Elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group illegally arrested seven activists at different places in Metro Manila on December 10 in conjunction with the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day.
Operatives simultaneously ransacked the houses of Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem, and trade unionists Dennise Velasco, Rodrigo Esparago, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate and Jaymie Gregorio, Jr. They were arrested and slapped with trumped up charges based on planted evidences of firearms and explosives. The search warrants used in the operations were all issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. The said judge is notorious for conniving with PNP Chief Gen. Debold Sinas in perpetrating numerous arrests in Negros and the National Capital Region. Progressive lawmakers urged the Supreme Court to investigate Villavert’s office for serving as a “warrant factory” against activists.
The incident was met with widespread condemnation as an attack against press freedom and the right to unionize. Manila Today is among the organizations that was red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in a recent Senate hearing for publishing stories that are critical against the regime. The unionists were arrested for being active in the campaign against contractualization in big companies such as PLDT, Jollibee, Regent, Super 8, Pepsi and others.
Red-tagged Doctor, killed in Negros
A doctor who was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was gunned down by the regime’s death squad on December 15 in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. The victims was identified as Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, head of the local task force against Covid-19 and the only doctor in the city health office. Her husband, Edwin, who was accompanying her on the way home, was also killed.
Before the murder, Sancelan was repeatedly red-tagged by Kagubak, an anticommunist paramilitary group under the operational command of the police and military in Negros. In 2018, she was falsely tagged as JB Regalado, spokesperson of the NPA-Central Negros. In 2019, Sancelan issued a video statement expressing fear for her safety but decided to stay in the province to continue to serve the people.