29 activists, 2 journalists implicated in Doc Naty case | Inquirer News

29 activists, 2 journalists implicated in Doc Naty case

RED-TAGGING | A poster put up by the group Movement Against Terrorism (MAT)-Surigao Chapter in November 2020 claims to expose 17 “NPA terrorists,” including Dr. Maria Natividad Castro whose photo appears on the top row, fourth from left. —PHOTO COURTESY OF KARAPATAN

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur, Philippines — The human rights group Karapatan Caraga on Wednesday said 29 other social activists and two radio journalists were among those implicated in the case that was the basis for the arrest warrant against community health advocate Dr. Maria Natividad “Naty” Castro last week.

They were among the 486 accused of involvement in the abduction of a member of the government-armed civilian militia unit in Barangay Kolambugan, Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur on Dec. 29, 2018, in Criminal Case 6527 at the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court (RTC).


The 31 respondents included 18 from the “lumad” group Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), one former teacher of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (Trifps), another former teacher of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (Alcadev), two from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), three from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), two from Gabriela Women’s Party, an elderly nun and a pastor who advocated for lumad rights, and two radio reporters.

Based on court documents, Castro was not properly identified as one of the suspects. The closest name to hers was “Dra. Maria Natividad,” the same one that appeared in the warrant used by the police to arrest her.


Karapatan Caraga declined to identify the others implicated in the case for security reasons.

PNP allegation

Mapasu, Trifps, Alcadev, KMP, KMU, and the Gabriela party have been openly described by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

According to the Philippine National Police, Castro is a member of the central committee of the CPP and head of its health bureau.

Her lawyer, Fred Asis, said she vehemently denied the allegation and was “furious” about the charges against her.

On Monday, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported that a woman who claimed that she used to be a communist rebel told a press briefing arranged by the NTF-Elcac that Castro recruited medical workers, trained NPA medics, and raised funds from Europe for the rebel movement in Mindanao.

Case folder lost

Gleceria Balangiao, who said she had worked as a liaison officer for the Rural Missionary of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region, told the NTF-Elcac that she met Castro several times between 2006 and 2009 during meetings and first aid trainings for NPA fighters.

Balangiao did not directly implicate Castro in the abduction case.


The Sibagat police station declined to provide more information about the allegations against Castro, saying their case folder was lost and the files stored in a computer had been deleted.

The warrant used to arrest Castro showed at least 10 names of persons who were implicated in three cases arising from an NPA attack on an Army patrol base in Barangay Tubigon, also in Sibagat town, on Dec. 19, 2018, or 10 days prior to the abduction incident.

The 10 are among the 17 activists whose charges were quashed last year by the same court that was hearing Castro’s case.

A fourth case lodged against the 17 activists, for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, was dismissed by the Bayugan RTC for “inordinate delay.”

Of the 17, only one was arrested, Teresita Naul, a staff of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, five were in detention for other charges, and 11 remained free.

Naul was freed in October last year after the four cases against her were quashed.

More protests

In Manila, a coalition of human rights groups on Wednesday condemned the “arbitrary” arrest of Castro and demanded that she be released and the charge against her, which they said was trumped-up, be dropped.

In a joint statement, at least 14 groups and several individual human rights advocates said they were “gravely concerned” over Castro’s arrest, as well as reports that her family and lawyers were denied access to her.

They also condemned the refusal by the police to allow the 53-year-old community health advocate to get her medication for hypertension and diabetes from one of her sisters shortly after she was taken away by the arresting team.

Castro, who graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in 1995, is known for setting up community-based health programs with the lumad in the Agusan provinces.

“Dr. Castro is not a criminal or a terrorist,” the coalition said in the statement. “She is a respected public health practitioner who has helped set up community centers and programs among the poorest and marginalized Filipinos in far-flung areas in Mindanao.”

The groups — which include MovePH, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, the Coalition for People’s Rights to Health, Health Action for Human Rights, iDefend, Kapatid and Karapatan — reminded the PNP that human rights work was not a crime.

“In the middle of a public health crisis, arresting a community health worker like Castro is a disservice to the communities she was working with,” they said.



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