Presidential task force exec: No truth in alleged kidnapping of activist
This Aug. 19, 2019 screenshot shows youth activist Alicia Lucena.
Facebook screengrab/Edu Punay via The STAR

Presidential task force exec: No truth in alleged kidnapping of activist

(Philstar.com) - April 21, 2021 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:15 p.m.) — The Presidential Task Force on Media Security on Wednesday disputed claims by activist group Anakbayan that authorities abducted activist Alice Jasper Lucena, saying she was actually fetched by her mother, who works for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Lucena previously said her parents were detaining her, as documented by an ABS-CBN report on the sworn statement she submitted to a Department of Justice panel of prosecutors in 2019.

PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Egco, reacting to a Philstar.com report, that authorities allegedly abducted Alicia, said that she was actually fetched by her mother who suspected she had COVID-19 and wanted to get her swabbed.

"Mrs. Lucena asked me if I can help them look for a swabbing facility that is not expensive," Egco said.

He added that while he is currently on self-quarantine in Nueva Ecija he "pulled some strings" for the younger Lucena to be accommodated at a swabbing facility at a mall in Pasay City. Egco also said that his staff coordinated with Police Lt. Col. Jess Ostrea of the Philippine National Police Medical Reserve Force.

"It is unfair and immoral and grossly unethical for anybody, especially a respected news outfit, to publish such story that has put me and Col. Ostrea in a bad light. We just helped and responded to a request by a friend in need," he further said.

In a post on Facebook on Monday night, Anakbayan said Alicia Lucena and Sofia Bangayan were set up for "illegal capture" by members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict who "lured [them] to the local barangay hall anticipating randomized swab testing."

They said Bagayan was eventually allowed to go home but that Lucena was still missing as of Monday evening.

"[Lucena] is the daughter of NTF-ELCAC agent and Hands Off Our Children frontman, Relissa Lucena. Anakbayan fears that she is once again being kept incommunicado and subjected to torturous psychological warfare by state forces," Anakbayan said.

Anakbayan: Alicia was forcibly taken by parents, officials

Sofia Bangayan, who Anakbayan said was initially taken with Lucena on Monday, told reporters Wednesday that Alicia had a panic attack upon seeing her parents and was carried away by them and by officials.

She also said the landlady of the residence that Anakbayan members are renting, and where Lucena and Bangayan stayed, a certain Arlette Demasuay, and their barangay captain, Eleanor Arceo, were involved in what she characterized as an NTF-ELCAC operation.

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Bangayan addressed reporters in Filipino, saying she and Lucena had been waiting to hear from local officials about swab testing because Alicia was exhibiting symptoms for COVID-19.

When they were contacted on Monday, April 19, they thought they would be taken to the health center beside their office but were instead told to go straight to the barangay’s office.

Bangayan said Alicia’s father, Francis Lucena, arrived shortly after, accompanied by a certain Jasper Salazar and another companion who was there to take a video.

According to Bangayan, just seeing her father was enough to make Lucena afraid. “[Alicia] wasn’t speaking or moving.”

"Alicia asked Francis what he was doing there and Mr. Francis wasn’t answering until it was clear that Alicia was having a panic attack because she was shaking and crying.”

Lucena's mother, Relissa, eventually arrived with two police officers, according to Bangayan. She said Relissa was yelling and causing a scene at the barangay.

"It came to that point that I was holding Alicia but Ms. Relissa pulled me by my right hand and pushed me away," she said. "That’s when they started taking Alicia. They also took her phone and stopped me when I tried to take it…because they said they would take it with them.”

Bangayan said Alicia was struggling against four people and was eventually carried out of the office. Bangayan added that she was blocked by the police officers and their barangay captain.

"You could hear her screaming that she didn’t want to go with them but because she didn’t have the strength compared to them, she was forcibly put by Relissa into a car,” she added. 

“I was left at the barangay and was brought to [Quezon City] to get swab tested. Eventually, I was brought home." 

What is this about?

Authorities and Anakabayan have clashed over Lucena in the courts since 2019.

Alicia's parents have long accused Anakbayan of kidnapping, most recently filing a Writ of Amparo petition that was junked by the Supreme Court last September.

The high court ruled that Lucena was not missing, as her parents claimed, and could make her own choices as an 18-year-old.

Before this, police filed a similar complaint against activists, including Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan party-list), accusing them of kidnapping Alicia and forcing her to join Anakbayan.

It was junked by the Department of Justice in October 2020.

Relissa Lucena was also one of the resource speakers at Senate hearings on the supposed disappearance of minors after being recruited by left-leaning groups in 2019.

Alicia appeared that year in a video posted by Film Weekly and said that she was not missing and was not kidnapped. She also said that she left home voluntarily.

— Bella Perez-Rubio

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