Human rights alliance Karapatan called for the immediate release of Pastor Benjie Gomez, a minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in the district of Northern Zamboanga, who was arrested after his worship service last Sunday, June 6, on a trumped-up murder charge. Gomez is currently detained in the Leon Postigo Municipal Police Station in Bacungan, Zamboanga del Norte.
Gomez is the administrative pastor of UCCP Mutia, Zamboanga del Norte and a staunch advocate of the rights of the Subanen tribe. In 2014, he was arrested and faced similar trumped-up charges of murder and frustrated murder, which were later dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Gomez’s arrest came after reports on the trumped-up charges against UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction Area Bishop Hamuel Tequis and Rev. Daniel Palicte as well as the freezing of the bank accounts of the UCCP Haran Center and the arrest and detention of UCCP Pastor Dan Balucio in Sto. Domingo, Albay.
“The continuing persecution and judicial harassment against UCCP show the contempt of the current administration against those who work for and minister to the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged groups. The immediate release of Pastor Benjie and Pastor Dan and the dropping of the trumped-up charges against them, Bishop Tequis and Rev. Daniel is imperative as the unjust acts against them are driven by lies and violations on their right to due process,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Karapatan files reports vs recent red-tagging of its officers, leaders of groups
On the evening of Monday, June 7, five unnamed suspected State agents aboard a gray Innova vehicle with plate number ABP 1169 affixed sticker posters red-tagging known officers of Karapatan and other progressive organizations. The posters were seen along Matatag and Matiyaga Streets in Brgy. Central and Maginhawa Street in Brgy. Sikatuna in Quezon City.
Names and photos of Karapatan Chairperson Elisa “Tita” Lubi, Secretary General Palabay, and Deputy Secretary Roneo “Jigs” Clamor, as well as those of Movement Against Tyranny convenor Mother Mary John Mananzan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo, Secretary General Renato Reyes, and Spokesperson and former Rep. Teddy Casiño were included in the said posters. Other posters vilifying leaders of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Kilusang Mayo Uno were also spotted in areas near their national offices.
On June 9, Karapatan filed blotter reports before officials in barangays Central and Sikatuna and the Anonas Police Station regarding the said incidents. “We also call on Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte to help in the investigation of these incidents and to ensure the safety of the red-tagged individuals considering their workplaces are within her jurisdiction,” Palabay urged.
“This continuing red-tagging and vilification activities, driven by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, should stop as these puts the lives and security of individuals, groups and communities in danger,” she ended.