Trafficking raps filed vs. 2 militant party-lists

The Justice department has summoned former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago to appear and answer the complaint for trafficking in persons and child abuse of “missing activist-minors” filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

In a subpoena signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Christine Perolino, the department ordered Colmenares and Elago to appear before it on Aug. 27 and on Sept. 10 and 24 and submit their respective counter-affidavits in response to the complaints.

“You are hereby warned that failure on your part to comply with this subpoena shall be considered as your waiver to present your defense in this preliminary investigation and the same shall be considered submitted for disposition,” the order said.

Besides Colmenares and Elago, also covered by the subpoena are Tom Villarin, Alex Danday, Einstein Recedes, Vencer Crisostomo, Jayroven Villafuente Balais, Bianca Gacos and Charie del Rosario, all of Anakbayan.

But in the PNP-CIDG complaint, Villarin was mistakenly identified as a party-list representative of Anakbayan.

Villarin was a former representative of the Akbayan party-list group which does not share the same ideology as Anakbayan.

The respondents were charged by the PNP-CIDG on Aug. 1 for alleged violation of Republic Act 10364, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, RA 11188 or the Act Providing for the Special Protection of Children in Situation of Armed Conflict, Article 270 of the Revised Penal Code for Kidnapping, and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

They were also charged for alleged violation of RA 9852 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other crimes against Humanity.

The PNP-CIDG said the complaints were filed after the parents of a 17-year old student was reported “missing” following her recruitment by Anakbayan.

The teen’s parent, Relissa Lucena, was among the parents who testified at a Senate hearing that her daughter, who was enrolled at the Far Eastern University’s Senior High School Department, had joined the militant youth group.

It was during the Senate hearing that the PNP-CIDG disclosed the filing of the complaints.

Sought for comment, the National Union of People’s Lawyers led by Colmenares called the inclusion of his name in the complaints as “totally absurd” and part of the “legal blitzkrieg” against legitimate dissent and those who push back and stand their ground.

“Not all scripts of comical persons in authority are funny. How in heaven’s name could someone like Neri be even remotely involved, connected or liable for such inane and contrived charges that have been debunked? Totally absurd,” the NUPL said.

In other developments:

• Senator Imee Marcos on Wednesday called on the military not to invade the schools, warning their presence might radicalize the students.

“The presence of the military and police in schools is wrong. The students would be radicalized further,” she said.

• Senator Joel Villanueva said he had reservations on the presence of law enforcers in schools.

“The point of universities is to encourage free thinking, freedom of expression and academic freedom,” he said. 

• Senator Leila de Lima said the government must allow students the democratic space to organize, express themselves freely and petition the government for the redress of grievances.

“Just like in Hong Kong, young people are sending a strong message to their governments,” she said.  

“They are ready to stand up for their right to freely express their thoughts about the abuses of this current administration.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta

Topics: Neri Colmenares , Department of Justice , Sarah Elago , Philippine National Police , Criminal Investigation and Detection Group
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