“These are not isolated incidents,” said Charm Maranan, Defend ST spokesperson. “These are coordinated attacks by the Philippine National Police, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict to disenfranchise the people from their legitimate demands.”
Since March 2021, rights groups have noted an “alarming trend” of attacks in Southern Tagalog, with a special focus on unionists and peasants. Incidents include the murder of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK KMU) Vice President Dandy Miguel, the arson of an elf truck owned by labor federation OLALIA KMU, forced presentations of members of CLAIM Quezon as “NPA surrenderees,” and forced disaffiliations of labor unions in Laguna from KMU.
Maranan added that Defend ST received information of a second wave of attacks across the region, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año as the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for Region 4-A.
As CORDS, Año will be involved in all NTF-ELCAC activities in the region and will act as the Office of the President’s ‘alter-ego’ in the agency’s whole-of-nation approach.
Anakpawis Southern Tagalog is currently coordinating with rights groups to secure its coordinators. Additionally, vice presidential candidate Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan pledged his support for the volunteers in Talaba 7 and for Jonathan Mercado. (RVO)