Labor groups, rights defenders slam terror charges filed against trade union activists –

July 10, 2024

Human rights and labor activists led by Defend Jobs Philippines (DJP), Kilusang Mayo Uno – Metro Manila (KMU-MM), and Karapatan – NCR, trooped to the Malolos Regional Trial Court to assail the terror charges filed against trade union organizers Rodrigo Esparago and Ed Cubelo on Wednesday, July 10.

The pair, along with 26 others, was implicated Ii a criminal charge filed by the 84th Infantry Battalion following a recommendation of the investigating prosecutor of Cabanatuan City to indict both for alleged violation of the Anti-Terror Act (ATA) of 2020. Legal representatives of Esparago and Cubelo were present to file their defense along with a motion to dismiss the case.

Lorevie Caalaman, the coordinator of Karapatan – NCR, stated that the case serves to be a test case mounted by the Marcos Jr. administration to secure warrants and detain activists and unionists.

“Esparago and Cubelo were to be indicted for a violation of ATA [2020] for allegedly participating in an armed encounter between the military and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Laur, Nueva Ecija on October 08, 2023. This is nothing but a lie perpetuated by the military! Clearly, they aim to deter Rod and Ed in their activism. Yet another deliberate attack to muzzle dissent sponsored by the heinous US-Marcos II regime,” said Caalaman.

Karapatan – NCR added that Esparago and Cubelo are longtime victims of red-tagging of the government. Esparago in particular, already suffered detainment along with journalist Lady Anne Salem on December 10, 2020, as part of the Human Rights Day 7. He was later released on March 5, 2021, a month after the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court quashed the search warrants issued against him and Salem.

Currently, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the government’s lawyer, appealed to the dismissal of their case to the Supreme Court, where it is still pending.

“Must we let the practice of hunting down activists and making them serve time in jail for fabricated charges continue? And what redress can they get for suffering these falsities? We call on the Supreme Court to review and junk the anti-terrorism law as we now see how the state plans to use it to stifle the people’s rights,” stated Caalaman. 

The groups asserted that the Malolos RTC should heed the declaration of the Supreme Court last May 08, 2024 on the dangers of red-tagging on people’s lives, liberty, and security.

“Dismiss the terror charges against Rod and Ed, and the other activists and unionists. These attacks are an affront to their dignity and safety and places their lives in grave danger. Drop the charges and junk the Terror Law!” concluded Caalaman.

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