Political activist illegally arrested after GRP’s “cancellation” of peacetalks with the NDFP
Join us in condemning the illegal arrest of Ferdinand Castillo, political activist and campaign officer of Bayan Metro Manila. Castillo is among the activists and civilians arrested after the President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the government unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) and the “cancellation” of the peace talks of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Castillo, suffering from a heart ailment, adds to the number of political prisoners in the Philippines, and should be immediately released on just and humanitarian grounds. Known plunderers like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Juan Ponce Enrile are given special treatment and released on “humanitarian grounds” while activists who have dedicated their lives in service of the marginalized sectors of society remain behind bars. As of January 31, 2017, there are 387 political prisoners, 121 of them have various illnesses. Let us call for the immediate release of Ferdinand Castillo and of all political prisoners who remain in jail for trumped-up charges.
The practice of filing trumped-up charges against members and leaders of progressive organizations continues as a policy and practice of the State in an attempt to silence progressive organizations and communities.Duterte’s Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) continue to criminalize the work of political dissenters, activists and human rights defenders, enabled by state policies and US-driven counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan. Join us in calling for an end to the practice of filing trumped-up charges against activists and human rights defenders and for the withdrawal of Oplan Kapayapaan.
ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT
On February 12, 2017, at around 10am, Ferdinand Tagudar Castillo was in Brgy. Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan City to consult with the workers of Liga ng mga Manggagawa sa Central Caloocan (LMCC) on the campaign against contractualization and higher wages for workers. After the consultation, he boarded a tricycle. Around 4pm, when he was already near the 7/11 Store, which was in front of a tricycle terminal, he saw two Toyota Innova vehicles going towards his direction. The vehicles stopped in front of a nearby Puregold Supermarket. Castillo identified the plate number of one vehicle with plate number AAG 9850. It was the same vehicle that was involved in an incident in 2015, when men onboard the same Toyota Innova chased and harassed him from Sta. Rosa, Laguna to Pasig City.
Ten (10) men in civilian clothes, believed to be combined elements of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), Intelligence Service Group-Philippine Army (ISG-PA) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) were inside the vehicles. Three men approached and grabbed him, and then handcuffed and blindfolded him. They brought him inside one of the vehicles. Two men sat in the seats beside him and another one sat behind him. Castillo was interrogated for an hour and his Nabel shoulder bag was searched. The perpetrators said that they were instructed to apprehend Castillo. They pretended to solicit information from Castillo on the reason why he was ordered arrested.
The men covered Castillo’s mouth with their hands and strangled him, while he struggled to breathe. He told his captors that he has trouble breathing and their actions may preempt another stroke given his heart problem. One of the men told him to calm down and said that they will bring him to a hospital if he does end up suffering a stroke. They also told Castillo that the person beside him is a nurse.
The perpetrators said that they received information that Castillo was seen near a church in Sta. Quiteria, which prompted them to arrest him. A laptop and an external hard disk, flash disks and cellphones were seized from Castillo.
Castillo repeatedly asked them about their names as arresting officers, the charges against him, and where he will be brought, but the men told him that he will know when they get to the place and that they will pass by a hospital because Castillo said he is sick. Castillo asked them if the AFP and Duterte know about his arrest. His arresting officers said: “Di ito alam ni Duterte. Utos ito ng nakakataas (Duterte does not know anything about this. These are orders of our superiors).” The men added: “Wala na ang peacetalks (Peacetalks are over).”
At this time, since his captors arrested him, Castillo was not shown any warrant nor apprised of his rights.
After an hour inside the vehicle and while still blindfolded, Castillo suspected that he was inside Camp Crame. He thought that he will be brought to the hospital because he informed his arresting officers that he has rheumatic heart disease and hypertension. At around 5pm, he was brought to a room at the third floor of a building and was made to wear headphones.
A few minutes later, the interrogation continued. Two persons sat beside him, taking turns in asking him questions. They were soliciting information on the reason why he was ordered arrested, on why he was in Sta. Quiteria, on where he will go, if he has a wife and child and their whereabouts, on where he finished his studies, and his residence. He was being forced to admit that he is the so-called “Party Secretary” of the KR-MMR, and that he should “retire” with his wife.
After a while, a person who did not identify himself went inside the room and told Castillo that he knew him. He was asked the same questions. Castillo denied any knowledge of all the accusations against him, and instead stated the circumstances why he was in Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan. The officer threatened Castillo to answer his questions so he would know what to do with him. He also said that Castillo’s life depends on him, that nobody knows where he is, that he should tell him everything that he knows or else he will kill Castillo and hurt his family.
Castillo insisted on his right to contact a legal counsel, as he continued to ask the charges against him and for them to remove his blindfold. The officer told him, “Wala kang karapatan, wala ka sa posisyon para magdemand (You have no rights, you are not in a position to demand anything).”
