‘Huli Week’: Peasant, labor leaders arrested in Pampanga, Tarlac
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines —The Philippine National Police on Tuesday arrested two leaders of organizations critical of President Rodrigo Duterte at the start of what militants have called “Huli” (Arrest) Week.
Police said they found firearms and grenades in the possession of Joseph Canlas, national vice chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and chair of Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (AMGL), and Pol Viuya, chair of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Gitnang Luson (Bayan GL), whom they arrested separately in Pampanga and Tarlac provinces.
The labor alliance Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) denounced the arrest as illegal, saying the arresting officers used “fake” warrants.
Viuya is the third KMU national council member who has been “attacked by state forces,” it said.
In 2019, KMU-Negros leader Noly Rosales was arrested. Last Sunday, Dandy Miguel, union president at Fuji Electric Philippines and vice chair of the labor coalition Pamantik-KMU, was shot dead on his way home to Calamba City.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the intensifying attacks against progressive groups were also intended to intimidate the opposition ahead of the 2022 elections.
“While these systematic attacks are still part of the Duterte administration’s warped and militarist campaign against progressive organizations, clearly, it is also aimed at serving a chilling message to the political opposition,” Zarate said.
Reacting to the arrests, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which is allied with KMU and KMP, said that instead of using quarantine restrictions to “hunt down their targets for repression and state terror,” the government should focus on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The relentless attacks on our organizations and leaders are attacks on the just causes we forward: aid and medical services amid the pandemic, free distribution of lands to farmers, decent wages and salaries, better social services for the people—all of which are democratic rights that the Duterte regime is mandated, but has so far failed, to ensure,” ACT said in a statement.
Canlas was arrested at Barangay Sapang Maisac between Mexico town and Mabalacat City in Pampanga following a raid on AMGL’s office in the same area.
Police arrested Viuya in a house at Barangay Anupul in Tarlac’s Bamban town.
In a statement, the regional police at Camp Olivas in Pampanga said the lead arresting unit was the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), which was backed by nine other police and military units.
A search warrant used against Canlas, however, identified him as Jose Teria Canlas, according to a police report. It was issued a day earlier by Judge Ma. Angelica Paras-Quiambao, executive judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Angeles City.
An arrest warrant for a December 2020 malicious mischief case against Canlas also was used by the police. That warrant was issued by Judge Theodorick Ayungco, presiding judge of Municipal Circuit Trial Court in Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija.
Police said they found a .45-caliber Armscor pistol, ammunition and a grenade in Canlas’ house.
Gun planted, witnesses say
Viuya was identified as Florentino Mateo Viuya in a search warrant for violation of the firearms law issued by Judge Jeovannie Ordoño, presiding judge of RTC Branch 109 in Capas, Tarlac, also on Monday.
Police said they seized a .45-caliber pistol, ammunition and a hand grenade from Viuya.
Karapatan Central Luzon said Canlas told his lawyer that the CIDG personnel planted a gun in the AMGL office. It said that witnesses saw CIDG men leave a gun where Viuya was arrested.
Police said the arrests were “done in an orderly manner in the presence of barangay officials and court representatives.”
“Our aggressive drive to recover and to seize loose firearms through continuous police operations and implementation of search warrants against illegal gun owners [is] being carried out as we are committed to account all weapons being used as instruments of crime,” the police statement quoted Police Brig. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, the Central Luzon PNP director, as saying.
The two activists were not identified in the statement as leaders of leftist organizations.
“The ‘Huli’ Week raids, arrests, EJKs (extrajudicial killings), etc. are apparently the administration’s answers to this broadening front against its failed government and in the call to junk its cohorts in the next elections,” Zarate said.
He said the “trumped-up charges,” the serving of warrants from “the warrants factory” and the name substitution in archived or new warrants should be investigated.
Zarate called on the opposition to unite and “should not take these attacks sitting down” after nine activists were killed during the March 7 joint police and military operations in the Southern Tagalog region.
The CIDG confirmed it had custody of Canlas in the City of San Fernando and Viuya in Tarlac City.
Their relatives, however, said the police had yet to show the two men to them.
Karapatan said that prior to their arrest, Canlas and Viuya were branded as terrorists on social media and on posters and flyers that were dropped from government helicopters.
Both had filed complaints over the red-baiting at the Commission on Human Rights in Central Luzon.
“The attacks on our leaders are worsening by the minute. This is martial law, an outright degradation of the rule of law,” KMU chair Elmer Labog said.
He said Viuya was red-baited last November by the PNP and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Labog said Viuya was recently involved in the campaign against the Joint Industrial Peace Concerns Office created by the PNP and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
Viuya also chairs the regional labor center Workers’ Alliance in Central Luzon.
—WITH REPORTS FROM MEG ADONIS, DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND NESTOR CORRALES
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