Bulacan cops arrest community leader, confiscate 'subversive' newspapers
This photo released by Kadamay shows a police officer confiscating copies of independent newspaper Pinoy Weekly on July 26, 2020
Kadamay, release
Bulacan cops arrest community leader, confiscate 'subversive' newspapers
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - July 26, 2020 - 2:26pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 9:05 a.m.; July 27) — Urban poor alliance Kadamay on Sunday condemend the arrest of a community leader in Pandi, Bulacan and the confiscation of copies of Pinoy Weekly, an independent newspaper, saying both were done despite police not presenting any warrants. 

In a statement, Kadamay said that personnel of the Philippine National Police came in "squads" to arrest one of its leaders, Rose Fortaleza, after they "entered the occupied Villa Lois housing site to conduct illegal searches without a warrant."

"The cops entered Fortaleza’s home, arrested her and confiscated the group’s flyers along with issues of the alternative news publication, Pinoy Weekly," the group's statement reads. 

Mimi Doringo, Kadamay spokesperson, said in the statement: “We have always said, often, that the poor will be hit first by Duterte's repression. Is it illegal to distribute a brochure and newspaper today? The police did not have a search warrant and there was no basis for the arrest and confiscation of our materials but they continued. Who is the criminal here?”

According to Kadamay, Fortaleza remains detained at the Pandi Municipal Police Station without any formal charges pressed. Her family, they said, have been barred from seeing her. 

In a separate statement Pinoy Weekly editor-in-chief Kenneth Guda condemned the confiscation of copies of their newspaper, saying these were Kadamay members' property.

"What [Police Captain Jun] Alejandrino and his men did was illegal. Secondly, either the police chief is ignorant of the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press and freedom of expression, or he chooses to trample upon it. Either way, he and his men are committing a crime," he said.

'Subversive' materials were 'voluntarily surrendered'

But Pandi Municipal Police Station has a completely different account of what happened, according to a source. 

A source, who declined to be identified for lack of clearance to speak to media, told Philstar.com in a phone call that the station took what they identified as subversive materials after they were voluntarily surrendered to police.

Guda, citing reports from witnesses, said that the police had "said the magazines were 'illegal' and that they should give up the copies or else 'may mangyayari (something will happen)'."

The source also said that what happened was not a raid, adding that those living in the projects were concerned about having such materials around them.

Philstar.com was also told that they were classified as subversive and had content and graphics of President Duterte. 

PRO-3: Kadamay leader asked us to go there

In a separate report, Police Regional Office 3 in San Fernando, Pampanga said that Pandi Kadamay leader Lea Maralit, together with six other Kadamay members, asked the police to go to the Model House, Villa Louis in Barangay Siling Bata "to accept the voluminous subversive documents being surrendered voluntarily by the group."

The six other Kadamay members were Marilou Iligan, Jeselyn Jasadon, Beth Guererro, Carmie dela Cruz, Niel Villamor and Gina Peyil, police said. 

Police Brig. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, PRO-3 regional director, said that Maralit "revealed to authorities about her fear that the subversive documents might be used during the SONA of President Rodrigo R Duterte."

The report also confirmed that Fortaleza along with one Buenavil Fortaleza had been arrested the midnight before when they were found "walking casually  at the sidewalk without facemask and were holding pamphlets/ propaganda materials of 'PINOYSTREET .ORG. Instead of yielding to authorities, the duo resisted and tried to elude arrest."

A cursory check of the website mentioned shows that it is a vacant and unused domain.

Authorities will be charging the two with violations of Republic Act No. 11332 and Article 151 of RPC or Resisting and Disobedience of a Person in Authority or his Agent.

In the case of volunteers arrested elsewhere in Bulacan during the quarantine, Norzagaray Municipal Trial Court Judge Julie Rita Badillo held that that the intent of Republic Act 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act"—considering the bills it emanated from—shows that “non-cooperation” refer to persons or entities “that should report the public health events to the appropriate public health authority.”

Sermonia also added that "according to Maralit, the Kadamay group in Pandi has already pledged support to the government’s programs of ending the decades long insurgency and roadmap of lasting peace in the country."

"Time and again, we urge those who are still actively fighting the government to lay down their arms and embrace other peaceful means to attain their sought after changes and to refrain from recruiting youth from poor families and students from state colleges and universities in Central Luzon," Sermonia also said despite Kadamay being a legal organization and not an armed group.

Although being accused of being in league with terrorists is a common experience among activist groups, Kadamay has said in a previous Philstar.com story that it feels unfairly singled out by both social media and the national government because it was among the first to protest the lack of housing.

"Duterte's repeated threats to Kadamay...in speeches only add to this. Duterte wanted to paint the image of Kadamay and the poor Filipinos as chaotic or even anarchist...Kadamay has been somewhat an easy target, so to speak, and the rest of the poor, because there has long been a negative perception of them," a representative of the group said then.

In late May, police found the lifeless body of the group's secretary-general, Carlito Badion, in the Pagsanga-an River in Barangay Guintigui in Ormoc, Leyte.

The group has since condemned his death, saying military personnel were responsible. 

'Pinoy Weekly a perfectly legal, legitimate news organization'

"Pinoy Weekly is a well-established, independent print and online publication that has been in existence since 2002," Guda said on Sunday amid claims that the publication is "subversive". 

"We publish investigative, explanatory, narrative, and analytical reports in the Filipino language, targeting underreported and marginalized sectors and communities," he said.

"Pinoy Weekly has been given recognition in many award-giving bodies for our journalistic work. More importantly, our readers — who otherwise have little access to news and information platforms — appreciate our reports."

In a statement issued later Sunday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that the "stealing" of the magazines was a "preview of abuses" under the Terror Law and came to the publication's defense.

"It is totally ludicrous for the police to justify what, to our mind, constitutes armed robbery by claiming, falsely, that Pinoy Weekly is illegal and teaches people to fight the government... Pinoy Weekly is a perfectly legal and legitimate news organization, just as are all the outfits that belong to the alternative media," the union said in its statement. 

Veteran journalist Inday Espina Varona also tweeted: "Pinoy Weekly isn’t just LEGAL. It’s been around for more than a decade! It’s edited by a national book awardee — those stories in the book that won were published in this weekly newspaper. Kasuhan na mga yan!"

"Pinoy Weekly is published by the PinoyMedia Center Inc., a Security and Exchange Commission-registered non-profit organization," she added. 

When volunteers from Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis were flagged down and arrested by the police in Norzagaray, Bulacan in late April while on their way to conduct their COVID-19 relief operation, copies of Pinoy Weekly were also found and confiscated for purportedly being anti-government paraphernalia.

Guda stressed then that the newspaper "is a bonafide member of the Philippine press, and has been so since 2002, even as we proudly claim to be part of the alternative, or independent, media, in the country." 

"Just one day before the [State of the Nation Address], [we see that] the Duterte administration is terrified of the outpouring of human anger. They want to deter protesters with fear. This PNP, on the other hand, has been wishy-washy: first it agreed to protest actions, suddenly they cracked down on demonstrations a few days later," Doringo said.

PNP leadership has already promised maximum tolerance of protest actions in the past though instances of peaceful protest largely yield warrantless arrests of their own — even of those who did protest online or practice physical distancing — that only led to violations of the very health protocols supposedly being enforced.

Philstar.com also reached out to the national police's spokesperson, but he has yet to respond as of this update.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

KADAMAY PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
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