De Lima questions arrest of 57 activists in Negros

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has questioned the legality of the arrest of 57 activists, including 15 minors, in simultaneous police raids of progressive groups’ offices in Negros Island from Oct. 31 to Nov.1.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said the arrest of 57 activists is another blatant attack on political dissent that was disguised as law enforcement anew.

“The arrest of 57 activists after the implementation of a search warrant in the offices of progressive groups in Bacolod and Escalante City is yet another page from Duterte’s manual on tyranny,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 638.

“[This] is an old formula for repression, abusing and forcing the judicial processes to give way to the whims of this administration in order to muffle the growing opposition to Duterte’s quasi-dictatorial rule,” she added.

Law enforcement authorities arrested 57 activists following raids on the offices of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakpawis, Gabriela, and National Federation of Sugar Workers in Bacolod and Escalante in Negros Occidental last Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

Based on news reports, those arrested individuals included 15 minors tagged by the military as “rebel warriors”, who were later turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan alleged that that arresting police and military officers operated on what it called a “tanim ebidensya” modus by planting incriminating evidence against the 57 activists during the simultaneous raids.

In questioning the arrest, Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares urged the Quezon City judge who issued the search warrants on the offices of progressive groups to show transparency by disclosing the records that were used as bases for the warrants.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, pointed out that the continuing twisting of the law shows that the government “cannot handle the reality of the monsters it has created” which are “the very same beasts that have preyed on the poor since day one.”

“It continues to feed this nightmare of its making, thereby causing more people to stand up against the oppressive measures the Duterte Administration continues to propagate,” she noted.

While Duterte may have managed to detain the 57 activists, the Senator said she is confident that they, along with her and many other victims of state-led injustices, will continue to defy the repression under the present administration.

Tila hindi ata sila magsasawa sa ganitong panggigipit. Katunayan, nakikita ko na magpapatuloy ang ganitong istilo ng pamamalakad,” she said.

“Pero kahit ipagpatuloy nila ang paghabla ng mga kaduda-dudang kaso, kahit gumamit muli sila ng mga kwestyonableng search warrant, mas lalong titindig ang tao laban sa mga katiwalian at pang-aabuso ng administrasyong Duterte,” she added.

Last August, De Lima called for a Senate probe into the killings in Negros Oriental province as she lamented the inability of state agents to protect innocent victims against killings and abuses and to ensure accountability for human rights violations in the province. (30)

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