House minority bloc calls for end to crackdown vs activist groups

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2019 05:47 PM

MANILA - The House minority bloc on Wednesday condemned the ongoing crackdown on activist groups like the Makabayan bloc, the opposition, and critics of the administration.

“To paraphrase Voltaire, we in the Minority may not always agree with what our friends in the Makabayan bloc say, but we will always defend their right to say it. In a democracy, everyone has roles to play. An active and productive opposition is part and parcel of a dynamic and vibrant democracy. As someone who has been in both the Majority and the Minority, I have come to appreciate this. We urge the authorities to respect the rights of the progressive groups and to respect the rule of law,” said House Minority leader Rep. Bienvenido 'Benny' Abante Jr. in a press conference. 

In a democratic country, Abante said whatever ideology is espoused by individuals and organizations, as long as they act within the framework of the law, should be respected and protected."

"I speak for the whole Minority in saying that the Makabayan bloc is a productive and dynamic part of the House Minority and together we properly perform our role as a credible fiscalizer of the administration," he said.

He said the minority bloc stands united in condemning attacks on members of the Makabayan bloc. They also demanded that such attacks, which have no place in a democracy, must be stopped immediately. 

Last October 31, simultaneous raids and mass arrests were conducted by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-6 and the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), Joint Task Force-Negros, and Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) on the offices of Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Gabriela Negros Center at Barangay Bata, Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Barangay Taculing, and another office in Barangay 33. 

Guns and explosives were reportedly planted as more than 50 activists were arrested on allegedly trumped-up charges.

The arrests were made a day before the All Saints' Day holiday, preventing the accused from posting bail for the alleged crimes.

The other night, Reynaldo Malaborbor, a Makabayan coordinator in Southern Tagalog, was shot dead around 9 p.m. by an unidentified gunman in front of his house at Cabuyao, Laguna.

Police also raided a BAYAN office in Tondo, Manila as well as arrested 3 activists in the office. 

The same Quezon City Regional Trial Court judge issued the search warrants for the raids in Bacolod City and Manila. 

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdie Gaite said the process has been highly questionable. Gaite said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas and former congressmen Neri Colmenares and Ariel Casilao went to Negros to help conduct a fact-finding mission.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago insisted that organizing to ventilate their grievances is not a crime.