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'This is vintage martial law practice'.

THE REVIVAL of the trumped-up charges against former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and peace consultants in talks with the government, including Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and recently arrested Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, signals the intensification of the Left's political persecution by the Aquino administration.

These were the same charges hatched by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (Ialag), which was deemed by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston as a means by which the government prosecutes and punishes "enemies of the state." While the Ialag was abolished, thanks to human rights groups and the international community, the policy and practice of filing trumped-up criminalized charges continue under the Aquino administration.

Karapatan has documented 570 cases of illegal arrests and detention from June 2010 to December 2013; and 427 political prisoners, as of December 2013, including 152 persons arrested during the current Aquino presidency. Almost all of these cases, like those of the detained consultants of the National Democratic Front, are criminal charges spuriously filed based on highly questionable evidence and fabricated testimonies.

Leaders of people's organizations in Negros, for instance, are constantly threatened with fabricated criminal charges by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Under the Aquino administration, the assault on political dissenters through the filing of trumped-up charges is on the rise. In an attempt to silence opposition, they make up all sorts of charges using the wildest of their imagination.

How the police and military have arrested, demonized and dealt with the latest political prisoners Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria and their five companions, and the arrest of the late Ka Roger Rosal's daughter, is vintage martial law practice. The "planting" of evidence has been a long-standing practice of the police and military, extensively used during martial law. Until now, they use this to justify illegal arrests and detention. They also exploit the use of John and Jane Does, even aliases, to charge anyone as respondents to a case.

Circumstances of arrests and detention are highly anomalous, and the so-called evidence improbable. Human rights lawyers describe the circumstances cited in the trumped-up charges as beyond human experience-like the soldiers' testimonies that they identified the respondents from alleged military encounters where they supposedly saw the faces of the accused.

Trumped-up charges are obviously meant to stifle the freedom of movement of political dissenters. This is the bigger crime. The Aquino administration should stop silencing its critics, or its regime is bound to face bigger protests for violating human rights here and there.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 21, 2014
Words:424
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