By Chito Chavez
Human rights group Karapatan has strongly pushed for the abolishment of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) claiming it has been filing trumped-up charges against activists since October 2017.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay alleged that IACLA is also “working hand-in-glove with the National Task Force (NTF) to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ECLAC) that is the main pincer of counterinsurgency campaign called Oplan Kapanatagan’’.
Under the current administration, Palabay insisted the country “has seen an alarming increase in the number of activists and government critics charged with trumped-up cases and subjected to illegal arrests’’.
She asserted this is a systematic maneuver meant to silence those voicing out legitimate issues and the poor’s interests.
Since October 2017, Palabay said the machinery tasked with case build-up for the filing of trumped-up charges has been the IACLA, alongside the devious machinations under the NTF-ELCAC of Oplan Kapanatagan.
Formed on October 9, 2017, Palabay said IACLA is operated by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP.)
“It is the Duterte version of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) organized by then-President Gloria Arroyo that was abolished in 2009 after judges and leading legal scholars condemned it as a vehicle for the political persecution of human rights defenders and Arroyo critics,’’ Palabay said.
Palabay noted that for two years now, IACLA is used by the government to intensify its crackdown on activists.
She added that IACLA has been allegedly in the business of planting evidence and producing false witnesses, tag-teaming with prosecutors and courts for the release of defective warrants and the overall concoction of baseless and ridiculous stories to justify illegal arrests.
“One of the most preposterous trends since IACLA is the use of warrants from courts in the Caraga region in Mindanao to invent cases against and cause the arrest of activists in Metro Manila, despite the dire lack of evidence and logic presented by soldiers and police. They have laboratories for testing how far they can go in weaponizing the law and subverting legal processes,” explained Palabay.
She noted that IACLA has contributed to the rapid worsening of the human rights situation in the country.
As of June 2019, Karapatan has documented 545 political prisoners in the country, 285 of whom were arrested under the Duterte government.
Palabay said “many of the victims are peasants and indigenous leaders who are further disenfranchised by the disjointed justice system in the country that favors the rich and powerful. The double standard in our justice system is sickening, resulting to further injustice for the victims of human rights violations.”
She cited the recent case of illegal arrests in Palawan, involving human rights workers and Karapatan’s former secretary-general in its Southern Tagalog regional chapter by the police and the military on October 4.
Palabay claimed that seven human rights workers were arrested without warrants by the PNP and AFP in Puerto Princesa City after they conducted a fact-finding investigation on reports of human rights violations perpetrated by state forces against farmers in Taytay town.
The human rights workers are now set to face trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
“The criminalization of human rights workers is nothing new, particularly in the context of repressive governments. Through IACLA and other militarist invention by the Duterte government, repression is desperately justified by this regime through obviously-concocted lies. The use of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, for example, is the easiest and most commonly used trumped-up charge under this government because it is the easiest to manufacture. The police and the military have certainly earned their expertise in planting evidence,” Palabay noted.
“As we call for the immediate abolition of IACLA, we also urge the Duterte regime to free all political prisoners who were detained based on fabricated charges, and to dismiss all trumped-up cases filed against activists. Political persecution is certainly the resort of guilty and repressive regimes who do not want to be called out for their failures and crimes against the people. IACLA is a tool to silence critics and such machinations have no place in a truly democratic society. The existence of IACLA, NTF, and all other bodies mandated to launch witch hunts against critics further reveal the falsities of the so-called democracy under the Duterte government,” Palabay concluded.