CHR seriously alarmed by 'surveillance,' 'forced entry' into Anakbayan office

James Relativo - Philstar.com
CHR seriously alarmed by 'surveillance,' 'forced entry' into Anakbayan office
A man can be seen looking inside the Anakbayan National office for about a minute and a half, "holding two electronic devices," before signs of forced entry were observed inside the house early this week, January 2023
Video grab from Anakbayan's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed "serious alarm," Saturday, after a CCTV footage circulated this week documenting an alleged breach into the Manila office of a youth-led activist organization.

"The youth-led organisation released a CCTV video reportedly taken during the day of the said incident showing a man looking into the window of their office for about a minute and a half," said the commission in a statement Saturday.

"According to Anakbayan’s post, they eventually found their office disorganized with their office door showing signs of forced entry. By noon and evening of the next day, 16 January 2023, Anakbayan members reports the unusual presence of multiple police mobiles near their national office."

The incident happened just a few days after two activists from Cebu, Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha, went missing after spending the holidays with their families after a series of suspected surveillance dating back to 2020.

Members of Anakbayan detailed separate incidents of unidentified men allegedly "tailing" and "photographing" them after protests around Metro Manila, this while other members from schools and universities similtarly reported continued red-tagging by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"These allegations of intrusion into a person’s right to privacy by means of surveillance must not be taken lightly. CHR has taken cognizance of this case for investigation," continued the CHR, an independent constitutional office created under the 1987 Constitution, with the primary function of investigation human rights violations in the country.

"Simultaneous to the independent motu proprio investigation of the CHR through our National Capital Region office, we urge the government, particularly local law enforcement, to investigate these cases without fail."

"We also look forward to the cooperation of concerned law enforcement agencies and Anakbayan in the course of our independent probe."

PNP silent on the alleged privacy intrusion

Philstar.com sought the comment of PNP spokesperson Police Col. Jean Fajardo regarding the matter, but have yet to issue a statement.

According to CHR, profiling or data collection encroaches upon one's right to privacy under the Bill of Rights and is an "abuse of power bereft of legal basis.

Article III Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

The highest law of the land also requires a lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law, before any breach into the privacy of communication and correspondence.

Legal militant activist organizations have long been red-tagged by the government, especially the AFP, PNP and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict as "fronts" of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army, even if they aren't directly involved with armed revolution.

The commission stressed that recent events such as the alleged abduction of Gumanao and Dayoha create a culture of fear and normalized violence in society, and that attempts to silence dissenters gravely affront the nation's ideals of freedom and democracy.

"CHR reminds all that as long as dissenters’ actions do not run contrary to our Constitution and other laws, their collective rights must be respected and upheld," they continued.

"Part of a vibrant and functional democracy is the free exchange of ideas and avenues to demand redress for social grievances. We underscore that activism does not equate to terrorism, but rather allows for enriching dialogue towards nation-building and long-lasting peace."

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