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Karapatan claims illegal arrest of 7 human rights workers in Puerto Princesa
A view of the Puerto Princesa ariport, Palawan Airstrip.
Andy G. Zapata Jr.

Karapatan claims illegal arrest of 7 human rights workers in Puerto Princesa

(Philstar.com) - October 5, 2019 - 6:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — Seven human rights workers, including a former officer of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, were arrested illegally in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on Friday, human rights group Karapatan said Saturday.

According to Karapatan, Glendhyl Malabanan and six other human rights workers were arrested Friday night by police and military personnel without a proper warrant. Karapatan said the seven had just come from Taytay town for a fact-finding investigation into alleged human rights violations against farmers there.

Malabanan is a former secretary-general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog. She is now a member of Karapatan's regional staff.

"When they demanded for an arrest warrant, the forces of the [Philippine National Police] and [Armed Forces of the Philippines] gave a document without any of their names, and they were made to ride a vehicle. They were told that they will be brought to the Puerto Princesa City Police Station, but somewhere along the way, they were diverted and brought to another checkpoint, where the police insisted that the firearms they 'confiscated' belonged to Malabanan which she vehemently denied," Karapatan said.

Police say they were looking for wanted NPA

A report on Palawan News quotes Police Maj. Mhardie Azares, commander of the City Mobile Force Company of the Puerto Princesa City Police Office, as saying the arrest of the seven was prompted by information given to them by the military.

"Naka-receive kami ng information from the military, ‘yong JITG West na ‘yon nga — allegedly may isang wanted na NPA na nakasakay onboard sa isang van na may mga kasamang iba pa na nagbibiyahe galing San Vicente papunta ng south. With that, nag-initiate kaagad kami ng joint checkpoint para ma-intercept namin sila," Azares said in the Palawan News report.

(We received information from the military, from [Joint Intelligence Task Group West] that allegedly there was wanted [New People's Army] rebel onboard a van travelling from San Vicente with companions heading south. With that, we initiated a joint checkpoint to intercept them.)

Among those arrested was Domingo Ritas, an alleged rebel leader and who is said to be the subject of the arrest warrant.

"Based on combined intelligence reports, ‘yon nga may armas nga, may explosive materials kaya nag-conduct tayo ng search with the presence of the barangay officials and the media at ‘yon nga may mga na-recover tayong mga subversive documents," Azares also said in the report.

(Based on combined intelligence reports, there were firearms and explosive materials so we conducted a search with the presence of the barangay officials and the media and there we recovered the subversive documents.)

Palawan News reported that authorities said they recovered laptops, communication gadgets, weapons, explosives, and uniforms from the van the human rights workers were in. According to the report, police also found a map of a police detachment of the CMFC.

In a video posted by Palawan News on its Facebook page, the seven vehemently denied that the seized items were theirs. They also said they had been stopped at a different checkpoint and told they were being brought to the city but were instead brought to the checkpoint where the weapons and explosives were supposedly found.

Karapatan, which military officials have labelled a front group for communist rebels, said security forces used a similar tactic "most recently in the mass illegal arrest of cultural workers in Escalante City, Negros Occidental last September 18 as they were preparing for the 34th commemoration of the 1985 Escalante Massacre."  

"We strongly call for the release of Malabanan and the six other human rights workers arrested by the PNP and AFP," Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said in the same press statement. — Jonathan de Santos

KARAPATAN NEW PEOPLE'S ARMY PALAWAN PUERTO PRINCESA
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