Groups slam arrest of activist in Cagayan
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The rights group Karapatan and indigenous peoples group Katribu Youth condemned the arrest of the regional coordinator of Makabayan Coalition in Cagayan Valley and the reported barring of its outreach program on Monday.
Police arrested Agnes Mesina while having dinner at an eatery at 7 p.m. in Aparri, Cagayan, according to a video posted on the official social media page of Karapatan Cagayan Valley.
Karapatan, in a Twitter post, said the Cagayan police arrested Mesina over a dismissed murder case in Tagum City, Davao del Norte province.
In 2021, a court in Tagum cleared Mesina along with two Cagayan Valley activists, Jackie Valencia and Reynaldo Gareng, and Cordillera Peoples Alliance chair Windel Bolinget of murder charges related to the killing of an indigenous peoples leader in 2018.
Judge Sharon Rose Saracin of the Tagum Regional Trial Court Branch 30 dismissed the murder charges against Mesina, Valencia, Gareng, Bolinget, and two others “for lack of probable cause” on July 12, 2021.
Karapatan said Mesina’s arrest, which it described as illegal, was “meant to further block and intimidate the team from reaching the community in Gonzaga.”
Police Capt. Tristan John Zambale, chief of the Aparri police, did not respond to text messages and calls when the Inquirer tried to reach him on Tuesday.
Karapatan said Mesina’s arrest was part of ongoing efforts “to harass, vilify and suppress the Makabayan block and political opposition.”
Katribu Youth said it was a violation of Mesina’s rights.
Earlier that day, Mesina was with other activists, development workers and members of religious groups to hold an outreach mission in Barangay Sta. Clara in nearby Gonzaga, Cagayan.
According to Karapatan, barangay officials barred the group that was supposed to deliver humanitarian aid and psychosocial services to residents affected by military operations from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Mesina said she was arrested for a trumped-up charge that was already dismissed by the courts.
“They made me look like a criminal, which I am not. That is not right,” Mesina said.
She said they were exploring the possibility of filing charges against the police.
“This [filing of charges] is not just as defense, but also for others who have been in the same situation,” she said, noting that the police failed its job in verifying the validity of the arrest warrant against her.
Mesina was released at 11:30 p.m. on Monday after her lawyers presented to the Aparri police the court order dismissing the murder charge against her.