Yesterday January 30, human rights were again under attack with at least 3 actions that show how the Marcos regime is no different from its predecessor. We strongly denounce the following developments:
1. The arrest of Jen Awingan based on a warrant for the trumped-up charge of rebellion that included 8 indigenous peoples and activist leaders from Cordillera and Ilocos.
2. The terrorist designation of community doctor Naty Castro by the Anti-Terrorism Council.
3. The arrest of retired NDFP consultant Ruben Soluta, his wife and another companion
The Marcos regime once again is in violation of its international obligations to uphold human rights by allowing these trumped-up cases to continue. What the arrests and the terrorist designation of Dr. Naty Castro show us is that the law continues to be weaponized against activists and dissenters. The Marcos regime has adopted the Duterte playbook. Duterte generals now control the security sector. As we had feared, human rights are again threatened with impunity. The three cases show how the regime has abused its authority and violated the rights of several individuals with impunity.
In the case of Awingan and the leaders of the CPA, they were not informed by the prosecutor that a case was pending against them. and they did not undergo preliminary investigation. They only found out about the case when warrants were issued by Abra judge Corpus Alzate who issued the warrant on January 24, 2023. Where is the due process here? Why are prosecutors and judges allowed to proceed with this case when clearly due process was not observed? The accused were publicly known and had offices and addresses. Clearly, the intent was to effect their arrest with a non-bailable case before they could contest the charges.
In the case of Dr. Naty Castro, she had been arrested last year for trumped-up charges and was later released by the judge because her due process rights were violated in the filing of the case. The judge in the case said “No amount of reason, like what the prosecution raised that respondent is an NPA member and have no permanent address, would ever justify its non-issuance. A preliminary investigation without a subpoena being issued to the respondent is offensive to due process. Either intentional or a product of omission, the same produces a serious effect repugnant to respondent’s right to liberty.” Doc Naty has been designated as a “terrorist” by the Anti-Terror Council again without due process, no evidence provided, and no clear standards. It is witch-hunting, plain and simple. And this can be used against other critics of the regime, artists, development workers, just about anyone.
In the case of Ruben Saluta and his wife Presentacion and their companion Yvonne Losaria, the cases are again fabricated. Ruben and Presentacion were former political prisoners who were released after the cases against them were dismissed. They have been described as having retired from revolutionary work because of their age and health conditions. Despite this, state agents have not let up in their persecution of the Salutas.
The Supreme Court should again look into the practice of filing of cases against activists in remote areas without the respondents being notified via subpoena and without proper preliminary investigation. As correctly pointed out by the Bayugan City Region Trial Court Branch 7 in the case of Doc Naty, such acts are repugnant to the respondent’s right to liberty. The Supreme Court cannot let this gross violation of due process continue as it is an affront to the rule of law.
We call on the people to speak out and stand up against these latest attacks, to hold Marcos Jr. accountable for the continuing violations and to demand a stop to the persecution of dissenters and critics of the regime. ###