Karapatan accuses Duterte gov’t of using DOJ in ‘churning out lies’ vs activists

February 28, 2018 - 5:50 PM
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Members of Karapatan launch a protest action in front of the DOJ office in Manila on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. In the picture are two Karapatan members covering their faces with caricatures of President Rodrigo Duterte and DOJ chief Vitaliano Aguirre II. Photo from Karapatan

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights group Karapatan is accusing the Duterte administration of allegedly using the Department of Justice (DOJ) in “churning out lies” against those perceived by the government as its enemies.

According to Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor, the current administration, through the DOJ, has imprisoned at least 145 more political prisoners in the country, which it said was a “form of harassment and targeting of activists.”

“The Duterte regime is poised to intensify its practice of filing trumped-up charges against leaders and members of progressive organizations as a means to intimidate and harass them,” said Clamor in a statement issued Wednesday, following the group’s protest action in front of the DOJ office in Manila to pressure the agency to end filing allegedly trumped-up charges against activists.

Karapatan earlier sounded the alarm on activists, human rights defenders and members of progressive organizations being arrested by virtue of warrants issued by regional trial courts in the Caraga region.

Among them is Marklen Maojo Maga, an organizer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, who was arrested based on charges of murder for alleged incidents in Agusan del Norte and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“The victim, however, has never set foot in the Caraga region, as he also vehemently asserts that the evidence against him were planted,” said Clamor.

“This is a disturbing trend. Courts in the Caraga region have become a factory of warrants of arrests to justify trumped-up cases,” he said.

“This is indicative of the collusion of the DOJ, the police and the military to specifically target local leaders active in various campaigns,” added the Karapatan leader.

The group said that at this rate, mass leaders and members of progressive groups in different parts of the country could be arrested by virtue of warrants implicating them in alleged incidents in various provinces where they had never even been to.

“What a travesty of justice!” Clamor said, citing the arrest of Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza in Negros Occidental on October 19, 2017 and brothers Joshua and Randy Guyo in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur on May 23, 2017 — all through warrants issued by courts in Agusan del Sur.

Karapatan also raised the proscription petition filed by the DOJ to qualify the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as a terrorist organization, noting that “this will merely give the government a free pass to arrest those alleged by Duterte as legal fronts of the CPP.”

“There is really an intensified and concerted effort to repress legal progressive organizations. With Duterte’s counterinsurgency program in tow, the Inter Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), and now the proscription petition, this crackdown is starting to take shape — revealing a chorus and collusion of government bodies and agencies,” Clamor said.

“All this, of course, is carefully designed to be legitimized by courts to hide the fact that these charges are fabricated,” he said.

“The Duterte regime is taking its legal offensive a notch higher, using everything in its arsenal to silence resistance. To the DOJ and state instruments, we remind you not to renege further on your obligations to the people and truly work for justice. This means prosecuting the true murderers and human rights violators littered within the government, foremost the military and its Commander-in-Chief, and other state security forces,” added Clamor.