At the first hearing on the charges filed against peace consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio, rights alliance Defend the Defenders Network (DDN) held a picket protest in front of the Quezon City Hall of Justice to demand Suaybaguio’s immediate release.
Suaybaguio was arrested on August 26 in a condominium in Quezon City. She was charged for violating the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device for guns and explosive said to have been found where she lived, the police using a search warrant. DDN said evidence were “planted.”
She has turned 60 inside the Women’s Dorm of Camp Karingal that had very restrictive conditions, such as limited hours and days of visit and only for relatives, according to DDN. Suaybaguio, who suffer various health difficulties, also could not get her own food supplies inside detention.
“Sanay na ang rehimen ni Duterte sa pagyurak sa mga karapatang pantao natin at ang mga nagtatanggol para dito. Pinapakita niya sa publiko na ang mga iligal na inarestong aktibista, human rights workers at peace advocates ay mga kriminal at nagpapatupad ng mga batas tulad ng Oplan Kalasag at ang Executive Order 70 na McCarthy-inspired,” said Raymond Palatino, lead convenor of DDN pointed out.
[The Duterte regime is adept at trampling our human rights and those who defend human rights. It presents illegally-arrested activists, human rights workers, and peace advocates to the public as common criminals and enacts orders that restrict the political rights of the people such as Oplan Kalasag and the McCarthy-inspired Executive Order 70.]
Suaybaguio is covered by the the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as second consultant for Mindanao. The DDN emphasized that peace consultants under JASIG are supposedly guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation thus Suaybaguio’s arrest is a clear violation on this.
“Walang katotohanan ang mga kinaso nila kay Suaybaguio at parte lamang ng ugali ng gobyernong magtanim-ebidensya sa kaniyang mga mamamayan na nagsusulong ng tunay na kapayapaan,” says Erika Cruz, Kabataan Partylist second nominee.
[There is no truth on the charges they filed on Suaybaguio and was all part of government’s tradition on planting of evidences to those who fight for the genuine peace.]
DDN said “planting of evidence” has become the pattern in the arrests of activists and peace consultants, instantly putting them in jail and most times without bail. The group also assailed the charges filed against activists and peace consultants as “trumped-up charges” as a way to criminalize any form of criticism and dissent.
Some of these charges, such as those against peace consultant Raffy Baylosis in 2018, were dismissed and Baylosis walked free after months in jail.
The group also challenged the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Janet Abergos-Samar to be rational and fair in Suaybaguio’s case.
“Hindi krimen ang aktibismo, hindi krimen ang tumindig para sa karapatang pantao at hindi krimen ang maghangad ng pagbabago at kapayapaan sa ating bayan,” Palatino ended.
[Activism is not a crime, defending human rights is not a crime and to desire changes and lasting peace for our country is not a crime.]