CHR hoping police raids not meant to silence legitimate dissent
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has assured that they are aware of the government’s role to secure the country, amid recent raids of militant group offices in Negros Occidental and Manila.
But the commission also reminded the government that the operations should not be meant to silence the left-leaning groups like Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW), which have voiced their opposition to administration policies.
“[…] Given the series of complaints of harassment by individuals and organizations that are vocal critics of the administration, we hope that the simultaneous raids are not intended to silence or curtail legitimate dissent and purport it as attempts to destabilize the government,” CHR said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Rule of law should be observed and human rights ought to be non-negotiable in the administration of justice,” it added, saying that it is also probing the recent spate of arrests of group members.
Last October 31, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate revealed that the regional offices of the above-mentioned organizations in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, were raided. At least 57 individuals were arrested for allegedly taking part in firearms and explosives training.
And earlier, Manila police raided the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) office in Tondo, arresting three activists for supposedly possessing guns and explosives.
Zarate previously questioned the decision of Metro Manila’s top cop, Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, to talk with Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert hours before the raid in Bacolod.
Sinas, before becoming the National Capital Region Police Office’s acting director, was regional director of Police Regional Office 7, which has jurisdiction over Negros Occidental. He has yet to reply to queries from INQUIRER.net.
“These groups are also commonly identified as “leftist” or tagged as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines — New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) by the security sector. The raids resulted in the arrest of at least 57 activists,” CHR said.
“In the same vein that the government aggressively upholds national security, we hope that equal efforts and vigor are exerted to address and investigate complaints alleging harassments, threats, illegal arrests, and killings of progressive individuals and groups. Claims of the planting of evidence also warrant equal investigation,” they added.
The commission also reminded government officials of their obligation to “respect, protect, and fulfill” persons’ rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression, aside from noting that activism has been an important part of democracy.
“Amidst the climate of impunity that compromise the liberty and security of progressive groups, check and balance must be fully demonstrated to ensure that rights are protected while ensuring national security. This also ensures public confidence and eliminates any shroud of doubts on institutions that are expected to protect the basic rights of all,” CHR explained.
“Activism is an important facet of a vibrant democracy. Suppression of dissent should not become a norm and it should not be seen as a legitimate method to maintain security and stability,” they noted./ac
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