“Karapatan demands the immediate release of Sherwin De Vera. The use of trumped-up charges to jail human rights defenders is among the Duterte regime’s cheap ploys to silence genuine opposition,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the arrest of Sherwin De Vera.
Human rights group Karapatan reported that on December 12, 2017, at around 6:30pm, elements of Philippine National Police (PNP) led by a certain Supt. Medrano illegally arrested Sherwin De Vera, regional coordinator of Defend-Ilocos Network for the Environment and convener of Amianan Salakniban. De Vera was on his way home to Bantay, Ilocos Sur. De Vera was forced outside the bus he was riding, and shouted: “Ako si Sherwin De Vera, aktibista, regional coordinator ng DEFEND Ilocos, ina-aresto nang walang warrant of arrest.”
[I am Sherwin De Vera, activist, regional coordinator of DEFEND Ilocos, arrested without a warrant.]
De Vera was forced to alight the bus, handcuffed and a warrant of arrest bearing a charge for rebellion was shown to him.
De Vera was riding a bus bound to Candon when police nabbed him. He is now currently detained at Camp Elpidio Quirino, Bulag, Bantay, Ilocos Sur, facing charges of rebellion.
“We demand his immediate release and the junking of the trumped-up charges against him. We call on our fellow environmental advocates to unite and resist the creeping dictatorship of the Duterte regime,” said Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment in a statement.
De Vera is coordinator of Defend Ilocos, a regional environmental network in Ilocos affiliated with Kalikasan People’s Network, and a former human rights worker of Karapatan.
According to environment group Kalikasan, Defend Ilocos is a network of environmental advocates in the Ilocos region. Defend Ilocos played a key role in leading the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM), which led the protests against the detrimental effects of the continued operations of the Lepanto Mining Company on downstream communities in Ilocos Sur. Defend Ilocos also co-organized the People’s Summit against the planned exploration activities of Cordillera Exploration Co. Inc. (CEXCI) in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur. The group is also involved in mobilizing and organizing against the proposed setting up of a coal-fired power plant in Luna, La Union. They also participated in various activities in connection with the recent Sandugo Lakbayan of the National Minorities here in Metro Manila.
“We, journalists in the Cordillera, condemn the unlawful arrest and illegal detention of Sherwin De Vera, and, most of all demand for his immediate release and freedom from detention now! And the dismissal of all trumped charges maliciously filed against him,” said Northern Dispatch Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Kathleen Okubo in a statement.
Karapatan, Kalikasan and Northern Dispatch Weekly reported that De Vera has been on the receiving end of threats, intimidation and other forms of harassment before his arrest.
Northern Dispatch Weekly reported that on July 18, De Vera had been tailed by unidentified men while he was going around on some errands in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. The following day, unidentified men believed to be military agents went to the University of the Northern Philippines (UNP) in Vigan and asked De Vera’s whereabouts from the people he visited the previous day.
“Our colleague, a respected columnist writer of the Northern Dispatch Weekly, was arrested without warrant on the bus on his way home from work even when he demanded it. This is reminiscent of the abuse of power by government people of authority during Martial law especially the police,” said Okubo.
According to Kalikasan’s data, at least 42 environmental defenders have been killed, 241 have been filed with trumped-up charges, and more than 18,000 have been forcibly displaced by militarization.
Karapatan’s data meanwhile showed that as of November, 121 new political prisoners were jailed in the time of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, using perjured testimonies, defective warrants, and false charges.