Free Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza Campaign
Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza are victims of trumped-up charges concocted by the police and military, consistent with President Duterte’s crackdown on progressive activists, human rights defenders, and development workers, and labeling them as ‘terrorists’.
Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza have spent almostall of their lives in the service of the poor and marginalized sectors of society.
On October 19, 2017,Benito Quilloy, convenor and senior consultant of Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), and his staff Rita Espinoza, were arrested by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Intelligence Serviceof the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Both of them arrived at La Carlota, Negros Occidental for a two-day consultation on October 14-15 with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), a partner organization of ASCENT. Quilloy’s team was consulted by NFSW on the issues and situation of sugar workers in Negros, such as the adverse effects of government importation ofhigh fructose corn syrup on sugar workers. The consultation also included workshops and planning on the campaign of sugar workers for a 50% wage increase and with regard to the existing pakyaw rate.After, Quilloy and his companions stayed at La Carlota until October 17 for apost-consultation meeting with NFSW. On that day, a fellow development mangement consultant arrived, and was also engaged by the NFSW to provide some input on the economic projects for the sugar workers.
The team was set to depart on October 19 and was heading to Dumaguete where they will go on their separate ways for their respective schedule. Around noon, they stopped by Ting Ting’s Native Restaurant in Kabankalan to have their lunch. At 1:30 pm,approximately 10 armed men wearing white t-shirts with the letters “CIDG” printed on them suddenly appeared outside the restaurant. Some of them were wearing shorts and masks and pointed their guns at the victims who were about to leave and board their vehicle.
Quilloy and Espinoza were brought to the Police Regional Office -Negros Island Region at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City. They were separately detained inside the CIDG office where their mugshots and fingerprints were taken. The two were later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Allegedly, Quilloy has a warrant of arrest for murder and multiple attempted murder case issued on April 2017 by Agusan del Sur RTC Branch 7. On the other hand, Espinoza is accused by the CIDG and the AFP of arson and murder.
On October 21, at around 11 pm, the two were clandestinely taken out of Camp Montelibano, without notice to their lawyers. They were flown to Camp Crame in Quezon City where they are currently detained. Two days later, former PNP Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa paraded Quilloy and Espinoza in front of the media, alleging the two as Louie Martinez and Aurora Cayon who were said to be high ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army (CPP – NPA).
Clearly, Quilloy and Espinoza are victims of trumped-up charges concocted by the police and military, consistent with President Duterte’s crackdown on progressive activists, human rights defenders,and development workers, and labeling them as ‘terrorists’.
In 1970, Quilloy took up BS Sugar Technology in the University of the Philippines Los Baños. It was during that time that he became part of the core group that revived the UPLB student council. He was also a member of the Samahan ng Makabansang Siyentipiko (SMS) and helped in the re-establishment of UPLB Chemical Society and became President in 1975. He was also part of the group of students who founded the Junior Sugar Technologists Society of the Philippines. Along with other students, he too helped establish the Ecological Society of the Philippines in 1978. He also became a member of the Folk Medicine Society of the Philippines.
For his practicum which lasted for a semester, he went to Silay City in Negros Occidental where he organized the sugar mill workers and exposed their dismal working conditions. He also tried to work with the local priest to further improve the conditions of the sugar mill workers.
During the 1980s, Quilloy decided to work as afull-time organizer in the Science and Technology sector. He was a member of the Filipino Alternatives in Science and Technology (FAST) from 1986 to early 1990s. From 1995-2000 he served as a consultant to NFSW. He assisted the farm workers on how to conceptualize, plan and implement socio-economic projects. He was also a member of AGHAM from 1999 to 2001, helping to mobilize students and professionals for people’s issues.
In 2001 to early part of 2007 he served as a volunteer consultant for the Advocates for Community Health (Advocates), which provided free health services to rural communities particularly those affected by infectious diseases.
In 2011, Quilloy was part of a group which brainstormed, conceptualized, planned and implemented a program for the elderly, the Tahanan ng Pag-asa (TNP). He has been serving as their consultant up to the time of his arrest. He was also instrumental in the formation of ASCENT in 2014, aiming to protect the rights of development workers and campaign for the defense of socio-economic projects of local communities.For her part, Rita Espinoza has served as a church lay worker during the latter part of 1970s. She has also worked in many farmers’organizations in CARAGA from 1979-1993. She also served as a volunteer staff ofthe Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), of TNP from 2010-2014, and ASCENT in 2014 until her arrest.