“This is clearly another case of state harassment against progressive leaders and organizations to silence us amid the mounting public clamor for change. What is dangerous is that 101 John Does have been included in the warrant that was used to arrest him.” – Naty Castro, secretary general of Karapatan-Caraga
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA — Indigenous peoples leader Genasque Enriquez was freed on bail on August 23, a day after he was arrested in Surigao city on charges of frustrated murder.
Enriquez, a 41-year-old Manobo, is the KATRIBU Partylist National Vice Chairperson and secretary general of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KASALO Caraga). A statement by Karapatan-Caraga said he posted bail on three alleged frustrated murder charges before Judge Victor Canoy of the RTC Branch 29 in Surigao City at 11:45 a.m. yesterday.
“This is clearly another case of state harassment against progressive leaders and organizations to silence us amid the mounting public clamor for change,” said Karapatan Secretary General Naty Castro. “What is dangerous is that 101 John Does have been included in the warrant that was used to arrest him.”
Castro said that right after Enriquez’ arrest on August 22, “concerned citizens and organizations immediately trooped to the Surigao City Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) office to ensure his safety.” Among those who responded was the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) led by Sr. Noemi Degala and Sr. Stella Matutina.
Progressive groups, church people and civil society organizations in Caraga immediately raised the money for Enriquez’ bail, Castro said in the statement.
The Caraga region or Region XIII is located in the northeast part of the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines. It is The region is composed of five provinces namely, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and the Dinagat Islands. The administrative center of the region is Butuan City.
Karapatan-Caraga said the filing of trumped-up charges against leaders and members of progressive organizations are becoming a “trend” in the region. The military includes names of prominent leaders and activists as they file criminal cases against the New People’s Army for committing tactical offensives.
Castro cited the case of Armando Toreta and Eutiquio Bulat-ag, members of the peasant organization Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (UMAN – KMP), who are being detained in Butuan City based on trumped up murder charges.
“With utter disregard to due process, just like Genasque, they are not given the chance to respond to complaints at the investigation stage before these cases are filed and warrants of arrest are issued,” Castro said.
Karapatan-National secretary general General Cristina Palabay meanwhile said: “Malacañang is a factory of trumped-up charges against activists and those who are demanding that BS Aquino be held accountable for the presidential pork aka DAP.”
Enriquez was nabbed after attending a press conference on the Peoples’ Initiative Against Pork in Surigao City.
Repression of indigenous peoples
Katribu partylist spokesperson Kakay Tolentino denounced the filing of fabricated cases and arrest of Enriquez as a “form repression on the indigenous peoples to participate in the call against pork barrel funds, including the presidential pork.”
Tolentino said Enriquez has been a prominent indigenous peoples leader in the campaigns against destructive foreign mining and militarization in Caraga. She pointed out that in 2012, trumped-up charges filed against Enriquez and other progressive leaders were already dismissed.
She called on the Department of Justice to investigate the police and the military who resort to the filing of fabricated charges against activists “which are forms of legal harassment..abuse of the legal and judicial process and clear violation of human rights.”
The police and military “should run after those who actually violated the law, instead of filing charges based on evidence gathered from the air against leaders and members of legitimate, progressive organizations,” she said.
Castro warned of a “disturbing trend to further curtail our civil liberties.”
“Human rights defenders like Genasque Enriquez are put at risk because of their public defense on the side of the poor and the powerless, who have only their people’s organization as a weapon against tyranny and abuse,” she said.
The Aquino Administration is no different from the previous Arroyo regime in its total disregard for human rights and due process,” Castro said.
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