Human rights group sees more attacks vs activists

Published December 12, 2020, 2:03 PM

by Raymund Antonio

A human rights group has warned of more attacks on activists and dissidents following the series of arrests on a female journalist and six union organizers on Human Rights Day last Thursday.

In a statement, Karapatan said the Duterte administration will “stop at nothing to bare its fangs” against human rights defenders, trade unionists, and critics as part of its intensified crackdown on all forms of dissent.

Police arrested journalist Lady Ann Salem of Manila Today and labor organizers Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio, Dennise Velasco, Joel Demate, and Rodrigo Esparago.

They were arrested in simultaneous raids in Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, and Manila based on five search warrants issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert.

They were arrested over illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which the rights group said were “trumped-up and fabricated charges.”

Their arrests drew outrage and condemnation from various progressive groups, leading to a protest in Camp Karingal and Camp Crame in Quezon City on Friday.
The rallyists called for the release of the activists.

Anakpawis leader Ariel Casilao condemned the arrests as “mockery” of the Human Rights Day celebration.

The series of arrests were part of a “comprehensive and systematic political crackdown, and not mere anti-crime operations,” he said.

Palabay asserted that the firearms and explosives possession charges are “nothing more than cheap propaganda tactics.”

Karapatan said 188 human right defenders have been killed since 2016, on top of the thousands of deaths in the administration’s drug war. There were 426 individuals who were also arrested, it added.