By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – A peasant youth organizer was arrested by soldiers in Quezon province, March 18.
Carlo Reduta, a member of the peasant organization Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM Quezon), was arrested by elements of the Philippine Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion at barangay Cawayan, Gumaca, Quezon province while engaged in field work with the local farmers in the area. He was charged with violations of Section 4 of the Anti-Terror Act, murder and frustrated murder and is currently detained at the Gumaca Munipical Police Station, according to Karapatan-Southern Tagalog.
Section 4 of the Anti-Terror Act defines acts of terrorism, which implicitly includes “advocacy, protest, [and] dissent” which are intended to “cause death or serious physical harm to a person, … endanger a person’s life, or … create a serious risk to public safety.”
Reduta comes from a family of coconut farmers and peasant organizers. According to human rights watchdog Karapatan Southern Tagalog, the Redutas have “a long history of being victims of state terrorism, surveillance, and harassment from the military.”
Reduta’s father Maximo is a longtime political prisoner who died due to illnesses last 2021. Maximo passed away at the Gumaca District Jail without seeing freedom. He was the third political prisoner from the Southern Tagalog region to die while imprisoned under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Carlo also has a brother who faced similar charges. According to Karapatan ST, those charges were eventually dismissed.
Under CLAIM Quezon, the Reduta family pushed for the rights of coconut farmers in the province, including the return of the coco levy funds stolen by the Marcos dictatorship and its cronies during Martial Law. As of 2021, these funds now amount to some P75 billion.
The coconut industry remains an important part of agricultural life in Quezon and a major source of export income for the Philippines – in 2017, total exports from the industry amounted to over 70 percent of coconut production and were worth over 1.5 trillion USD.
Despite this, however, attacks against coconut farmers and CLAIM members in particular have intensified under the Duterte administration. Last March 6, CLAIM member Felizardo Repaso and his wife received threats and repeated harassment from military units, including surveillance and visits to their home in Atimonan.
Last August 30, 2021, at least 50 CLAIM members were forced to ‘surrender’ as members of the New People’s Army in a ceremony headed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), an inter-agency task force and the centerpiece of the Duterte administration’s “whole-of-nation approach” in attempting to solve the over five decades’ long revolutionary war waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines.
In November 2020, CLAIM General Luna chapter President Armando Buisan was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in a hit and run operation. The Philippine Army’s 201st Infantry Battalion claimed that Buisan was an “NPA supporter” and a member of the NPA’s “milisyang bayan” (people’s militia).
Given the Reduta family’s history of encounters with the police and military, Karapatan ST said that they are “deeply worried about Carlo’s condition, especially the threat of mental torture, harassment, and repeated jail transfers in an attempt to ensure that the family doesn’t see him while he is under police custody.”