Arrest of peace consultant, activists in Himamaylan denounced
National Democratic Front-Negros (NDF-Negros) in a statement today convey its vehement condemnation over what it bared as an unlawful arrest of its peace consultant Ramon M. Patriarca along with two youth peace advocates and activists in Himamaylan, Negros Occidental yesterday morning by joint military and police operatives.
Patriarca, was apprehended together with John Michael Tecson and Carmen Jonahville Matarlo in a farm workers’ community situated in Sitio Tondo, Barangay Suay. The said area is adjoined by large swathes of haciendas owned or linked to the former feudal kingpin Danding Cojuangco.
This reprehensible incident constitutes a flagrant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) which gives protection to all consultants, staff and personnel involve in the peace process from arrest, surveillance and other similar measures that may hamper their work, according to NDF-Negros spokesperson Ka Bayani Obrero.
“Contrary to the dimwitted interpretation of the Duterte regime, the JASIG is still in effect despite the suspension of formal peace talks. It can only be rescinded by a bilateral process clearly stipulated in the agreement itself and not by mere whim and unilateral decision of a deranged president,” Ka Bayani added.
Ka Bayani explained that Patriarca was in the area to conduct an in-depth study on how these immense Cojuangco estates were exempted from land redistribution, what were the schemes utilized to circumvent existing agrarian reform laws and programs and how these impacted the lives of farm workers. The study aims to contribute to the second substantive agenda of the peace talks which is the crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER).
“He tapped the skills and experience of Matarlo and Tecson for this project. Matarlo is renowned activist in Cebu with significant experience in the conduct of social investigation. While Tescson has wide range of practical experience on various issues confronting hacienda workers being a community organizer. On the day they were unjustifiably arrested, they were holding a meeting to discuss research methodology”, Ka Bayani said.
As per records, Patriarca was arrested in Consolacion, Cebu in 2009 for rebellion but subsequently acquitted for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Matarlo and Tecson, on the other hand, are no strangers to state attacks.
Matarlo was closely monitored and repetitively red-tagged as the previous chairperson of Anakbayan-Cebu. In 2017, she was seriously wounded when the police-backed goons of a despotic landlord in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental ambushed the fact-finding mission team she was leading that investigated the abuses of said landlord.
In the same year, Alberto Tecson, the father of John Michael and erstwhile chairperson of the Guihulngan branch of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, was gunned by 79th IB death squad.
“The barrage of cases against Patriarca are obviously trumped-up. How come 16 criminal cases were simultaneously issued warrants without single notice and proceeding. It must come from the warrant mill of the AFP-PNP akin to the one they employed in Sauron operations. The planted weapons and other fabricated evidence are now the hallmark of so-called joint law enforcement operations,” Ka Bayani further said.
NDF-Negros calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Patriarca and the other two detained activists. It maintains that the military and police have no legal basis and justifiable ground to keep them in detention.
“We urge the Commission on Human Rights and other human rights organizations to conduct an independent probe on the incident and help protect the rights of the arrested. The probability of them being tortured and assaulted to compel confession is high,” Ka Bayani ended. ###