Spending Christmas day in prison

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The sectoral group COURAGE, whose members work in the government sector lamented a very bleak Christmas for its members despite the government's repeated announcement for its "continuing pursuit of lasting peace and respect for human rights. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The sectoral group COURAGE, whose members work in the government sector lamented a very bleak Christmas for its members despite the government’s repeated announcement for its “continuing pursuit of lasting peace and respect for human rights. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By Joey Natividad
Special Correspondent

DAET, Camarines Norte (BicolToday.com/24-Dec-2012) – The sectoral group COURAGE, whose members work in the government sector lamented a very bleak Christmas for its members despite the government’s repeated announcement for its “continuing pursuit of lasting peace and respect for human rights.” Two (2) of its officers will spend this Christmas in jail on alleged trumped-up charges.

Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, national staff organizers of COURAGE will spend their Christmas behind bars in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Daet, Camarines Norte. They were falsely charged of having participated in the April 29, 2012, ambush of soldiers of the 49th IB AFP who had occupied the civilian Maot Baranggay Hall in Labo Camarines Norte.

After being secretly accosted in Metro-Manila on December 3, 2012, handcuffed and blindfolded by unknown armed persons, they were interrogated under duress and without counsel in Camp Bagong Diwa. They were then brought to Camarines Norte Provincial Jail in Daet on Dec. 4 and transferred to the BJMP last Dec. 11.

BicolToday.com learned that both were charged with five counts of murder, one count of theft and one count of frustrated murder at the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. Moreover, included in the warrant of arrest were 30 others including activists Roy Velez and Amelita Gamara of KMU NCR and Defend Jobs Philippines, respectively, who remained at large.

Ferdinand Gaite, COURAGE National President, was back in Daet two-weeks after leading a fact-finding mission upon discovering their whereabouts. They were held incommunicado for two days after being mentally tortured by their abductors who turned out to be members of the PNP and ISAFP.

Gaite said that Christmas should be a time for reunions with families and friends, yet the policies of the US-Aquino regime prevent activists such as Randy and Raul and hundreds of other political detainees from truly enjoying the yuletide season.

“Under the US/CIA-dictated Oplan Bayanihan of P-NoyAquino, fabricated cases have been continually filed versus legal personalities for supposed participation in rebel offensives or activities. Former Representatives Teddy Casiño, Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, the late Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, the Morong 43, the Southern Tagalog 72 are just some who were incarcerated after facing trumped-up charges. Many of them had their cases dismissed but only after suffering months or years of imprisonment. Hundreds of others still languish in various jails in the Philippines,” said COURAGE in a statement sent to the press.

Erwynne Lanuza, KASAMA KA Quezon City President who arrived to celebrate Christmas with the COURAGE 2, expressed fears of continuing human rights violations and heightening militarization especially in Bicol region.

“The desperation of the Aquino regime to defend its violations of human rights and defending the AFP instead of the people who he avowed to be his “bosses” are becoming more glaring. The “Butcher” Jovito Palparan still eludes (or is allowed to elude?) authorities. Aquino’s promotion of Eduardo Año from colonel to brigadier general in the AFP, one of the accused as those for the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, is a slap to his mother Editha Burgos and all who are seeking justice from involuntary disappearances,” COURAGE said in the statement.

The 129 extra-judicial killings of workers, peasants, youth, urban poor, indigenous peoples, anti-mining activists and others under the Aquino administration portray the impunity that reverberates all over the country. ‘The recent commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last December 10 holds no promise for the Filipino people,’ Lanuza lamented.

Together with COURAGE and Courage Government Employees Party-list members, the family and friends of the COURAGE 2 picketed the DOJ in Manila on Dec. 21 before proceeding to Daet. Raul’s wife, Marissa Camposano, Raul’s wife and Theresa Sesaldo Randy’s commonlaw wife accompanied the tream. They attempted to hold a simple Christmas celebration at the BJMP on Dec. 22 but were disallowed by the guards due to a supposed policy limiting the total number of visitors to 4 at a time.

COURAGE is preparing for the “Free Randy and Raul: The COURAGE 2” campaign which will include more protests and other legal actions to defend their organizer’s innocence with the assistance of Karapatan Camarines Norte through their coordinator Maricel Delen, whose husband Jayson Delen was also an extra-judicial killing victim in 2006.

The campaign has been coordinated with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and KARAPATAN National, and other allied organizations. Other than a dialogue with DOJ officials to clarify the current government’s policy on illegal arrests, COURAGE plans to file charges of human rights violations with the Commission on Human Rights. [BicolToday.com]

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