MANILA — Relatives and supporters of the labor activists and journalist who were arrested on International Human Rights Day (HRD) last year filed on Wednesday complaint-affidavits before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over what they regard as irregularities in the operations conducted by authorities.
In their letters addressed to CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon, the relatives narrated the supposed illegal arrest by policemen on Dec. 10 last year using what they describe as unjustified search warrants issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Cecilyn Villavert.
They also complained about the alleged illegal detention of the so-called HRD 7, planting of evidence by operatives, and red-tagging by officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict before the arrests.
“Unyonista at journalist ang HRD 7. Wala silang ibang ginagawang krimen kundi ipagtanggol ang mga karapatan ng mga manggagawa,” said Ella Durana, wife of labor activist Mark Ryan Cruz who is among the 7.
(The HRD 7 are union members and a journalist. They did not commit any crime but were only fighting for labor rights.)
The group also pointed out that the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court already junked journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade union organizer Rodrigo Esparago’s illegal possession of firearms and explosives cases, a reason why they should be immediately released.
WATCH: Groups slam arrests made on International Human Rights Day
Salem and Esparago were arrested on the strength of search warrants issued by Villavert, who also issued search warrants in 2019 that led to the arrest of around 60 individuals in Manila and Bacolod.
The five other unionists arrested on Human Rights Day last year - Cruz, Dennise Velasco, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., Romina Astudillo and Joel Demate - were also captured on the basis of Villavert's search warrants.
All said that the search warrants were served at dawn and that authorities spent time inside their houses to allegedly plant evidence before declaring the start of the actual search.
“Ang search warrant na inisyu ni Judge Villavert ay dapat ibasura, dahil in general, ang ginawa ng mga pulis ay labag sa due process. At the minimum, i-review ang lahat ng search warrant na inilabas, i-audit ito ng Supreme Court,” Bayan Metro Manila Chairperson Mong Palatino said.
(The search warrant issued by Judge Villavert should also be junked, because what the police did violated due process. The search warrants already issued should be audited by the Supreme Court.)
Gascon told ABS-CBN News in a text message that a team of investigators from the CHR will look into the complaint and will give the respondents a chance to reply.
"Tulad ng lahat ng natatanggap po naming mga complaint affidavit mula sa sino man ay bibigyan pansin po ito ng aming team of investigators, at bibigyan ang mga tao na nirereklamo sa complaint ng pagkakataon sumagot," he said.
"Pag natapos ang proseso ay magbibigay po kami ng rekomendasyon sa kinauukulan ng karampatang aksyon," he added.
(When the process is finished, we will issue our recommendation to proper authorities for appropriate action.)
To symbolically ask for the immediate release of all 7, the group released 7 doves during a short program at the CHR in Quezon City before the filing of the complaint-affidavits.
- with report from Ronron Calunsod, ABS-CBN News
Human Rights Day-7, HRD 7, Lady Ann Salem, Rodrigo Esparago, Commission on Human Rights, CHR, Chito Gascon