The Philippine government and its state mercenaries continue to attack farmers, workers, and individuals defending and advancing people’s rights. After the gruesome Bloody Sunday raids across Southern Luzon provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal that left nine individuals killed and scores illegally arrested, the police and military have directed its attack on Central Luzon activists.
On March 30, Holy Tuesday, while the entire country is observing Holy Week, the Philippine National Police and Crime Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) led simultaneous joint operations in Pampanga and Tarlac provinces and illegally arrested peasant leader Joseph Canlas of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, and Anakpawis Partylist, and labor leader Pol Viuya of the Workers Alliance in Region 3. Before their arrests, the two activist leaders were constantly red-tagged in tarpaulins posted across Central Luzon and in social media posts of known PNP elements.
According to PNP, Canlas and Viuya were part of the 101 wanted persons arrested in the region’s week-long manhunt operations. Also arrested was Karapatan paralegal May Arcilla who was with Viuya at the time of his arrest. Arcilla was released for further investigation on April 1, 2021. Canlas remains incarcerated at the PNP-CIDG detention center in Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga while Viuya is detained at Camp Macabulos in Tarlac City.
The arrests received widespread condemnation as the PNP-CIDG took advantage of the lockdown and strict ECQ situation to carry out their vile task to harass activists. The Duterte regime knows nothing but to repress the people. Farmers have been demanding aid and production subsidy as the pandemic and economic crisis rages, yet it has repeatedly attacked legitimate peasant leaders and organizations.
We have seen this modus many times before. The PNP-CIDG are always employing its blunt tactic of planting fabricated evidence like guns, ammunition, grenade, and alleged subversive documents. This was the same tactic used in the illegal arrest and detention of hundreds of activists who were incarcerated by the Duterte administration.
The acquisition and serving of search warrants both for Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya did not go through due process and were based on flimsy grounds and claims by police elements. The search warrant against Canlas was issued by Ma. Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao, Executive Judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Angeles City. The search warrant against Viuya was issued by Jeovannie C. Ordoño, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 109 in Capas, Tarlac. Unfortunately, Philippine Courts have virtually become warrant factories, and judicial orders have been weaponized to serve PNP’s dirty operations vs. activists and government critics.
The non-stop arrests of activists manifest the rapidly deteriorating crisis of political repression and criminalization of dissent in the Philippines. The Duterte government continues to weaponize the law and various legal machinations to achieve its end goal: the silencing of its critics and to promote and perpetuate a form of governance that violates people’s rights and is intolerant of any form of dissent. The persecution against dissenters is orchestrated through various policies, especially Executive Order No. 70 which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), counterinsurgency Joint Campaign Plan Kapanatagan, and the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act, broadly opposed legislation that has been widely criticized and condemned as a draconian measure that will dangerously infringe on Filipinos’ hard-won rights and freedoms.
We call on all our fellow land reform advocates, human rights advocates, communities, and institutions to join us in calling on the Philippine government to stop the killings and arrests of activists, human rights defenders, and political dissenters. We enjoin everyone to release statements of support for those arrested and encourage our networks to pursue independent investigations on the human rights situation and the crackdown on human rights defenders in the Philippines.
ACCOUNTS OF THE INCIDENTS
At around 6:00 in the morning of March 30, 2021, elements from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 3 and Philippine National Police (PNP) Mabalacat raided the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) office in Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga.
Armed with a search warrant, the raiding team looked for Jose Canlas who allegedly has guns and ammunition in his possession. Joyce, a staff of AMGL, said they just prepared breakfast when police elements opened the door and instructed them to get out of the house. Joyce tried to take photos and videos of the incident, but the police held her and threatened to break her cellphone if she will not erase the photographs.
The search warrant with SW#21-525, for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, was issued on March 29, 2021, by Executive Judge Paras-Quiambao. A warrant of arrest was also presented but shown only after Canlas was arrested. The warrant of arrest was for Malicious Mischief under criminal case no. 1356, dated December 14, 2020, was issued by Hon. Theodorick K. Aungko, presiding judge at MCTC in Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija.
