The Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) decries the illegal arrest of Sherwin De Vera, a staunch environmental activist and development worker, last December 12, 2017 by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) at Bulag, Bantay, Ilocos Sur.
De Vera was riding a bus which was flagged down at a checkpoint. He was then approached by the police inside the bus, was identified, and told that he was being invited to the headquarters. A warrant of arrest was not shown to him when he was apprehended. He is now detained at Camp Elpidio Quirino, Ilocos PNP regional headquarters. De Vera was only shown a document regarding a rebellion charge issued on September 4, 2014 filed in Bangued, Abra.
De Vera is the regional coordinator of Defend Ilocos, an environmental organization advocating against black sand mining in the region, and a researcher of the Katinnulong Daguiti Umili ti Amianan Inc – Regional Development Center (Kaduami-RDC), a member of ASCENT. He is serving as the regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Partylist in Ilocos and a member of its National Council.
Incidents such as these that involve the harassment, illegal arrest, and extrajudicial killings of progressive activists are being perpetrated by state forces on a daily basis since the pronouncement of Pres. Duterte against what he calls “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). With this recent crackdown, the government must realize that the poor and marginalized sectors are the most affected since they are being prevented from receiving the services provided by these development workers and their projects.
Environment defenders such as De Vera who help rural communities in their campaigns against foreign owned mining companies are usually victimized by state security forces who guard these corporations. The government does not realize that the plunder of the country’s natural resources have grave effects on the people’s health, their food security, livelihood, and further aggravates climate change.
Thus, the political persecution against progressive activists, development workers, human rights defenders, and peasant leaders must be immediately stopped, and their humanitarian work should be recognized by the State, instead of being vilified.