Members of various progressive groups picketed in front of the Supreme Court to support Alexandrea Pacalda’s family and legal counsel as they filed a habeas corpus petition this morning. They also called for the immediate release of Pacalda.
Pacalda, a 23-year old human rights worker and former campus journalist, was nabbed in Quezon last September 14 and is still under the custody of the 201st Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based in Calauag town.
Karapatan reported that Pacalda was abducted in General Luna Town. The group assailed that Pacalda has been arrested without warrant and has been detained for nine days without any charges.
Pacalda’s father Arnulfo, visibly emotional, spoke briefly in front of their supporters before proceeding to the Supreme Court to file the petition.
“Gusto ko lang naman ng anak ko tumulong sa mga magsasaka. Masama ba ‘yon?” he said.
[My daughter only wanted to help the farmers. Is that bad?]
Karapatan came out with a clarification on Pacalda’s arrest on September 16. The group decried that acts of torture, including psychological torture, remain a prevalent practice of the police and military despite laws passed criminalizing torture. The case of Pacalda is also a case of forced surrender, also a prevalent practice of police and military, according to the group.
Pacalda’s statement revealed that she underwent mental torture and was coerced to sign an affidavit of a ‘rebel returnee’.
She also came out with a short video message short video message disaffirming the military report and denying that she surrendered.
The PNP on September 16 replied to a tweet of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines that Pacalda voluntarily surrendered.
Magandang umaga po! Ms. Alexandria Padilla Pacalda voluntarily surrendered to the Government, through the General Luna MPS. It was properly documented and witnessed by her father and brother, and Ms Alexa is now under the custody of 201st Brigade PA.
— PNP Tweets (@PNPhotline) September 16, 2019
The Philippine News Agency, meanwhile, reported on September 16 accounts of the group “Hands Off Our Children”, a group of parents against youth activism and speaking against activist groups, on the arrest and a photo of a family reunion inside the military camp.
“[I]t’s really heart-warming to see the parents reunited with their daughter after she surrendered to the troops in Quezon province. It’s been a while that the family of Alexa doesn’t have the idea of her whereabouts until she surfaced to the troops. This is a classic example of how the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) destroyed the family,” said the group.
Other media reports said the military filed criminal charges against Pacalda before the Provincial Prosecutors Office at the Regional Trial Court in Lucena City on Saturday.
Inquiries from Pacalda’s lawyer said that the case slapped is for illegal possession of firearms, but the prosecutor has not processed the case and is not yet valid. The charges were also filed after six days of Pacalda’s detention in the military camp, making the arrest illegal and the detention arbitrary.