Casiño likens raids to Martial Law
By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Local and national progressive groups claimed victory yesterday after 31 of the 57 arrested activists were released on Wednesday night. In a press conference led by Makabayan bloc members Teddy Casiño, Neri Colmenares, and Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate, they insisted the firearms recovered from the offices of various militant in Bacolod City and Escalante City were planted.
They also denied the offices in question were being used as training grounds or recruitment centers for the New People’s Army (NPA) and claimed the crackdown was “nothing more than to silence those who are critical of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.”
Colmenares questioned the execution of the search warrant, wherein members of the media were barred from entering the premises during the search, and claimed a member of the media should have been present in order to serve as a witness.
Meanwhile, Casiño said what happened in Bacolod City and Escalante City is a “grave concern” for national organizations and claimed it was “the first time since Martial Law that there were mass arrests of members and leaders of people’s organizations.”
In addition, progressive groups referred to the incidents as a “laboratory experiment” on a wider crackdown that could happen.
Rafael Mariano, who represents Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, vowed to “counter and overcome the campaigns of suppression and crackdown,” which he claimed were directed at legal and democratic mass organizations, along with critics of Duterte.
He added, the 11 activists who remain detained at Camp Alfredo Montelibano in Bacolod City’s Barangay Estefania are being brought up on “trumped up criminal charges.”
The progressive groups also announced plans to file complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against members of both the police and Philippine Army.
Meanwhile, in response to the claims made by the groups, Philippine Army 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, Army Captain Cenon Pancito III, said they will abide by the rule of law over the release of the 31 activists, pointing out, efforts were conducted within legal boundaries.
Pancito added, the allegations claiming the seized firearms and explosives were “planted” was not given merit by the legal body as 11 people currently face charges before a competent court.
In addition, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, remains undeterred by threats of complaints before the Ombudsman and congressional hearings.
“Go ahead!” he remarked./DGB, WDJ