VARIOUS groups have called for the immediate release of the five young activists in Tacloban City following their arrest on Friday, February 7, for the alleged violation of Republic Act (RA) 10591 or the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act."
The suspects were identified as Marissa Cabaljao, leader of the Coalition of Typhoon Yolanda victims People Surge; Frenchie Cumpio, community journalist from Eastern Vista; Alexander Abinguna of rights group Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas; Mira Legion of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Eastern Visayas; and Marielle Domequil of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
The five activists, who all are members of progressive organizations, were arrested in two simultaneous operations by police and army operatives at around 2:30 a.m. Friday by virtue of search warrants dated February 3, 2020 and issued by Judge Eligio Petilla of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 44 in Tacloban.
“We are calling on all advocates and communities to defend the rights of defenders against these attacks,” said human rights group Karapatan.
“How can high profile and visible people working in open legal organizations doing perfectly legal and constitutionally-protected advocacy commit or be committing patently criminal acts and yet not be in hiding? This is illegalizing otherwise legal acts, behavior, and individuals,” added National Union of People’s Lawyers (Nupl) in a statement.
However, Major General Pio Diñoso III, commander of 8th Infantry Division in the region, said the arrest of the five suspects “was the result of the cooperation from the community and security forces...to neutralize the members of communist terrorist group and end local communist armed conflict in the Eastern Visayas.”
Recovered and confiscated from Cumpio alyas “Pen”, alleged secretary of Regional White Area Committee (Rwac-Evrpc) and Domequil alyas “Maye”, alleged member of Rwac-Evrpc were one unit Taurus Caliber .45 pistol, one unit Colt Caliber .45 pistol, two magazine assembly for Caliber .45, 14 live ammunition for Caliber .45, two fragmentation grenades, one piece red flag with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) symbol, and cash amounting to P557,360.00.
Also recovered and confiscated from Legion, Cabaljo, and Abinguna were two Caliber .45 pistols, one KG9 rifle, one improvised claymore mine, two magazine assembly for Caliber .45, one magazine assembly for KG9, fifteen rounds live ammunition for Caliber .45 and 17 rounds live ammunitions for 9mm, police said.
“The five strongly denied the accusations and regarded the raid as part of the coordinated attacks to silence progressive groups in the Philippines under Duterte administration,” said the UP Vista, official student publication of the University of the Philippines-Visayas Tacloban College.
“Cumpio’s arrest is clearly part of government’s crackdown against not only these supposed communist fronts but the critical media, mainstream and alternative, as well,” added the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (Nujp). (SunStar Philippines)