October 21, 2010

“Criminalization of the peasants’ exercise of their right to land and their right to organize is a dangerous indication of the rabid anti-peasant and anti-people character of the Aquino government.”

Thus said Fr. Dionito Cabillas, Secretary General of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), as the organization of former political prisoners today joined thousands of peasants in a march-rally at Manila. The activity is a culmination of a two-week Lakbayan of peasants led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) from Southern Tagalaog, Bicol, Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley, despite heavy rains the past days.

Cabillas said there are already four peasant victims of illegal arrests, trumped up charges and detention under the Aquino government. They are Dario Tomada, a former peasant leader of SAGUPA-SB (KMP Eastern Visayas), Darwin Liwag, Vice Chairperson of the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK, KMP Southern Tagalog) and two staff members Reynaldo Malaborbor and Aries Cuazo who are from the same organization.

Tomada was illegally arrested on July 22 on charges of murder, based on a case against Prof. Jose Maria Sison, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, and others. He was tortured and is currently detained at Camp Caringal in Quezon City. Liwag and his colleagues were arrested recently on October 5, based on accusations of their membership in the New People’s Army (NPA) and illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Liwag recently attended a protest rally on September 23 and spoke at a press conference on September 29 in Quezon City, as both activities are part of the Lakbayan.

“Fabricated charges are being hurled against peasant leaders who are very vocal in condemning the continuous landgrabbing, deception and displacement of peasants, and land conversion under the new administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. This is a clear sign that the Oplan Bantay Laya, the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo administration, is being pursued under the Aquino government. It is thus no surprise that such an anti-peasant and anti-people position is being carried on by a haciendero president,” Cabillas asserted.

SELDA is calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners including the forty three health workers known as the Morong 43, Tomada, Liwag, Malaborbor and Cuazo. They are likewise supporting the demand of the peasants for the release of all peasant political prisoners such as Felicidad Caparal, an organizer of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Eddie Cruz, a member of KASAMA – Rizal, the Antipolo 4 (Rizal), the Talisay 3 (Batangas), the Cadiz 4 and the Guihulngan 2 (Negros). They likewise called for the release of Myrna Cruz, a former teacher and consultant of peasant organizations in Cagayan Valley, who was arrested on March 6 on charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms and violations of the COMELEC gun ban.

“Without the freedom of all political prisoners, the current administration has miserably failed in proving its loud but empty claims on adherence to human rights principles,” Cabillas ended.

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