Makabayan coordinator gunned down in Laguna
Updated @ 2:04 a.m., Nov. 6, 2019
A labor leader was gunned down by an unknown assailant in Laguna province on Monday evening, just hours before police arrested three activists in a continuing government crackdown on leftist critics of President Duterte.
The victim, Reynaldo Malaborbor, 61, was with his wife walking on a street near their home in Barangay Banay-Banay, Cabuyao City, around 9:30 p.m. when he was shot from behind by a man who fled on foot. His wife was unharmed.
Malaborbor was actively involved in organizing a workers’ strike at a condiments factory in Cabuyao in July. He was also a coordinator for the Makabayan candidates in May’s elections.
According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Southern Tagalog, Malaborbor was a member of Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Pook Industriyal ng Laguna before he was arrested in 2010 along with five other activists in Lumban, Laguna, for alleged ties to the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
His son, Ray Irvine, was arrested by soldiers in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro, in July on charges of illegal possession of firearms. He was tagged as an NPA intelligence officer
On Tuesday, policemen raided the house of Ram Carlo Bautista, Bayan campaign director, in Tondo, Manila, around 1:15 a.m. and arrested him, along with Alma Moran, Manila Workers Unity secretariat member, and Ina Nacino, Kadamay coordinator.
Bautista’s home on Flora Street in Barangay 183, Tondo, also served as Bayan Manila’s office.
The raiders, composed of members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (Cidu) of the Manila police, said they seized two hand grenades, a Bushmaster 5.56-caliber rifle, two .45-caliber pistols, magazines and bullets, 11 cell phones, laptops and identification cards.
They were serving a search warrant issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89.
Villavert had also issued the warrant to search the house of Cora Agovida, Gabriela Manila chair, and her husband Mikhael Bartolome, a Kadamay member, on Oct. 31. Police claimed they found a pistol and a hand grenade during their operation.
Another warrant from the same judge led to the arrest that same night of 57 activists in Bacolod City and Escalante town in Negros Occidental province. Authorities there also claimed the raiders recovered 32 guns, three grenades and other illegal items.
It was also Villavert who issued the arrest warrant last year for Vic Ladlad, a consultant for the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace talks with the government, which the President called off.
Bayan chair Carol Araullo described the charges against the members of progressive groups as “preposterous” and “fabricated.”
Araullo said the latest attack against activists “employs a search warrant and planted evidence, which shows the erosion of our legal system, a clear violation of the rule of law in the name of ‘counterinsurgency.’”
The charges against Bautista, Moran and Nacino were based on a “clumsy ‘tanim-baril’ and ‘tanim-bala’ operation,” she said.
She called the police actions a “blitzkrieg, a lightning war against the people who demand justice for all the crimes and injustices the Duterte regime has committed.”
Police Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, denied the evidence were fabricated, saying the Bushmaster rifle and the Colt pistol seized by the lawmen were too expensive to be planted.
“If that is their alibi, then so be it. Anyway, our investigators will file the case, they can have it as their defense in court,” Sinas told reporters.
A day before the Oct. 31 roundup of activists in Manila and Negros, Police Maj. Michael John Villanueva of the Manila Cidu requested for a warrant to search Bautista’s house.
The warrant issued by Villavert cited “probable cause to believe that a crime for violation of RA 9516 [an act amending Presidential Decree No. 1866 on illegal possession of firearms and explosives] has been committed or is about to be committed.”
The judge said there were “good and sufficient reasons to believe that respondent is keeping under his control and possession inside his house a hand grenade” after examining Villanueva and his witnesses—two other policemen—under oath.
The human rights group Karapatan said it “vehemently condemns yet again another Gestapo-like raid.”
“These attacks are indicative of a compromised justice system that mindlessly complies with the whims, demands and sinister agenda of this government,” it said.
Cristina Palabay, the group’s secretary general, said the allegations that guns and explosives were found in the activists’ office were “a preposterous and barefaced lie meant to justify the arrests and to silence social justice workers and activists.”
Search warrants issued by Villavert were used to “justify” the ongoing crackdown, Palabay said. She claimed that the judge not only met with Sinas before the Oct. 31 raids and that the warrants were “a ‘cut and paste’ version of each other.”
In a text message to the Inquirer, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said judges “who make themselves accomplices in these attacks will also be held accountable along with the police who plant evidence.”
Palace: Charges baseless
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar dismissed claims that the raids were meant to silence the government’s critics.
“The baseless allegations and cries of harassment from Karapatan are already expected as they have no weapons to fight with versus the clean, legitimate and precise raid of communist terrorists in Bacolod last week,” Andanar said in a statement.
He said the police operations were not “Gestapo-like” and that “no individuals were harmed during the operation.”
“Karapatan’s unsubstantiated claims prove nothing but their desperation,” Andanar said.
According to Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, there is an ongoing attack and harassment against the political opposition and militant critics of the Duterte administration.
“State terrorism is running high with Red-tagging, abductions, arrests with planted firearms and murders of social activists, critics and political opponents,” said Sison in a statement on Tuesday from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he lives in exile.
“There is already de facto fascist dictatorship in the Philippines,” he added.
—With reports from Mariejo S. Ramos, Dexter Cabalza, Julie M. Aurelio and Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
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