STOP the Criminalization of Southern Tagalog Political Activists!
As of November 3, almost 30 activist leaders from the Southern Tagalog chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and its allied organizations as well as party list groups are facing arrest warrants for criminal charges of multiple murders and frustrated multiple murders while facing separate charges of arson. First to be arrested was Atty. Remigio Saladero, chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno and a resident of Antipolo, Rizal. Three others were subsequently arrested, including a bed-ridden peasant leader.
The trumped-up charges have targeted many of the prominent leaders of the mass movement in Southern Tagalog. This marks a renewed legal and political offensive against the most consistent opponents of the Arroyo administration. It should be recalled that the Southern Tagalog region was among the worst hit by the wave of extrajudicial killings and abductions of activists from 2001-2007. The targets then were activist leaders, union leaders, peasant organizers, environment activists and urban poor organizers.
As of March 2008, human rights group Karapatan -Southern Tagalog has documented 167 victims of extrajudicial killing and 31 of enforced disappearance in the region.
The Southern Tagalog 27
On September 30, 2008, volunteers of the human rights group Karapatan in Batangas stumbled upon a complaint filed against 27 persons who included activist leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations in the Southern Tagalog region. The original complaint was filed on August 12, 2008 at the office of the Batangas Provincial Prosecutor’s Office by a certain Marlo Timbreza on behalf of Globe Telecom Inc., regarding the bombing and burning of a Globe cell site in Lemery, Batangas last August 2. Timbreza alleged that the respondents committed arson, (deleted Article) the destruction of private property other than arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion.
The August 12 complaint named 19 respondents which included prominent activist-leaders Bayani Cambronero, 8th party list nominee and Southern Tagalog regional coordinator of Bayan Muna; Rolando Mingo, Vice President of the nationwide transport group PISTON, and president of the Southern Tagalog Region Transport Sector Organiztion; Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Legal Counsel, member of PROLABOR law office, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the National Union of People’s Laywers (NUPL); Agaton Bautista, Anakpawis, Batangas provincial coordinator; Noriel Rocafort, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Batangas secretary general; Isabelo Alicaya, Chairperson of the Fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA-Southern Tagalog and the Haligi ng mga Batangueñong Anak Dagat (Habagat).
Also included in the original complaint is Romy Aguilar of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) in Rizal who is now in a wheelchair due to diabetes.
The complaint would later be amended in September 5, 2008 to include 8 of the 9 grassroots activists who were abducted and tortured by elements of the Calabarzon PNP’s Regional Special Operations Group last August 31, 2008 in Tartaria, Cavite. They include 63 year old Renato Alvarez, Chairperson of the Katipunan ng mga Magbubuikd sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka), who experienced torture at the hands of his abductors.
The supposed witness to the crime of arson is a certain Arvin Leviste who claims to be a Deep Penetration Agent of the military who infiltrated the organization and planned and worked with the respondents in the burning of the cell site.
The Mindoro Case
On October 23, 2008, Atty. Remigio Saladero was reported missing. Later, his colleagues would learn that he was being detained in Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City by virtue of a warrant of arrest.
The next day, Nestor San Jose, another ST 27 respondent would also be nabbed in Teresa town in Rizal.
The warrants of arrest were issued by Judge Tomas Leynes of the Calapan City Regional Trial Court in accordance with a criminal case filed against Atty. Saladero, San Jose and 70 others.