Aside from questioning the warrant which is named after Joseph, not Jose, the staff told the police to wait for Lito Lumapaz, owner of the house. The PNP and CIDG proceeded with their search and barred the staff from entering the house. Even nearby houses were told to get out of their houses, according to Joyce.
Upon not seeing Joseph, they then headed to the nearby community where they found Canlas. Canlas protested his illegal arrest as the warrant belatedly presented by the police bore the name of Joseph Canlas, instead of his real name Jose. While questioning the search warrant, police pinned him to the ground and handcuffed him. The arrest transpired at around 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning.
After the search, the staff went back inside the house to check on their personal belongings. They claim that their money, including two sets of 5,000 pesos in their wallets and cellphone chargers were also missing.
In another media report, Lito Lumapaz of AMGL, owner of the house used as the office of the AMGL, arrived at the compound at 6:30 AM, with the CIDG and PNP already inside the house. Not long after, the police claimed to have found a bag with a grenade, a caliber .45 gun and 11 bullets. These were allegedly found at the back of the house in the same compound and far from the searched property. Lumapaz denied that Canlas owns the gun and ammunition.
Based on a police report, the CIDG personnel implemented a search warrant against Canlas for violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act. Also, police said a warrant of arrest for malicious mischief was also issued against him.
He was brought to Camp Olivas in San Fernando City and was charged with trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives (Violation of RA 10591 and RA 9516). PNP filed the case, represented by PEMS Jerome Richard M. Domingo and PSSG Beverly Ann M. Protacio, both assigned with CIDG RFU 3, based in Camp Julian T. Olivas in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
Canlas is chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Central Luzon. He is also the vice chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and the nationa vice president of Anakpawis Partylist.
Before the arrest, Canlas has been consistently red-tagged in various tarpaulins and posters and also on social media, as alleged recruiters of the New People’s Army. The posters and tarpaulins were seen in the towns of Capas in Tarlac, Angeles City in Pampanga, San Luis and Baler in Aurora, and Guiguinto in Bulacan, which also included other known leaders of various organizations in Central Luzon like Bayan, Karapatan, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Central Luzon, Kadamay, ACT, among others.
For the part of Florentino ‘Pol’ Viuya, elements from PNP-CIDG Tarlac armed with a search warrant raided a private residence where he is staying in Barangay Anupul, Bambam, Tarlac City. Cops also planted evidence to justify his arrest. May Arcilla, paralegal of Karapatan Central Luzon, who was with Pol during the incident questioned the validity of the warrant but instead of responding to her query the police instead also arrested her. Both Viuya and Salvador were brought and detained at Camp Macabulos in Tarlac City. Salvador was released for further investigation on April 2, 2021.
We urgently appeal for your support and solidarity by:
1. Read, sign, and propagate the petition calling for the release of Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya.
2. Writing letters calling for an independent investigation into illegal arrest and detention of Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya, and for their immediate and unconditional release, to the following authorities:
Mr. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines
Fax: +632 742-1641 / 929-3968 / +632 87368621
Hon. Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice of the Philippines
Fax: +632 521-1614 / +632 85262618
Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
Fax: +632 929 0102
1. We likewise enjoin you to include a plea to rescind the search warrants previously issued against activists, to investigate the dangerous practice of courts issuing questionable warrants, and to ensure that the rights and security of the victims’ families and witnesses to the rights violations.
2. Issuing statements of solidarity to be circulated to the public and media circles, and calling on the Philippine government to:
a. Stop its killings, arrests, and detention, and smear campaigns, through red-tagging and judicial harassment against human rights defenders and their organizations;
b. Dismiss/junk the fabricated charges against aforementioned defenders;
c. Recall Executive Order No. 70, creating a national task force (NTF) to end local communist armed conflict and institutionalizing the so-called whole of nation approach; to stop all activities emanating from this order, including the smear campaigns and judicial harassment against human rights activists;
d. Withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians, and human rights defenders; and
e. Adhere to and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, UN Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders, and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.
Publish these on your websites, social media platforms among others.
Please send us a copy of your email to the above-named officials, to our address:
KILUSANG MAGBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS
Telefax: (+632) 85643730