Monday, October 6, 2008

Groups denounce criminal raps vs 27 Southern Tagalog activists

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna–Leaders of militant groups on Thursday denounced the filing of criminal charges against 27 activists in Southern Tagalog.

Marlo Timbreza, security specialist of Globe Telecom Inc., filed the complaint at the Batangas Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (BPPO), charging the activists with arson, crimes involving destruction, and conspiracy to commit rebellion.

Timbreza also alleged that they were involved in burning a Globe cell site in Lemery, Batangas, on Aug. 2.

Asked by the INQUIRER to elaborate on his charges, Timbreza refused to answer and instead directed it to call his superiors at the head office, without specifying who.

Bani Combrenero, regional coordinator of the party-list group Bayan Muna, claimed that the government was behind the filing of the complaint as part of its anti-insurgency campaign and crackdown on activists.

“After failing to silence militant organizations through extrajudicial killings, the Arroyo [administration] has resorted to filing trumped-up charges,” Cambronero said.

He said eight of the 27 respondents were abducted and detained in Silang, Cavite, by the Calabarzon police on Aug. 31 but were released after they failed to file charges against them.

Cambronero is among the 27 respondents. The rest are Rolando Mingo, vice president of PISTON (Pinag-isang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide); Noriel Rocafort, secretary general of Bayan-Batangas; lawyer Remigio Saladero, founding member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL); Agaton Bautista, Anakpawis-Batangas provincial coordinator; Renato Baybay, Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite chair; and Isabelo Alicaya, haligi ng mga Batangeñong Anak Dagat chair.

The BPPO formally released on Aug. 12 the memorandum of preliminary investigation through assistant provincial prosecutor Esmeralda Andaya.

The 27 claimed, however, that they had not received a subpoena informing them about the complaint.

Cambronero said the group “learned about the complaint by accident” on Sept. 30. He said he got the information from a Bayan Muna member who had inquired about another complaint filed with the prosecutor’s office.

Lawyer Jobert Pahilga, a member of the NUPL who the 27 respondents had consulted, said the documents pertinent to the case should have been sent to them immediately after the memorandum of preliminary investigation was released.

Cambronero said they were “clueless as how the initial investigation was conducted since they were not even notified.” Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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