/ 4 May 2021

A LAWMAKER on Monday called on the government to stop attacks on youth activists.

ACT Teachers Rep.  France Castro sought the immediate release of 12 activists who were arrested in Zambales province on May 1.

Castro said that those arrested were members of the League of Filipino Students, College Editors Guild of the Philippines Central Luzon, Manila Collegian and a driver.

Police forces blocked a van carrying them while they were enroute to Angeles, Pampanga to join a Labor Day protest.

Castro also condemned the arrests of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Dan Balucio and Anakbayan Naga City Spokesperson Sasah Sta. Rosa in the Bicol region on Sunday.

“We vehemently condemn another series of human rights violations against activists in Zambales and Bicol last May 1 and May 2,” the lawmaker said.

Castro said that those arrested in Bicol are facing trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms.

Meanwhile, she claimed that the Zambales 12 are being forced by the Philippine National Police to sign documents declaring that they are members of the CPP-NPA.

“Wala nang ibang ginawa ang administrasyong Duterte kundi manakot, mang-aresto sa gawa-gawang kaso at pumatay ng mamamayang Filipino na pinapanawagan lamang ang sapat at kagyat na ayuda para sa mga manggagawang apektado ng krisis sa palpak na pagtugon sa pandemya, sapat na solusyong medikal at respeto sa mga batayang karapatan ng bawat mamamayan,” Castro added.

“These people do not carry firearms, weapons or guns. They are activists, students, journalists, and human rights defenders. They are not terrorists. They carry with them the demands of the Filipino people for adequate aid, medical solutions, higher salaries, job security and better access to social services,” the lawmaker said.

Castro stressed that the continuing attacks against activists, journalists, lawyers, teachers, the youth and many others give face to the use of the Anti-Terrorism Act to stifle dissent, free speech and press freedom.

“Instead of strengthening our healthcare system and solving the worsening economic crisis in the country, the Duterte administration would rather strengthen the police power and intensify its military solutions that only further delay the delivery of aid to those who most need it,” she lamented .

“Now more than ever, wage subsidies and adequate aid for our workers, who are our economic frontliners must be prioritized by the Duterte administration. Immediately release the Zambales 12, Dan Balucio and Sasah Sta. Rosa and stop the attacks against activists,” Castro said.