The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you regarding the continuing arrest of political and human rights activists over fabricated charges of murder. Three of the 20 activists named as accused have been arrested in separate incidents recently, one in November 6. They are the co-accused of a labour lawyer also arbitrarily arrested on October 23.
UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on information received from the Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) and other sources)
In our previous appeal (AHRC-UAC-239-2008), we mentioned the arrest of Remigio Saladero Jr., a labour lawyer who is working for the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE). He was arrested and is being held at the provincial jail in Calapan City. As mentioned in our earlier UA the name and postal address on the arrest warrant is different from his.
After Saladero’s arrest, three others were arrested separately, namely Rogelio Galit, spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka); Crispin Zapanta, a member of political party Bayan Muna and Arnaldo Seminiano, organizer for Ilaw-Buklod ng Manggagawa (IBM).
On November 3, policemen arrested Galit from his house in Barangay (village) Kaong, Silang Cavite. He was taken to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) regional headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna. Like Saladero, Galit has also been suffering from diabetes. An operation for amputate his leg is already scheduled.
The details regarding Zapanta’s arrest, however, are not immediately available.
On November 6, four policemen also arrested Seminiano in Manggahan, General Trias in Cavite. Similar to Saladero case, Seminiano’s name was also different from the name of person subject for arrest; however, the police nevertheless took him. His companion, Sonny Gum-o, was also taken and briefly held but was released when the police could not produced an arrest order for him.
Gum-o is also an organizer for IBM, a labour group. Their group had been involved in organizing workers and labour unions, in particular workers of factories operating in export processing zones.
Included in the arrest order are those involved in human rights work were: Doris Cuario, secretary general of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN in Southern Tagalog); Dina Capetillo, coordinator of KARAPATAN in Batangas and Karen Ortiz, deputy secretary general of the CEMJP.
Those involved with peasants and the urban poor sector were: Romeo Aguilar, coordinator of Katipunang Damayan ng Mahihirap (Kadamay); Rommel Valdez, chairperson of Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Intsikan; Renato Alvarez, chairperson of Kamagsasaka-Ka; Arman Albarillo, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Southern Tagalog); and his colleague, Sheryll Villegas, secretary general of Bayan in Cavite.
Others involved with helping labour unions and workers: Luz Baculo, secretary-general of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU); Romeo Legaspi, chairman-elect of PAMANTIK-KMU and incumbent regional chairman of Anakpawis the Partylist in Southern Tagalog; Emmanuel Dioneda, executive director of the Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services, Inc.; Emmanuel Asuncion, counsel for the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW) and Romeo Revilla, organizer of IBM.
Those involve in political parties were: Bayani Cambronero, regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Partylist – Southern Tagalog; Orly Marcellana, nominee for sectoral party Anakpawis (Toiling Masses). Others accused were: Rolando Mingo and Helen Asdolo.
In May 2007, we have also reported the attempt made on the life of Marcellana, the husband of the late Eden Marcellana. Eden was a human rights activist who was murdered in Naujan, Mindoro Oriental in April 2003. For further details about these cases please read: (UA-161-2007; UA-09-2003).
Based on the court records, the complaint of multiple murders and multiple frustrated murder have already been filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 40, in Calapan City in 24 July 2006. It was in connection with an ambush of policemen by a rebel group in 3 March 2006 in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. However, despite this complaint having filed two years ago, none of the persons mentioned above were properly informed about the charges filed against them.
Although subpoenas were sent to some of the accused since the postal addresses of the recipients were wrong, they were not able to receive them. The subpoenas were sent back to the prosecutor’s office. Instead of looking into why the subpoenas have been returned and of how to properly inform the accused, the prosecutor’s office has apparently resolved the complaint instead based on the information and evidence submitted to them. Thus, the accused have not been given any opportunity to respond due to the prosecutor’s failure.
In the prosecutor’s resolution dated 20 July 2006, they have concluded to file charges against Rustom Simbulan and others whom they first described as “John Does”. On September 26 of this year, the prosecutors have filed a motion to amend their complaints and given names of the accused described earlier as “John Does”.
In October 3 of this year, RTC Judge Tomas Leynes has granted the prosecutor’s motion to fill in the names of the accused earlier described as “John Does” based on the testimonies of one witness, Silva. However, for a witness to be able to identify all the over 70 alleged perpetrators of the said ambush altogether and after two years have passed is highly questionable. The prosecutors also did not give any rational explanation why it has come out to a conclusion that those identified as John Does are exactly the same persons named.
Under the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Department Circular No. 50, it has clearly ordered that in filling in names of accused described as “John Does”, the prosecutors should solicit information from the “witnesses” and they are required to ensure descriptions of those described as “John Does” and those named is one. However, in this case, the prosecutor’s have not been able to satisfy this.
Please write letters to the concerned authorities below requesting for their appropriate intervention. The irregularities in the filing of charges should be look into. The authorities must refrain from effecting arrest while serious questions into the legality and procedures in the filing of charges are dealt with urgently.
The AHRC is also writing letters to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders, independence of judges and lawyers and the Working Group on arbitrary detention.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
PHILIPPINES: Arrest of three activists; 17 others falsely charge with murder
Names of victims:
1. Rogelio Galit, spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka). He was arrested on November 3 from his house in Barangay (village) Kaong, Silang Cavite.
