Legislator denounces pre-election crackdown on progressive partylists

ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio denounced a government crackdown on leaders and activists of progressive party-list groups in the weeks leading to the opening of the campaign period for the May 2013 elections.

“The Philippine National Police and the military have clearly stepped up their harassment of leaders, activists and supporters of progressive party-lists in the weeks leading up to the election campaign period. They are being arrested and detained on the basis of trumped-up criminal charges,” said Tinio.

Tinio was referring to the party-lists of the left-wing Makabayan Coalition, which include incumbents in the House of Representative such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan, as well as Migrante, Akap-Bata, PISTON, Katribu, Courage, Kalikasan and Aking Bikolnon.

The solon cited the arrest and detention of ACT Teachers Party-List organizer Rene Boy Abiva in Tuguegarao last December 28. “Abiva is an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development who has been arrested for murder for his alleged involvement in a New People’s Army ambush of 12 soldiers in Tinoc, Ifugao in April 2012. The charge is totally fabricated, since Abiva was working for the DSWD’s conditional cash transfer program in Cagayan province at the time. Nevertheless, he remains in jail up to this time.”

Tinio further cited the arrest last January 4 of Virgilio Corpuz, the Cagayan regional coordinator of PISTON, a newly-accredited progressive party-list, as well as the arrest of two organizers of Courage, Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano on December 3 and that of Bayan Negros secretary-general Anecita Rojo in Bago City, Negros Occidental last December 7. “At least 29 leaders, activists and supporters of progressive party-lists have been arrested in December and January.”

Tinio also denounced the military’s harassment of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Region 6 leader Gualberto Dajao. Dajao is a Head Teacher 3 at the BATA National High School in Bacolod City, president of the ACT Region 6 Union, president of the Bacolod City Public School Teachers’ Federation, and a National Council member of ACT. Mr. Dajao has been implicated by a military asset, along with 51 others, in an NPA ambush that led to the killing of an Army lieutenant in March 2010 in Cadiz City. The allegation is contained in an affidavit submitted to the City Prosecutor of Cadiz by a rebel returnee named Freddie Sanchez, a.k.a. “Warboy.”

“The allegation is totally absurd,” said Tinio. “Mr. Dajao, being a full-time teacher in one of the biggest high schools in Bacolod City, has biometrically-verified daily time records as well as numerous eye-witnesses that will account for his whereabouts during the date of the alleged encounter. Nevertheless, the threat of arrest is now hanging over the head of Mr. Dajao.”

“Such patently false accusations expose the fabricated nature of the charges that are being filed by the police and military and abetted by compliant prosecutors against progressive activists in order to intimidate and harass them and curtail their activities. This is a gross abuse of the legal system and violation of the rights of the victims and their families.”

“The fact that similar arrests are taking place throughout the country in the run-up to the elections indicates that this is a nationally directed policy. In fact, it is an integral part of the Aquino administration’s National Internal Security Plan known as Oplan Bayanihan,” added Tinio. “The fact that the new AFP Chief of Staff is known as the ‘architect of Oplan Bayanihan’ does not bode well in this regard. It could mean further vilification, harassment, false arrests, and human rights violations against progressives,” said Tinio, referring to newly-appointed AFP Chief of Staff Major General Emmanuel Bautista.

“It’s clear that the Aquino administration is mobilizing its security forces to crack down on progressive partylists, who are its most outspoken critics, in order to prevent them from making further gains in the electoral arena. Yet, past experience shows that despite state-backed vilification and even violent repression, our progressive party-lists continue to garner popular support and a widening electoral base,” concluded Tinio.

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