MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The human rights alliance, KARAPATAN, denounced the “Gestapo-style” raid and search conducted by combined troops of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of the office shared by Karapatan-Camarines Norte, Makabayan and KMP at F Pimentel Ave., Pasig, Brgy II, Daet, Camarines Norte at ten thirty (1030) this morning.
Held in the raid by elements of the Daet Police and the 9th Infantry Division, 902nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army are four activists: Smith Bardon, Denver Bacolod, Mherlo Bermas and Elpidio de Luna.
Bardon is the Chair of KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Philippine Peasant Movement), Bacolod is a KARAPATAN staff member, Bermas is a member of the Kabataan Party List, while de Luna is a former political prisoner just released last October. Latest update from Daet is that Bardon, Bacolod and Bermas, as well as de Luna are now together at the Daet PNP. Bardon is reportedly charged with murder and the three are awaiting inquest tonight as they are held in the police station still without formal charges yet.
“The Morong 43 health workers were illegally searched, detained and tortured and are being refused to be released by Pres. Aquino; we hope they will not be joined by a Bicol 4,” Karapatan said.
Troops of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has laid siege to the city office, refusing anyone to leave and enter the premises. After some time, just like in the case of the Morong 43, the raiding troops supposedly were able to recover grenades from the office during the raid!
“This is a very alarming trend of raiding legal offices of non-government and human rights organizations; planting evidences and then saying that the office is a “safe house”of the rebels who ‘recruit the youth to become rebel NPA’s.’ This goes to show that the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program is very much operational, resorted to by the state security forces to silence legitimate dissent and criticism,” KARAPATAN Chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.
“This is a direct attack on legal progressive organizations and human rights defenders. We know that trumped-up charges have been conjured against leaders and members of these organizations in Bicol and elsewhere. But this is no justification for the state’s violence against them,” Enriquez said.
“We hold the Aquino administration directly accountable for the raid of our office, and illegal arrest of our staff and other activists. We will certainly file counter-charges. The international human rights community will hear of this. And Aquino will sooner or later have to answer for that,” Enriquez added.