Rights groups press for release of illegally detained church workers, activists

Featured image courtesy of GB Villocino.

Led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Northern Mindanao and Movement Against Tyranny Northern Mindanao Region (MAT – NMR), groups condemned the illegal arrest and detention of at least 13 persons on the evening of July 4.

The ‘Gensan 13’, as they are collectively called, include church workers, a Higaonon chieftain, and youth and women leaders.

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region notes that they were conducting a consultation with volunteers of the IFI-VIMROD (Iglesia Filipina Independiente Visayas-Mindanao Regional Office for Development) at Mother Francisca Spirituality Center in Lagao when elements of the CIDG (Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), PNP-SWAT (Philippine National Police-Special Weapons and Tactics), City Mobile Force Company, and Joint Task Force GenSan arrested them without presenting warrants.

Barug Katungod Mindanao reports that the individuals were charged with obstruction of justice.

The following are the ‘Gensan 13’: Jomorito Goaynon, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization in Northern Mindanao chair; Roger Plana, Kalumbay secretary general and VIMROD volunteer; Aldeem Yañez of IFI; Ireneo Udarbe of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Vennel Chenfoo ofKabataan Partylist; Kristine Cabardo of League of Filipino students; Teresita Naul of Karapatan; and their companions including the center’s staff and security personnel.

The group was brought to Camp Fermin G Lira Police Station in General Santos City before the males and females were transferred to Police Station 1 and 4, respectively, following a delay in inquest proceedings.

Just hours before, six women were also illegally arrested in Pangantucan in Bukidnon. The women are members of Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa or OGYON, a peasant organization forwarding farmworkers’ rights in the province.

Crackdown against activists

In a statement posted online, Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination sees the arrest and detention as a move by the Duterte administration to stifle criticism and dissent against its ‘anti-people’ and ‘anti-poor’ policies such as Oplan Tokhang and TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law.

Kalumbay members Goaynon and Plana have been active in denouncing Duterte’s so-called counter-insurgency measures in favor of mining, logging, and plantation concessions, which have resulted in militarization of ancestral lands, attacks on Lumad schools, and widespread displacement of Lumad communities.

Movement Against Tyranny – NMR meanwhile slammed Duterte’s martial law, saying this further emboldened state armed forces to commit illegal arrests and killings of innocent civilians.

“His only solution for all the social and economic problems is to kill, jail, crush whoever dares complain. He has made the blood-hungry state forces supreme in ruling the country,” said MAT – NMR in a statement.

In the two years since Duterte took oath, Karapatan notes 351 cases of illegal arrest and detention; 1,599 cases of illegal arrest without detention, 163 cases of extrajudicial killing; and 351 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killing, excluding drug war cases and with most cases having occurred in Mindanao.

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