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PNP: Activists’ arrest legitimate

The Philippine National Police on Monday maintained that the arrest on International Human Rights Day of seven activists was legitimate and that nothing was irregular in the operations.

At a press briefing in Camp Crame, Police Major Gen. Joel Napoleon Coronel, director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), said the operations “are all covered by search warrants validly issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 89 of Quezon City.”

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“These warrants [were] applied for based on information credible and reliable provided by informants [to] the courts who examined these witnesses under oath,” he said.

Coronel assured the public that at the time the warrants were served, the searches and raids conducted by PNP-CIDG employees on the subjects’ addresses were witnessed by “independent third parties coming from local government units and the barangay officials.”

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Coronel was referring to allegations that firearms and grenades found in the three areas raided and searched were planted.

“We observed due process and, in fact, the arrested suspects [were] informed of their constitutional rights to remain silent, to have [a lawyer] and be assisted by [a lawyer] of their choice and precisely why these cases had been referred to the prosecutor’s office for inquest proceedings where they were assisted also by [a lawyer].”

On Dec. 10, Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and Defend Jobs Philippines members and trade union organizers Dennise Velasco, Rodrigo Esparago, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate and Jaymie Gregorio Jr., were arrested in three separate operations in Mandaluyong City and Quezon City and charged with illegal possession of firearms and of explosives.

‘Planted’ evidence

The Commission on Human Rights said it would look into the police operations following allegations that the evidence that prompted the seven activists’ arrest had been planted by the police.

Militant workers’ groups have asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to expedite accepting an International Labor Organization (ILO) inquiry in the country, following the arrest of six union organizers.

In a letter, seven labor groups, including the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Federation of Free Workers, stressed the urgency of allowing the ILO’s high-level mission due to the recent spate of arrests of union organizers and activists.

On Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, six union organizers and a journalist were arrested in simultaneous dawn raids in their homes for illegal possession of high-powered rifles and explosives.

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Procedural lapse

“This is yet another blow to the trade union movement. Trade union activists are being criminalized, illegally arrested and detained, as the government’s way of preventing them from organizing workers,” said the Council of Global Unions in the Philippines, which demanded the immediate release of the arrested activists.

Lawyer Kristina Conti, who handles the cases for the so-called “Human Rights (HR) Day 7”—the seven individuals arrested in separate early morning raids on International Human Rights Day—said in an email interview that it was the respondent’s right not only to be informed of the cause of the police operation but also to document the entire process. This came amid testimonies from both Salem and Velasco, two of the HR Day 7, that they were either asked to turn away or lie face-down on the floor while they were being seized in their homes.

If proven, this could be cited as a procedural lapse, she said.

If there are any procedural lapses, such as the lack of a search warrant or use of excessive force, police can be held liable under Articles 128 and 129 of the Revised Penal Code, Conti explained. INQ

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TAGS: Activists, arrests, CIDG, Coronel, International Human Rights Day, PNP‎
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