The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) strongly condemns the illegal arrest and detention of 13 church and development workers last July 4 at the Mother Francisca Spirituality Center in General Santos City, South Cotabato.
Elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military barged into the room where the 13 development workers were conducting a project assessment for the turnover of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente – Visayas Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD) Integrated Development Program to the Diocese of Libertad. They served a warrant of arrest for three persons who were unknown to the group members.
Among those arrested were Aldeem Yanez (IFI), Jomorito Guaynon (Kalumbay), Ireneo Udarbe (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas), Vennel Chenfoo (Kabataan Partylist), Kristine Cabardo (League of Filipino Students), Roger Plana (VIMROD Volunteer), and Teresita Naul (Karapatan). They were then detained at Camp Fermin, General Santos City.
The following day, July 5, charges of obstruction of justice were filed against 11 of them while the charges against the two are not yet known.
IFI-VIMROD is the social development arm of the Visayas-Mindanao Bishops Conference of IFI.
The illegal arrest and detention of the 13 development workers is an affront to the church legacy of social action in the country. It is an injustice to development workers whose commitment and voluntary services in poor and marginalized communities has continued despite threats of political repression.
Development workers have always followed the lead of people’s organizations and can be found where these organizations are – in communities of peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, and urban poor. They address people’s issues of land, wages, rights and freedom.
The illegal arrest and detention of the Gen San 13 is wrong and unjust. What has happened to our society that rewards commitment and working with the poor and oppressed with illegal arrest and detention?
ASCENT thus, demands the immediate release of the Gen San 13 and all political prisoners. It also calls for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), where the causes of poverty and lack of genuine development in our country can be seriously tackled.