READER’S VIEWS - The Freeman

Human rights alliance KARAPATAN decried the filing of trumped-up charges against two leading activists in Central Visayas.

Bayan Muna Central Visayas coordinator John Ruiz III and former Visayas Institute for Human Development Agency Inc. (VIHDA) executive director Jhonggie Rumol faced frustrated homicide charges by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last December 18, 2023. The charges stem from false allegations on Ruiz and Rumol’s involvement in an armed encounter with the New People’s Army on April 6, 2023 in Sitio Sereje, Barangay San Isidro, Toboso, Negros Occidental.

“Ruiz is known for opposing so-called development projects and privatization schemes that are inimical to the interests of the poor,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. “Rumol, on the other hand, has been serving various marginalized communities in Central Visayas as a development worker,” she added.

“The patently trumped-up charges levelled against these two Central Visayas-based activist-leaders are but the latest in a string of cases slapped against prominent social activists and other human rights defenders in Central Visayas,” said Palabay.

“Just last May, current and former members of the board of directors and staff of CERNET, another Central Visayas-based development NGO, were slapped with trumped-up charges of terrorist financing,” said Palabay. The accused include Central Visayas union leader and BAYAN chair Jaime Paglinawan.

Several other Cebuano mass leaders have also received death threats and become victims of red-tagging.

“We are one with the people in demanding a stop to the continuing attacks against human rights defenders in Central Visayas and elsewhere and will not relent in our efforts to advance the people’s rights and welfare,” concluded Palabay.

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