Karapatan to SC, DOJ: ‘Stop arrests of activists on trumped-up charges’

Published May 17, 2021, 12:01 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog


A group of human rights advocates has asked the Supreme Court (SC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop the arrests of activists “based on trumped-up charges.”

In a strongly worded statement, Karapatan, through its secretary general Cristina Palabay said:

“We call on the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to urgently review and put an end to these acts which put the lives and security of human rights defenders at grave risk, both to the fascist attacks of the State as well as the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country’s detention facilities.

“The judiciary should not be complicit in criminalizing the work of activists, their unjust detention, and more so their unjust deaths behind bars.”

Karapatan’s call was aired following the death of arrested peasant leader Joseph Canlas, who suffered from chronic kidney disease and heart ailment as well as having contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). He died last May 11.

“According to Karapatan’s documentation, at least nine political prisoners have died in detention under the Duterte administration; four of them died since the COVID-19 pandemic commenced,” Palabay said.

She lamented that the government continues to make arrests as she cited that last Friday, May 14, peasant leaders Marcela Diaz, 59, and Virgilio Lincuna, 70, were apprehended based on arrest warrants issued by the courts where they are facing “trumped-up homicide and murder charges, respectively.”

“Both Lincuna and Diaz are most susceptible to COVID-19, considering their current health conditions,” she stressed.

She said that Diaz is a stage four cancer patient, while Lincuna is a former political prisoner who survived from stroke.

“We call on the Commission on Human Rights and the International Committee on the Red Cross to monitor their situation and ensure that their conditions will not result to lamentable and tragic outcomes, such as the recent death of Ka Joseph Canlas,” she urged.

“This abhorrent and merciless practice of arresting elderly and sick peasant leaders, human rights defenders, and activists on fabricated charges is fast becoming the State forces’ way of subjecting them to jail conditions which are detrimental to their health and well-being,” she said.

“Ka Joseph Canlas is the latest example of these inhumane acts — and we cannot afford to let Marcela Diaz and Virgilio Lincuna and other sickly and elderly political prisoners to suffer the same inhumane treatment and fate,” she added.