(UPDATED) As Human Rights Day was observed across the globe on Thursday, December 10, 2020, police arrested a trade union organizer and an editor of alternative press Manila Today.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said Denisse Velasco and Lady Ann Salem were among seven persons arrested in simultaneous operations against loose firearms and criminal gangs.

A certain Rodrigo Esparago was also arrested when the CIDG served a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition against Salem.

Others arrested were Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Raiselle Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio and Joel Demate.

Cases for violation of Republic Act 10591, or Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Law, and RA 9516 (illegal possession of explosives) were being readied for filing against the arrested persons.

Velasco, an organizer of Defend Jobs Philippines, was arrested in a raid at his home in Lagro, Quezon City at around 2 a.m. Thursday.

Police said the raid, which was made on the strength of a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, yielded the following: one MG7 fragmentation grenade, one Armscor caliber 9mm, one magazine for caliber 9mm, nine live ammunition for caliber 9mm, one caliber 5.56, 20 pieces live ammunition for caliber 5.56, one Remington caliber 45 pistol, two magazines for caliber 45, 15 live ammunition for caliber 45, 69 live ammunition for caliber 45, one Astra caliber 22, one Bernadili caliber 22, two magazines for caliber 22 and 144 pieces of ammunition for caliber 22.

Seven hours later, at around 9 a.m., Salem was also arrested in her condominium unit in Mandaluyong City, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

Salem, an editor of Manila Today, is also the communications officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), one of the founders of Altermidya and a member of Tudla Productions. Manila Today has been red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

She was later found in the custody of the CIDG.

The CIDG said it has yet to establish the relationship between Salem and Esparago.

In a statement, Defend Jobs Philippines claimed that the police planted the evidence against Velasco.

"These kind of attack and harassment against trade unionists and labor rights advocates must end. We cry foul over Velasco’s arrest being done in time of Human Rights Day," it said in a statement.

The Altermidya also condemned the arrest of Salem and demanded for her immediate release.

“The abduction is a clear attempt to silence critical journalists like Lady Ann. Her abduction, on Human Rights Day no less, is another proof of the dangers of the administration’s vile practice of red-tagging,” it said in a statement.

PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said there is always a presumption of regularity” in police operations.

“The family may file their complaint if they have evidence. The PNP is open for this purpose,” Usana said.

Left-leaning organizations commemorated Human Rights Day Thursday through a picket in Mendiola in Manila, where they denounced the alleged state-sponsored human rights violations and red-tagging of progressive personalities and organizations. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)