“Those defending their rights and that of others are being wrongfully painted as criminals through charges that are based on fabricated testimonies of soldiers or contracted witnesses, or on planted evidence.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The recent arrests of human rights defenders reflect continuing criminalization of their work under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr administration.
Human rights group Karapatan denounced the arrests of Makabayan-Bicol coordinator and former Bayan Muna fourth nominee Marites Pielago on July 28 and the Pangadas brothers on July 25.
Pielago, 62 was arrested while confined at the Dr. Nilo O. Roa Memorial Foundation Hospital in Barangay San Francisco, Naga City. According to Karapatan, numerous elements of the police and military arrested Pielago based on the supposed arrest warrants issued by Judge Maria Clarissa Pacis-Trinidad of Iriga City Regional Trial Court Branch No. 36 on trumped-up charges of murder and frustrated murder.
Meanwhile, Pangadas brothers Ismael, 22 and Mawing, 19, were arrested after attending the People’s SONA rally in Davao City’s Freedom Park. They were reportedly charged with child trafficking.
“Those defending their rights and that of others are being wrongfully painted as criminals through charges that are based on fabricated testimonies of soldiers or contracted witnesses, or on planted evidence,” Karapatan said in a statement.
The group added that many defenders who were arrested in the past years were eventually released due to lack of evidence, glaring inconsistencies in the accounts of the alleged witnesses, or numerous violations committed by police officers in course of the arrests.
— BAYAN MUNA Partylist (@BayanMuna) July 28, 2022
Karapatan said that the charges against Pielago are fabricated as she was in Metro Manila on the date of the incidents of the said crimes.
Defend Bicol Stop the Attacks Network also said that Pielago is an advocate of women’s rights and consumers’ rights, as well as the democratic rights of the Bicolano people.
Women’s group Gabriela also condemned Pielago’s arrest. “At midnight of July 28, while Tes was on her hospital bed, numerous soldiers and police officers bolted into her room to serve a warrant of arrest against Tes for trumped-up charges of murder and frustrated murder,” the group said, adding that “Her arrest based on false and trumped-up charges is not only absurd, but cruel, given how the elderly activist was confined for medical treatment when state forces flocked into her premises to arrest her in the middle of the night.”
Pielago also suffers from a variety of ailments such as bursitis, tendonitis, diabetes and hypertension. She also has an eye illness, rendering her physically incapable of committing the alleged crimes.
“Numerous defects were also pointed out by her lawyers in the remedies they availed for Pielago,” Karapatan said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said charges against Pielago “is almost laughable if it is not so tragic and condemnable because they are again trying to imprison a human rights defender using the same old modus of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).”
He added that the NTF-ELCAC under Marcos Jr is continuing “the same old tricks of the notorious agency created and unleashed during Duterte’s time.”
Denied of visitation
Meanwhile, an update from the Save our Schools Network (SOS Network) said that Davao City San Pedro Police Station did not allow the father of the Pangadas brothers to visit them on Friday, July 29.
Their family arrived in Davao City from their community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte to visit them, along with the paralegal team of Kabataan Partylist Southern Mindanao Region. But they were denied the right to visit the brothers, citing the “no jail visit” policy due to the pandemic.
The police also added that other prisoners would get jealous if they allow the visitation. “We condemn this utter injustice and call on the San Pedro Police Station to let the father visit the Pangadas brothers. We urge the supporters and friends of the Pangadas brothers to amplify and support our call to immediately release Ismael and Mawing and drop all trumped-up charges against them,” the SOS Network said.
The Pangadas brothers are both graduates of the Lumad Bakwit School. It is through the Lumad Bakwit Schools that Lumad youth continue with their studies after their community schools were targeted and shut down during the Duterte administration.
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“Ismael and Mawing joined the People’s SONA mobilization to express their grievances about the state of Lumad communities’ conditions. This was an exercise of their democratic rights to freedom of expression and right to protest. But they were met with illegal arrest by the police and denial of due process,” the SOS Network said, adding that “This illegal arrest of Lumad youth points to the true state of the nation – repressive, fascist, and anti-people.”