Bishop calls for independent probe on mass arrests

BISHOP Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Negros Occidental has called for an independent investigation into the mass arrest of individuals tagged as members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

In his "Pastoral Appeal", Alminaza called on authorities to launch an independent probe on the simultaneous raids in the offices of some progressive groups in Bacolod City last week due to alleged "irregularities".

"We, therefore, join the call for an impartial investigation of these arrests, for due process and the rule of law to be upheld," said Alminaza.

He said an independent probe is necessary because of the reported irregularities that occurred in the said arrests.

He questioned why only one judge from Quezon City issued numerous search warrants for the advocacy groups’ offices in Luzon and the Visayas.

The prelate also noted how individuals and the media were supposedly asked to step outside during the search, thus, having no witnesses during the search.

"We express our alarm of these unfortunate incidents that aggravate the culture of fear and silence in our island of Negros," said Alminaza.

If such actions are disregarded, the bishop warned that it would only result in continuous "red-tagging" activities by the authorities.

"We are alarmed (by) these arrests of members of 'red-tagged' organizations since most of those summarily killed in the Negros island were also 'red-tagged'," said Alminaza.

More than 50 activists were arrested in simultaneous raids of the offices of progressive groups in Bacolod and Escalante in Negros Occidental on October 31, including some minors.

Charges of illegal possession of firearms and qualified trafficking were filed against 42 persons. Of the total, 32 have been released and the charges against them dismissed. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)