“The state continues to disregard the rights of organizers and mass leaders, right on the second anniversary of the Bloody Sunday Massacre.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SAN PABLO, Laguna – A coordinator for progressive party-list group Anakpawis was arrested by combined police and military elements, March 7.
Arnel Buiza, also known as “Kulit”, was arrested in his home in sitio Tibagan Extension, barangay Dolores, Tatay, Rizal at around 12:30 am, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan Rizal. The arrest was witnessed by the entire community, according to the group.
“The state continues to disregard the rights of organizers and mass leaders, right on the second anniversary of the Bloody Sunday Massacre,” Karapatan Rizal said in its statement. Video footage posted by Karapatan Southern Tagalog showed state forces forcibly entering Buiza’s home to serve a supposed search warrant, before the victim was forcibly dragged away.
Buiza is a local community leader, organizing workers and the urban poor in the area. He is also a leader of the community organization Task Force Aksyon, Disiplina, at Lunas (TF ADL) in Taytay.
Soldiers from the 80th Infantry Battalion are “harassing, threatening, and intimidating” the residents of sitio Tibagan, according to Karapatan Rizal. The heightened military presence, said the group, began shortly after the 2022 elections, where Buiza and other sitio Tibagan residents were active supporters of both the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem and slates fielded by the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan.
Since then, the military has reportedly launched activities under the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP), while also engaging in “red-tagging, profiling, and surveillance against community leaders such as Buiza.”
The RCSP is part of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s “whole-of-nation approach”, which uses community development and livelihood programs in order to supposedly curb the influence of what the inter-agency task force calls “communist front organizations.”
The circumstances of Buiza’s arrest echoes the simultaneous police and military operations conducted last March 7, 2021, which resulted in nine deaths and six arrests across the Southern Tagalog region, dubbed ‘Bloody Sunday’. Six of the victims and three of the arrests happened in Rizal province.
Much like the Bloody Sunday operations, Buiza’s arrest was conducted as a joint police-military operation for the purpose of serving a search warrant. It was conducted at an irregular time, and with an unclear basis for the arrest.
Buiza is detained at the CIDG Provincial Field Unit in barangay Padilla, Antipolo City. According to Karapatan Rizal, police are preventing Buiza’s family from visiting and are only allowing access by lawyers.
The residents of Sitio Tibagan condemned the arrest, and are considering filing legal action to assist Buiza, said Karapatan Rizal. The group is demanding Buiza’s immediate release and all charges against him be dropped. (RVO)