The Duterte regime has reached a new low with the filing of preposterous human trafficking and kidnapping charges against veteran journalist, activist and human rights advocate Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro as they were on a fact-finding to aid beleaguered indigenous people in the Talaingod, Davao del Sur police.
The arts and media alliance, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity demands the immediate release of Ocampo and Castro and their 17 companions.
The charges are baseless, meant to cover up the truth: That it is the paramilitary groups Alamara and Magahat Bagani, commanded by the Philippine Army, that lay waste to Lumad communities. They should be the ones facing charges as they have killed Lumad leaders, shut down schools, and driven off communities from ancestral lands that President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to business and foreign patrons.
Ocampo is a a columnist with The Philippine Star and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Bulatlat.com. He joined the 19-member National Humanitarian Mission that went to Talaingod Wednesday night to bring aid to the Lumad.
Ocampo and the rest of the mission accompanied the Lumad evacuees at the Talaingod police station to lodge complaints against the paramilitary group Alamara. To preempt the human rights case, cops concocted their lies.
The charge has no basis. The parents of 29 Lumad students provided written statements of recognition for the mission’s presence and purpose.
This afternoon, Ocampo and the others were taken to Kapalong District Hospital and eventually to the Tagum City Prosecutors Office for inquest proceedings.
We repeat: accusing Ocampo, who is all of 79 years old, of trumped-up charges of kidnapping and human trafficking is preposterous. We demand that the Talaingod PNP withdraw its charges against Satur Ocampo and he is set free immediately.
We warn the Duterte government that detaining an elderly journalist who is only acting on his convictions that are well within his rights would earn the greater condemnation of the journalistic community in the Philippines and the world.