Human rights alliance Karapatan decried the arrest of Antonietta Setias Dizon, former deputy secretary general of government workers’ union Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), on September 17, 2019 at around 11:50 PM. Contrary to reports, Dizon is not a “top NPA leader”, but is instead a union organizer for several years. Past incidents of harassment against her and fellow COURAGE members back in 2015 are well-documented, indicating that despite retirement, human rights workers still continue to be government targets.
“The fascist state is showing its desperation in jailing activists through blatant red-tagging and the filing of falsified charges based on flimsy claims and planted evidence. Activists, unionists, organizers, and peace consultants left and right are being thrown behind bars or killed as part of the government’s coordinated efforts to crackdown on its staunchest critics. The arrest of Antonietta Setias Dizon is the latest in the series of the government’s attacks. The military is quick to brand this recent arrest as the downfall of an alleged “NPA leader,” when in truth, the victim is a union organizer,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor said.
Dizon, 60, was taken at her residence in San Pedro, Laguna by combined elements of the Provincial Intelligence Branch of the Laguna Police Provincial Office, San Pedro City Police Station, 1st Laguna Provincial Mobile Force Company, Regional Intelligence Division of the Calabarzon Police Regional Office, AFP Joint Task Force NCR, and 202nd Brigade and 2nd Mechanized Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division and Civil-Military Operations Regiment. Dizon was sleeping with her grandchildren when armed men forcefully entered into her home at around 11pm on September 17, 2019 . She was with her 10-year-old and 1-year-old grandkids – both of which had high-powered guns pointed at them.
She was arrested based on trumped-up charges of murder in Bayugan, Agusan Del Sur and illegal possession of firearms and explosives. She is currently detained at the San Pedro City Police Station.
“Other members of COURAGE were likewise arrested because of trumped-up charges and a warrant released by a court in Caraga, Mindanao, with the victims astounded on their inclusion in the alleged case. This becomes particularly ludicrous when the victims reveal that they have not set foot in Caraga. Their arrest is sealed with the planting of evidence, allegedly found after a “search” in their residence or their belongings. This “search” is code for “an opportunity to plant evidence and easily manufacture more charges against activists”. It’s an old and dirty tactic that has been revamped with the creation of the PNP-AFP Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) in 2017,” Clamor explained, linking the recent arrests of human rights defenders with the work of IACLA.
Dizon had already been a target of various incidents of military harassment, from being threatened by a military agent to being the subject of surveillance and tailing by a sports utility vehicle (SUV). On July 14, 2015, Dizon, along with other COURAGE leaders, filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo and Writ of Habeas Data in the Supreme Court; later that afternoon, she was again tailed by the same SUV, forcing her and her sister to seek sanctuary at the office of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Ortigas, Mandaluyong out of fear of being abducted, or worse, killed by agents surrounding the building. Four years later, military agents seem to have finally succeeded in arresting Dizon, who is now the latest former COURAGE staff to be detained following the arrest of couple Rowena and Oliver Rosales and Juan Alexander “Bob” Reyes last year.
The Karapatan official emphasized that Dizon is not an NPA leader: “This is the trend of their recent arrests. Either they falsely brand human rights defenders, or they stage a play wherein military agents “surrender” or “be subjected to arrest” as alleged CPP-NPA leaders. Whatever lies they are peddling, they are far from solving the root causes of the armed conflict. They can stage these tricks all they want, but arresting human rights defenders and hiring actors will not bring them closer to their targets. Instead, it merely shows their rottenness as desperate liars who are funding a circus – with no substantial change to society.”
“This is not a mere arrest but a targeted attack against unionism. Karapatan calls for the immediate release of Antonietta Dizon and 545 other political prisoners in the country who have been wrongfully accused and detained for raising legitimate demands and exposing human rights violations. The Duterte government is busy with their PR stunts, even as big-time drug lords, murderers, rapists, and plunderers are given a backdoor. If the Duterte regime thinks that it can silence activists and critics through illegal arrests and trumped-up charges, it is grossly mistaken; by further exposing the state’s rotten, corrupt, and vindictive core, they are only giving the people more reasons to resist its tyrannical rule,” Clamor ended.