Karapatan demanded the release of two long-time peasant activists in Batangas, one of them a victim of illegal search during the March 7, 2021 Bloody Sunday raids in the Southern Tagalog region.

Erlindo “Lino” Baez, 53, spokesperson of BAYAN-Batangas, and Wilfredo “Willy” Capareño, 60, coordinator of Anakpawis-Batangas, were arrested at dawn of October 6, 2021 in a house where they were staying in Manggalang 1, Sariaya, Quezon, by around 50 elements of the Philippine National Police 1st Quezon Provincial Maneuver Force Company, Sariaya Municipal Police Station and the Provincial Intelligence Unit of the Quezon Provincial Police Office.

Baez is a land rights activist, who led peasants and fisherfolk against land grabbing and ecotourism projects in Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which affected thousands of poor communities. He was also a former human rights worker of Karapatan in the province.

He came from a family of activists. According to Karapatan Southern Tagalog, his son Ronilo is a political prisoner detained since June 3, 2010 on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the same charges he now faces. Ronilo was one of three activists arrested in Taysan. Edrean, another son, was a member of Anakbayan before he was killed by state forces on May 26, 2021 near Padre Garcia in Batangas in a supposed “encounter” between members of the New People’s Army.

Baez has been at the receiving end of threats and harassment by state forces, which forced him and his family to transfer residence a number of times.

Capareño is a long-time organizer of peasants in the province. In the last two years, the two have been assisting and organizing communities including those affected by the Taal Volcano eruption and those who needed assistance amidst the restrictive lockdowns due to the pandemic, They were continuing their work in Quezon, before their arrest.

In 2019, the military red-tagged Capareño and labeled him a member of the New People’s Army, and also threatened him with arrest.

The police allegedly found firearms and explosives in their possession, which both peasant leaders denied. They were charged in a court in Lucena City with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the usual charges against activists after the usual pre-dawn raids where accused decry police planting of evidence.

“The Supreme Court rules on the use of body cameras should have been strictly observed in this case. Were body cameras used in the arrest of Baez and Capareño? Were they allowed to witness the downloading of the recorded files by the police data custodian, 24 hours after they were taken? These questions are important in looking into these cases filed by the police against the peasant leaders,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Reports also said that Capareño has become a co-accused of Baez in the previous charge against him.

During the Bloody Sunday raids, Baez was not around when police searched their house in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, but the police declared they allegedly found firearms and explosives inside the house. This was the basis of the arrest warrant, issued by Judge Jose Ricuerdo Policarpio Flores of Regional Trial Court Branch 6, Tanauan City, Batangas, which was served against him last Wednesday.

“Despite the lack of basis, grave irregularity, and rights violations evident in those raids, the PNP went on to pursue Baez and used the said warrant based on false charges and planted evidence. The police shamelessly planted more evidence against Baez and Capareño to justify their recent arrest,” Palabay said.

In a statement issued by Baez after the March 7, 2021 Bloody Sunday raids, he said, “Bigong-bigo ang pwersa ng estado na patahimikin ako—palpak silang pigilan akong ipaglaban ang katotohanan! Nagawa man nilang pasukin ang aking bahay upang tamnan ng mga pekeng ebidensya at gawan ng mga gawa-gawang kaso ang aking sarili, hindi naman nila nagawang busalan ang aking bibig!

[The state forces failed to silence me. I will not be cowered to speak truth to power. They may have been able to raid my home and plant false evidence, incriminate me through trumped-up charges – but they can never silence me]

Nine were killed and six were arrested in the Bloody Sunday raids in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal.


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