MANILA - The series of arrests of a journalist and community organizers on International Human Rights Day is aimed at striking fear, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
“I think the message clearly is to strike fear in to so many people, that we can pick up anybody that we want,” said lawyer Kristina Conti.
Manila Today editor Lady Anne Salem and trade union organizer Dennise Velasco were arrested on Thursday as part of the police campaign against loose firearms and explosives, and criminal gangs.
“From what we're seeing, the police tied up all these cases as supposedly an operation against a criminal gang and this is unacceptable considering that we haven’t really gotten all the records of the case,” said Conti.
In an interview on ANC’s Matters of Fact, Conti said the police have been evasive and have not given them anything other than the search warrant for Velasco.
Conti said they only learned about the warrants against Salem, Romina Astudillo and the others when Velasco’s case was referred to them.
“What’s common about all these people we’ve realized is that most of them are community organizers, people who’ve worked in communities. For example Dennise Velasco, he was the one I first assisted, just worked in Marikina relief operations with Defend Jobs trade union organization, and then of course there is Lady Ann Salem, we call her Icy, she’s actually a friend. She graduated from UP MassCom and she’s a community journalist,” she said.
Velasco, she said, is held at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group's office in Camp Karingal, Quezon City, while Salem is in Bicutan, Taguig.
“In Lady Ann’s case, they have even avoided talking to us and have not owned up to whoever is her custodial authority,” she said.
Several firearms, ammunition and a grenade were allegedly found in Velasco's house. They maintained that the evidence were planted.
“For Lady Anne, we have no idea. Police have not been very cooperative. Now they took Icy (Salem's nickname) to Bicutan. They said she has to undergo quarantine. So we have not had access to Icy since 4:30 p.m. as of yesterday,” she said.
Conti said that they will be going to court to ask for Salem’s release if they still could not access her within 36 hours.