In the strongest terms, Migrante International condemns the sweeping arrests of 57 activists and rights workers in Bacolod City based on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence. The raids were conducted by the combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police storming the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
Among those arrested is Anne Kreuger, an organizer for the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) and a field staff of Paghimutad, an alternative media outfit based in Negros. She was arrested during her stay at Gabriela’s Bacolod office. Anne Kreuger was a close friend of Henry Acorda, the OFW slain in Slovakia. In 2018, Anne worked closely with Migrante and the Acorda family to seek justice for her friend Henry. Friends and loved ones of Henry are grateful to Anne for her selfless efforts on behalf of the victim and his family. Deplorably, the Duterte regime repays justice advocates like Anne with cruelty and imprisonment.
Just a day before the round-up, NCRPO Acting Regional Director Debold Sinas conducted a ‘dialogue’ at the Quezon City Hall of Justice with Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert who then issued the ludicrous search warrants brandished by state forces on the night of the raid. Previous warrants issued by Villavert also led to the arrests of other rights defenders and peace advocates like Vic Ladlad and Esterlita Suaybaguio. In this most recent case, we can’t help but ask why a Quezon City court would issue a warrant intended for distant locations in the Visayas. This menacing pattern of warrants-with-wings clearly points to abuse of power and authority.
As for Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s stubborn insistence that the arrested activists are members of the New People’s Army, we can attribute this to his main function of overseeing Malacañang’s factory of lies. Andanar as well as the rest of Duterte’s minions wallow in their delusion that they can keep fooling the people forever by adhering to Goebbels’ propaganda technique of repeating colossal falsehoods. The people know better and no amount of concealment will bury the glaring ills of a country sinking deeper into crisis.
Migrante International likewise denounces the arrest of Cora Agovida (Gabriela-Metro Manila), and Michael Tan Bartolome (Kadamay-Metro Manila). The couple was arrested and detained on Thursday along with their children aged 2 and 10. Along with Bacolod 57, we are calling for their immediate release and an end to the spate of arrests and killings in the province.
Since Duterte came into power, the death toll from the extrajudicial killings of activists in Negros has already climbed to 85 as butchers from AFP and PNP enforce his Executive Order No. 70 which later spawned Memorandum Order No. 32. Under these impositions, the islands of Samar, Negros and the entire Bicol region are now under de-facto Martial Law. Furthermore, EO70 institutionalized the regime’s whole-of-nation-approach through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) wherein the Duterte regime has been using government resources to denigrate Migrante International and other progressive organizations among members of various Filipino communities abroad by maliciously tagging them as fronts of the CPP-NPA.
Without a doubt, the unjust operation in Bacolod against activists and rights workers demonstrates the savage desire of the Duterte regime to quell dissent and persecute progressive organizations that raise the upright demands of the impoverished sectors of Philippine society. If the Duterte regime believes that unhampered tyranny will obliterate our collective struggle for national democracy, he is clearly mistaken. Looking at the course of events in different parts of the world, Duterte is already trembling at the boiling contempt of the masses in his own backyard.
We will not stand idly as the Duterte regime tramples on our rights to freely organize and express grievances against an unjust system of tyranny and oppression. None of these mass arrests, raids, and killings will silence the outcry of the Filipino people against the Duterte regime’s despotic rule. ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ We shall overcome!
Drop trumped-up charges!
Free Negros 57!
Stop planting of evidence!
Free all political prisoners!