Rights groups slam trumped-up charges vs activists, peace consultants in talks with government

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KARAPATAN Public Information

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Mar 31, 2014, 9:10:16 PM3/31/14
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News Release

April 1, 2014

Reference:

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

Bonifacio Ilagan, SELDA vice-chairperson

Rights groups slam trumped-up charges vs activists, peace consultants in talks with government

http://www.karapatan.org/Rights+groups+slam+trumped-up+charges+vs+activists%2C+peace+consultants+in+talks+with+government

Rights groups held a protest action in front of the Manila Regional Trial Court Tuesday morning, when the court conducted a clarificatory hearing on the multiple murder case filed against former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and peace consultants in talks with the government, including Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and recently arrested consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

“The revival of these trumped up charges against Ocampo and the peace consultants signals the intensification of political persecution under the Aquino administration. These were charges hatched under the auspices of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was deemed by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston as a means by which the government prosecutes and punishes “enemies of the state,“ said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general. 

Palabay said that while the IALAG was abolished due to extensive campaign of human rights groups and the international community, the policy and practice of filing trumped-up criminalized charges continues under the Aquino government.

Karapatan has documented 570 cases of illegal arrests and detention from June 2010 to December 2013. The group also documented 427 political prisoners, as of December 2013, including 152 persons arrested under Aquino’s term. Palabay added that almost all of cases, like those of detained NDFP consultants, are criminal charges spuriously filed based on highly questionable evidence and fabricated testimonies.

“Leaders of people’s organizations in Negros, for instance, are constantly threatened with fabricated criminal charges of the AFP and the PNP. Under the Aquino government, the assault on political dissenters through the filing of trumped-up charges is on the rise. In an attempt to silence opposition, they make up all sort of charges using the wildest of their imagination,” Palabay said.

Organization of ex-political detainees SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), of which Ocampo is board member, also condemned the revival of charges against Ocampo and consultants who are performing tasks in the peace talks on the side of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“How the police and military have arrested, demonized and dealt with the latest political prisoners Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria and their five companions, and the arrest of the late Ka Roger Rosal’s daughter, is vintage martial law practice.  The “planting” of evidence has been a long-standing practice of the police and military, extensively used during the Martial Law period. They use this to justify illegal arrests and detention. They also exploit the use of John and Jane Does, even aliases, to charge anyone as respondents to a case,” Bonifacio Ilagan, vice chairperson of SELDA, said.

 

Ilagan, who was imprisoned during the Martial Law years, recalled “As early as the 1970s, I remember being accosted with fellow activists after a rally, brought to the police precinct at UN Avenue and slapped with illegal possession of explosives, even if we only carried banners and streamers.”

 

“Circumstances of arrests and detention are highly anomalous, and the so-called evidences improbable,” said Ilagan, “human rights lawyers call the circumstances cited in trumped-up charges as beyond human experience, like soldiers’ testimonies that they identified the respondents by virtue of seeing their faces in alleged military encounters.”

Karapatan and SELDA joined calls to free all political prisoners, and demanded that the Aquino government stop filing trumped-up charges.

“Trumped-up charges are obviously meant to stifle the freedom of movement of political dissenters. This is the bigger crime. The Aquino government should stop silencing its critics, or his regime is bound to face bigger protests for violating human rights here and there,” Palabay ended. ###


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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. 
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