BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — Authorities arrested 56 persons they alleged were communist rebels and “rescued” six minors supposedly undergoing “training and “indoctrination” during simultaneous raids on the offices of three activist groups and a private residence in Bacolod City early Friday evening, October 31.
Several firearms and grenades were also reported recovered during the raids on the offices of the Bayan Muna party-list and Gabriela in Barangay Bata, the National Federation of Sugar Workers at Libertad, and the home of Bayan Muna’s Romulo Bito-on and his wife Mermalyn, who were both arrested.
All three organizations have long been openly accused of being “legal fronts” of the communist movement.
Bito-on, on the other hand, has been previously arrested and charged for being an alleged communist.
But human rights group and some of those apprehended denied the accusations they were rebels and said the weapons had been “planted.”
Video taken of the search at the nearby office of Gabriela showed a police officer inspecting a revolver and ammunition taken from a backpack at a corner of the yard.
Local media quoted Captain Cenon Pancito, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, as saying 49 persons, including the minors, were taken into custody from the Bayan Muna compound.
Among those arrested there were known activist leaders John Milton Lozande and Danny Tabura of the NFSW, Proceso Quiatchon of the human rights group Karapatan, Nilo Rosales of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Aldrin de Cerna of the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
Lozande said the raiders held them for around an hour and then he was called to a house in the compound and showed “an obviously planted” gun supposedly found in his bag.
Nine other persons were arrested at the Gabriela office and two more from the NFSW.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said among those arrested at the Gabriela office was Anne Krueger of the newly established alternative media outfit Paghimutad, which has been covering social issues, including extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses.
They were all taken to the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office.
Interestingly, the raids were covered by search warrants issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Branch 89 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City.
Karapatan, in a statement, called this suspicious and said this was reminiscent of the Oplan Sauron 2 operations in Negros Oriental in March, which were covered by search warrants issued in Cebu City.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate also condemned the “dastardly Gestapo-like raid … simultaneously conducted by state forces against the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela and NFSW in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.”
He noted that the raids were conducted “at night before a long weekend so as to ensure that the courts are closed tomorrow so that the planted pieces evidence and subsequent trumped-up charges filed cannot immediately be challenged.”
Karapatan called the raids part of a “full-blown crackdown on activists and red-tagged legal organizations,” noting that earlier in the day, police arrested Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Mickael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay, and claimed a .45 caliber pistol and two grenades were seized from their home.
However, Pancito told media the raids, which he described as “part of cutting the source of manpower to Red areas,” or territory were the rebels operate, would prove to be a “big blow to the Red fighters of the New People’s Army” and would “trigger the downfall” of the insurgency on Negros.(reposted by davaotoday.com)