The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan yesterday scored the government for the systematic arrest of members of progressive and left-leaning groups.
“It is the weaponization of the law to crackdown on dissent. The targets are known legal activists. the offices raided are publicly known offices, not underground safe houses,” Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. told Manila Standard in an interview.
“It is an alarming, deliberate plan that is part of the counter-insurgency drive under Executive Order No. 70, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. They planned this, with no less than the President as chairman of the task force,” he added.
Last week, some 55 leftist leaders were nabbed in simultaneous raids in Manila and Bacolod. Among those who were arrested were Gabriela Manila chapter chairperson Cora Agovida and her partner Michael Bartolome, Kilusang Mayo Uno Negros leader Noly Rosales and National Federation of Sugar Workers secretary-general John Milton Lozande.
Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., deputy chief of staff for civil military operations and a ranking member of the national task force, defended the raids, adding that the arrested individuals were members of communist terrorist groups.
“By the nature of their work as terrorists, they have to equip themselves with arms and explosives. There is no need for the government to plant these pieces of evidence contrary to their complaints…This is exactly what these personalities were doing in the urban areas when they were legally arrested,” Parlade said.
Reyes, however, said Parlade has been using the term “terrorist” to refer to critics of the administration and members of left-leaning groups even if the Communist Party of the Philippines has never been declared a terrorist organization under the Human Security Act.
“We will continue to resist and assert our rights as legal organizations. We will study legal options against the agencies that have abused the law, including judges who recklessly issues search warrants,” the Bayan official added.
The National Capital Region Police Office said Tuesday it has arrested three leaders of an activist group in a police operation in Tondo, Manila. The three were identified as Ram Carlo Bautista, Alma Estrada Moran and Reina Mae Asis Nasino.
Police said they found an assortment of firearms and ammunition in the Bayan office in Tondo, including a bushmaster caliber 5.56 xm15-E26, two short magazines for 5.56 mm, 45 pieces live ammunition for caliber 5.56 mm, a colt MK4 Series 80 .45-caliber, a colt automatic .45-caliber and two hand grenades.
Several cellphones and laptops were also seized during the operation.
NCRPO chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas shrugged off accusations that the guns were planted, saying they could make that argument in court.
He said they were applying a search warrant in a legitimate police operation.
Military officers based in Negros Occidental maintained that the Armed Forces was not targeting progressive organizations in the Visayas province.
LTC Emelito Thaddeus Logan, Army 79ib battalion Commander, pointed out that most if not all the 57 people nabbed in simultaneous raids in Bacolod and Escalante cities last week were New People’s Army rebels.
The suspects were also recruits of leftist groups like the Kilusang Mayo Uno, which he said “should not be tagged as progressive organizations.” With PNA