Illegal arrest of development workers
The Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network of the Philippines (Ascent) vehemently condemns the illegal arrest and detention of its convenor and senior consultant Jeremy G. Ang and his staff member Rita C. Espinoza by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
Ascent is a nongovernment organization advocating for economic, social, and cultural rights or the right to development. It was primarily established to campaign for the defense of socioeconomic initiatives of people and its member NGOs, amid the series of attacks against them by alleged state security forces.
Ascent had assembled a team including Ang and Espinoza to provide assistance to the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in its campaign for higher wages and better working conditions for sugar plantation workers. The team stayed in an NFSW area in La Carlota, Negros Occidental, for community discussions on issues affecting the sugar workers from Oct. 14-15, with post-consultation until Oct. 17.
On Oct. 19 around 12:45 p.m., the Ascent team stopped by Tingting’s Native Food in Kabankalan for lunch. Upon leaving the restaurant, Ang and Espinoza were forcibly boarded in separate vehicles, handcuffed and blindfolded by around 10 elements of the CIDG-PNP and ISAFP.
Ang and Espinoza were not shown any warrant of arrest and their lawyer was not allowed to see them on the day that they were arrested and detained at the Police Regional Office-Negros Island Region at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City. Ang was then solitarily confined in a small cell while Espinoza was handcuffed inside a room.
On Oct. 21, their lawyers Cesar Biloria and Maria Sol Taule were able to confer with them for only 30 minutes. The CIDG did not give them copies of the alleged warrants of arrest claiming that they do not have these in their possession.
Both lawyers told the CIDG that they should be informed of the inquest proceedings. However, at about 4 p.m. on the same day, the victims were brought to Kabankalan for their inquest proceedings. And at about 11 p.m., they were again moved out of Camp Montelibano. They were transferred to Camp Crame in
Quezon City. All these were done without their lawyers’ knowledge.
On Oct. 24, both Ang and Espinoza were presented by PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa to the media as Louie Antonio Martinez and Aurora Cayon, alleged high-ranking members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. The supposed arrest warrants charged them with murder, multiple frustrated murder, robbery with violence and arson. In addition, they were allegedly in possession of a .45-caliber pistol and a fragmentation grenade. But these were planted evidence.
In truth, Ang has been a staff of Ascent since its establishment. Together with Espinoza, they have long been conducting consultations with our member organizations in order to lend their expertise to the advancement of socioeconomic projects in various regions. Their knowledge, skills, and years of experience in development work have become invaluable in our advocacy of promoting economic, social, and cultural rights.
Ang and Espinoza’s illegal arrests and continued detention at Camp Crame are blatant violations against their rights. We therefore call for their immediate release. The military and police must be held accountable for the human rights atrocities they continually commit against development workers and Red-tagging of development projects!
BISHOP DINDO RANOJO, Diocese of Tarlac, Iglesia Filipina Independiente , spokesperson, Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network
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