2. Crispin Zapanta, a member of political party Bayan Muna
3. Arnaldo Seminiano, organizer for Ilaw-Buklod ng Manggagawa (IBM). He was arrested on November 6 in in Manggahan, General Trias in Cavite.
4. Doris Cuario, secretary general of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN in Southern Tagalog)
5. Dina Capetillo, coordinator of KARAPATAN in Batangas
6. Romeo Aguilar, coordinator of Katipunang Damayan ng Mahihirap (Kadamay).
7. Luz Baculo, secretary-general of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU)
8. Romeo Legaspi, chairman-elect of PAMANTIK-KMU and incumbent regional chairman of Anakpawis the Partylist in Southern Tagalog
9. Emmanuel Dioneda, executive director of the Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services, Inc.
10. Emmanuel Asuncion, counsel to the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW)
11. Romeo Revilla, organizer of IBM.
12. Bayani Cambronero, regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Partylist – Southern Tagalog
13. Rolando Mingo
14. Helen Asdolo
15. Orly Marcellana
16. Arman Albarillo, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Southern Tagalog)
17. Renato Alvarez, 63 yrs Old, chairperson of Kamagsasa-Ka
18. Rommel Valdez, chairperson of Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Intsikan
19. Sheryll Villegas, secretary general of Bayan in Cavite
20. Karen Ortiz, deputy secretary general of CEMJP
Status of the case: All of them were charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder in connection with an ambush of policemen by a rebel group in 3 March 2006 in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. It is filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 40, in Calapan City.
I am writing to express my serious concerns regarding the recent arrests and filing of fabricated charges against several political and human rights activists whose names are mentioned above. All of the accused above have not been properly informed and are not aware of the charges filed on them.
Had Remigio Saladero Jr., a labor lawyer, not been arrested in October 23, the information regarding these accused facing murder charges in court would have not come to light. Only after Saladero’s arrest that the respondents, including those names mentioned above, learns they had been charged in court.
Since Saladero’s arrests, three activists, namely Rogelio Galit, Crispin Zapanta and Arnaldo Seminiano, had already been arrested separately. Galit was taken from his house in Silang while Seminiano in Manggahan, General Trias in November 3 and 6 respectively.
Like Saladero, Seminiano was arrested even though the name listed in the arrest order is different from his. It is reported that the name in the arrest order was “Arnie” while his name is Arnaldo. When Seminiano was arrested, one of his companions, Sonny Gum-o, was also taken and briefly held. But the latter was released when the police could not produce arrest order for him.
Their arrests increase to four the number of activists detained over a questionable and fabricated charges of murder.
Furthermore, I have learned that none of these persons have been informed or knew of the charges on them even though it was already filed two years ago, July 2006. It is extremely disappointing that the prosecutor’s failure–either deliberate or otherwise–to indicate a correct and accurate postal address. The respondents have not been able to respond to the charges because of this.
I have learned, for instance, on lawyer Saladero’s case he has never received any subpoena from the prosecutor’s office regarding these charges. This is the same situation with other accused. Also, even though the subpoenas have been sent back to the prosecution service office, instead of looking into why the respondents have not been able to receive them, the prosecution obviously concluded the complaint by charging them in court.
According to the court documents, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP) in Calapan City have concluded in their resolution on 20 July 2006, to file murder charges against one person and others described as “John Does”. But when the prosecution amended their complaint in September 26 of this year, they have given names of those described as “John Does” which the court granted.
However, the procedures in naming of the “John Does” are what I am seriously concerned about given the irregularities. I am aware that although the prosecutors are allowed to use “John Does” in lieu of the accused yet to be identified; however, Department Circular No. 50 of the Department of Justice (DoJ), has also set-out a requirements on this matter.
For instance, in naming a person identified as John Does, the Circular provides that the prosecutors have been directed to elicit from the “witnesses” other appropriate descriptions to particularly describe a “John Doe”. In this case, however, the prosecution only based its amendment from one witness who was able to name the “John Does” altogether over 70 persons.
It is incomprehensible that a lone witness could identify over 70 individuals and to claim the persons in John Does and them are the same. Nevertheless, while I express reservations as to how the prosecutor and court have reach to these conclusions, I therefore urge you to ensure that the charges filed against these persons, in particular those mentioned above, are thoroughly reviewed. There must be rational and comprehensible explanations as to why they should be held for trial.
Also, given the flawed and irregular process in the filing of this case, I urged the concerned authorities, in particular the court, to act promptly on the accused petitions to review/reconsiders their findings. Unless these matters are resolved and acted upon accordingly, the police should also consider refraining from effecting arrests and subsequently detain persons mentioned in the arrest order.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
2. Ms. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
3. Deputy Director General Jesus A. Verzosa
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
4. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Department of Justice (DoJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
5. Mr. Ronaldo V. Puno
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Fax: +63 2 925 0332
Tel: +63 2 925 0330 / 31
6. Mr. Christopher Lock
Office of the Court Administrator
Supreme Court of the Philippines
New Supreme Court Building Annex
Padre Faura St.,Ermita,
Tel: +63 2 525 5741 / 521 5133
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)