MANILA, Philippines — The raids conducted recently by the police against activist groups in Laguna and Central Luzon may also be a way to attack the opposition who would run against the Duterte administration’s opponents in the 2022 elections, party-list group Bayan Muna speculated on Tuesday.
“While these systematic attacks are still part of the Duterte administration’s warped and militarist campaign against progressive organizations, clearly, it is also aimed at serving a chilling message to the political opposition,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement.
“Since progressive groups are part of a broad coalition effort of fielding credible opposition candidates in next year’s polls, these attacks will apparently even intensify to cripple the opposition this early. We can see that the attacks are nationwide and targeting legal activists who are part of the Makabayan campaign machinery for the coming elections,” he added.
The Makabayan bloc dubbed the series of arrests of progressive leaders and organizers as “Huli Week,” a play on the Filipino word “huli,” meaning “to catch or to arrest” and “holy,” as it happens to be the Holy Week.
Earlier, reports came out that Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas vice chair Joseph Canlas and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Central Luzon leader Pol Viuya were arrested in separate operations.
Then just this Tuesday night, police raided the house of Kilusang Mayo Uno leader Marites Santos David, where the officers supposedly found a cache of firearms, similar to what happened in the Central Luzon operations.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna chair and former lawmaker Neri Colmenares said that it was very unlikely to seize firearms in the areas raided as the subjects of the search warrants were activists who were just critical of President Rodrigo Duterte.
He also noted that there should be no issue if the police would find his campaign materials and that of party-list groups in the areas searched. He said he believed that believes the activists had not done anything wrong.
“The report that a raid in the office of activist organizations led to the confiscation of guns and explosives is so absurd no court will give credence to the supposed evidence of firearms in these offices. These are activists advocating labor rights and highly critical of President Duterte and they do not have guns,” Colmenares claimed.
“The inclusion of election paraphernalia, insinuating my involvement is pure hogwash. People campaigning for candidates like me are not committing any crime. In fact, President Duterte should encourage people to involve in elections, even those who support opposition candidates,” he added.
Colmenares also shared Zarate’s observation that the raids are political in nature, aimed at laying a foundation for the 2022 campaign and elections.
“We will press for the accountability of police officers who repress dissent through the use of processes such as search warrants. We ask the Supreme Court to review this continuing abuse of legal processes to suppress dissent,” Colmenares said.
This was not the first time that Colmenares implied that red-tagging was being used a political tool to tarnish the Makabayan bloc and the reputation of the whole opposition.
In an exclusive interview with INQUIRER.net last December, Colmenares said that the red-tagging activities had become so prominent because the administration was trying to discredit the opposition.
Colmenares’ views were disputed by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Parlade said the military really had a basis to link Colmenares and other activists to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
In a separate INQUIRER.net interview, Parlade admitted that part of the military goal was really to get party-lists supportive of the communist rebellion banned. He said, however, that linking Colmenares and other activists to the CPP-NPA was not red-tagging aimed at silencing disssent.
He insisted that the progressive groups they belong to were enlisted by CPP founder Jose Maria Sison himself.
Red-tagging, as explained by an AFP top brass and a premier activist
2 Bayan leaders in Central Luzon held
Cops nab KMP chair, another activist in separate ops in Pampanga, Tarlac
Police raid house of KMU leader in Laguna, say guns, bombs, bullets found
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