Dear Secretary Guevarra,
I am writing to express my concern about the circumstances under which the offices of five activists from Tacloban City – Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Mariel Domequil, Marissa Cabaljao, Mira Legion, and Alexander Philip Abinguna – were raided, resulting in their arrest over charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. All five are active members of organizations involved in independent journalism, human rights, and environmental issues.
According to the activists, police and military officers raided two locations housing their offices at around 1 am on 7 February. They reported that the police and military officers pointed their firearms at them, asked them to leave their rooms, and conducted the search without any witness, all in violation of the proper conduct of searches as prescribed by Philippine law.
The five have also asserted that the police and military officers planted evidence against them, including firearms and explosives allegedly found on their beds. The activists maintain that, as a one-year-old baby lived with them, this would never have happened. I found it distressing to learn that the mother, who was among the five activists arrested, had no other option but to stay in detention with her child for three days until relatives were able to get her baby.
The planting of explosives and firearms is a widely-documented method to arrest activists on non-bailable charges and hinder the activities of these groups. Several groups in the country, including the groups to which the five arrested activists belong, have also been subjected to arrests and harassment after being “red-tagged” or accused of being fronts for communist groups without any clear legal basis. These activists are known for engaging in peaceful activities.
We therefore call on your office to promptly, thoroughly, impartially and effectively investigate these allegations made by the five activists and, if proven, to drop all charges against them, ensure the release of those still detained, and to hold accountable in fair trials those reasonably suspected to be responsible for the violations.
Thank you for your kind attention.