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Bayan Condemns GMA Regime’s Brazen Use of Courts to Silence Critics

8 November 2008 No Comment

Multisectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today said that the political persecution of activist leaders in Southern Tagalog shows how the Arroyo administration continues to brazenly use the country’s trial courts to silence its staunchest critics.

The group issued the statement as activists led by members of Bayan’s Southern Tagalog regional chapter trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila to protest the arrest Monday night of peasant leader Rogelio Galit and the wholesale political persecution of activist leaders in the region.

“The current legal offensive against progressive leaders and activists in Southern Tagalog is not an isolated incident. It has been preceded by similar baseless criminal charges against Bayan and other mass leaders such as in the provinces of Negros and Davao”, Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo said.

Galit is one of the 30 Southern Tagalog-based activist leaders (from a longer list of 72 people) facing arrest warrants issued by the Calapan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) based on trumped up charges of multiple murders and frustrated multiple murders as well as separate charges of arson. His detention followed the arrest of Attorney Remigio Saladero, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chief legal counsel, on 23 October. Also earlier arrested were Nestor San Jose, provincial coordinator for Rizal of party-list group Anakpawis, and Crispin Zapanta, chairperson of party-list group Bayan Muna’s chapter in Antipolo City. Galit, Saladero, San Jose and Zapanta are all currently being detained in Calapan City.

“What the Arroyo regime could no longer accomplish through extrajudicial killings and abductions, it now tries to achieve through the filing of non-bailable criminal charges. The objective is clearly to neutralize the activist leaders by detaining them illegally or forcing them to go into hiding. At the same time, there is the intention to terrorize the remaining leaders, activists and the political mass base of Bayan and other progressive organizations and party-list groups”, added Araullo.

Araullo noted that the case of the Southern Tagalog activist leaders is particularly alarming because of its sweeping nature. “In one stroke of an RTC judge, almost all of the region’s high-profile leaders are either being detained or under continuing threats of detention. Even more disturbing are the legal shortcuts that were resorted to by the prosecutor in implicating the respondents without the benefit of any preliminary investigation and the hasty issuance of arrest warrants by the Calapan RTC”, Araullo said.

Even as the cases are currently being fought in the legal arena, the Bayan chairperson called on the public to “rise up and speak out” against the use of the legal system to persecute and silence the critics of the Arroyo administration’s anti-people policies, rampant corruption and grave abuse of power, and intensifying human rights violations.

“There is no substitute to a vigilant and united people. Only through our collective action can we safeguard our civil, political and economic rights especially under a fundamentally flawed social order where the legal system can be used by the powers-that-be to repress us and undermine our human rights”, said Araullo. (END)

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