Almost three years after her arrest, human rights worker Alexa Pacalda remains imprisoned.
By VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA — Women’s rights groups and human rights defenders organized a prayer rally yesterday, March 14, in solidarity with Alexa Pacalda, a day before the promulgation of the trumped-up charges filed against her.
Mothers and Children for the Protection of Human Rights (MCPHR), a Southern Tagalog-based organization, started the virtual campaign to demand Lucena Regional Trial Court Branch 56 to provide a fair and impartial decision on Pacalda’s case.
Last September 14, 2019, Pacalda was arrested without a warrant while she was consulting with farmers of Barangay Magsaysay, General Luna. The farmers were victims of intense militarization.
She was accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives by members of the 201st Infantry Brigade, who at the time of the arrest were in civilian clothing. Later on, they identified her as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who “voluntarily surrendered.”
For more than 24 hours, Pacalda was deprived of food and sleep and was coerced to sign a document stating that she was an NPA surrenderee. The military also threatened to file a case against Pacalda and her father if they did not sign the same malicious affidavit.
Read: After one year, youth activist and rights defender Alexa Pacalda still detained
MCPHR’s manifesto of unity stated that organizations and individuals in Quezon and Southern Tagalog Region condemn the trumped-up charges against her.
“Alexa’s imprisonment over a falsely accused crime is a clear cripple on her rights [sic]. Her case is a manifestation of how the reactionary state sees activists and activism in the country,” the document reads.
They said that members of the 85th Infantry Batallion and the 201st Infantry Brigade should be held accountable for the torture and illegal arrest of Pacalda.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Youth National Spokesperson Shaye Ganal highlighted how state forces continue to use Pacalda for their fraudulent and misleading propaganda.
They said that the case of Pacalda has been cited in the press conferences of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) from 2020 onwards, referring to her as an “activist turned NPA.”
“Attacks on Alexa, and other women human rights defenders show how fascist elements work in their pursuit to discredit and cripple the women’s movement here in our country,” said Ganal.
However, Ganal said that the continuous attacks on human rights defenders will not paralyze the movement.
“On the contrary, it ignites further optimism and fervor as Alexa Pacalda, and many more women human rights defenders, continue to be an inspiration for young women like us,” she added.
For these groups and individuals, the long-overdue freedom of illegally arrested human rights defenders like Pacalda, is one way for the country to genuinely celebrate Women’s Month 2023. (RTS, JJE)