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Leila M. De Lima, Secretary, Department of Justice: Release Rene Abiva

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We, families, friends, fellow activists and human rights defenders, call for the immediate and unconditional release of RENE BOY ESMUNDO ABIVA.

On December 28, 2012, Rene Boy Abiva, 23 years old, married, residing in Tuguegarao City, an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the Cagayan Region and a volunteer organizer of the Alliance of Concerned teachers (ACT), was arrested by personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) near his place of residence.

The arresting officer who did not identify himself, and was with about seven men in civilian clothes, showed him a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Ester P. Flor of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 in Lagawe, Ifugao for a “Rene Esmundo Abiva” with address at “Groto, Meycauayan, Bulacan, ” for the charge of murder. Mr. Abiva later found out that the murder case was in connection to an ambush made by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Tinooc, Ifugao on April 2012 resulting to the death of soldiers from the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

His boss and co-workers from the DSWD Field Office II visited him where he was detained in Tuguegarao the day after his arrest to ask for his release and to testify that he is a staff of the DSWD since November 2011 up to the present.

At that time, Mr. Abiva is working as a Municipal Link of Baggao for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region 2. Also, he is a graduate student of Cagayan State University (MA in Social Science) and the provincial coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in Cagayan.

In his sworn statement, Mr. Abiva said that he was never an NPA member and definitely not involved in the said ambush he was charged with. He is now detained at the Ifugao provincial jail awaiting arraignment.

We believe that his arrest and detention is illegal and based on false charges. We believe instead that what happened to Mr. Abiva was politically-motivated and connected with the counter-insurgency program of the government called OPLAN Bayanihan which targets eliminating not only armed insurgents but also legal and unarmed, but perceived to be politically left-leaning, people’s organizations and personalities.

The recent wave of illegal arrests and detentions of political activists like the arrests made on two organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Randy Vegas and Raul Camposino in Metro Manila, is part of the implementation of this plan.

We condemn these actions and Oplan Bayanihan! We must put a stop to human rights violations such as these which victimizes the very people who have dedicated their lives to defend and advance the rights and welfare of our people, especially the poor. We will never allow martial and fascist rule to creep nor rise ever again in our country!

Hence, we reiterate our call and appeal to the government for the unconditional and immediate release of Rene Abiva and to uphold civilian and democratic rights of our people by junking Oplan Bayanihan.

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