Castillo added that he is involved in the peace talks and he worked with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Renante Gamara and Adelberto Silva. The police officers also asked him on the whereabouts of Gamara and Silva, but Castillo did not answer.
At around 9pm, Castillo was brought inside a cell at the first floor of the CIDG office, where other common criminals were also detained. During this time, his blindfold was taken off.
At around midnight, CIDG personnel woke him up and asked him to fill up forms on his personal information. His fingerprints were also taken. He was shown a warrant of arrest dated September 8, 2016 issued at RTC Branch 63 at Calauag, Quezon for purported charges of doublemurder and multiple frustrated murder. He was asked to sign a document with an inventory of the things allegedly seized from him, including a .45 caliber gun and ammunitions. Castillo refused to sign the said document, stating many of those stated items, including the gun and ammunitions, were not his belongings. He asked the CIDG personnel if he can call his office and his lawyer, but the officer told him he would have to ask permission from his superiors. His mug shots were taken and then he was brought back to the detention cell.
At around 3am, CIDG personnel woke him up again, put handcuffs on him and brought him to an office where a male and female staff checked and took pictures of his abdomen, front and back. Castillo told them to check his blood pressure because he has rheumatic heart disease, rectal bleeding and history of two strokes, but the staff members told him that it was not their job to do that. Castillo told them to relay his request to those in charge and that he demands medical attention. Afterwards, he was brought back to his cell and was able to sleep for around 30 minutes. He woke up at 5am.
At around 9am, a CIDG personnel asked him for the contact numbers of the offices he wishes to call. He wrote the organizations BAYAN, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), Karapatan, and Raymond Palatino and Christian Yamzon of Bayan Metro Manila as his contact references. He requested that the contact numbers be searched through the internet because his cellphone was seized from him. At 10am, he was able to get the number of the NUPL office but nobody answered the phone. He told the CIDG to contact the other organizations. At 10:10am, he was able to speak to Rita Baua of Bayan national office, to whom he briefly narrated his experience and situation. He asked for support from lawyers and paralegals. At 12 noon, Karapatan paralegals were able to talk to Castillo at the CIDG office.
At around 2pm, Castillo was brought to Caloocan City Prosecutor’s Office for inquest proceedings, assisted by Atty. VJ Topacio of NUPL, and paralegals from Karapatan and Bayan Metro Manila. With the assistance of his counsel, he signed a waiver of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code to allow the police to present a complainant that will positively identify him as the owner of the alleged gun and ammunitions.
Castillo is currently detained in a small cell at the CIDG office in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Ferdinand Castillo was a youth activist at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, where he graduated with a BS Math degree. He was a member of the League of Filipino Students and the Gamma Sigma Pi Fraternity. Castillo became one of the founding members of Kagimungan, an organization of UP students from Cagayan Valley, which supported the plight of farmers in Hacienda Sta. Isabel and San Antonio in Isabela province in 1981.
In 1984, he co-established the Cagayan Valley Human Rights Organization, a member organization of the Northern Luzon Human Rights Organization and the Social Action Center in Ilagan, Isabela. He also helped in establishing the chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Isabela in 1985. He organized the caravan of Cagayan Valley peasants to Malacanang in 1986, in relation to the GRP-NDFP peacetalks then.
He was a campaign officer of the Bayan chapter in Manila, from 1997 to 2007, then of the Bayan Metro Manila chapter from 2007 to present. The campaign against the demolition of urban poor homes in Tondo, military operations in Metro Manila communities, the privatization of public markets in Manila, and the hero’s burial of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos were among the campaigns spearheaded by Castillo. He was also engaged in the organizing of workers and vendors in Metro Manila.
Ferdinand’s wife, Nona Andaya-Castillo, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a known infant and young child feeding specialist.
He has also volunteered his computer and research skills for Nurturer of the Earth, a support group established to promote earth-friendly parenting and lifestyle. Upon the initiative of Ferdinand and Nona, breastfeeding trainings were initiated among urban poor women in communities in Metro Manila.
Castillo is afflicted with rheumatic heart diseaese, gout and hypertension.
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate investigation of the illegal arrest of Ferdinand Castillo to be conducted by an independent body;
2. The immediate release of Ferdinand Castillo;
3. The release of all political prisoners who remain behind bars for trumped-up charges, especially the sick and elderly;
4. An end to the practice of filing trumped-up charges against members and leaders of progressive organizations;
5. The junking of Oplan Kapayapaan which is similar to previous counter-insurgency programs which targetted civilians and members of progressive organizations;
6. The Philippine Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, political and religious beliefs and practices and the right not to be punished or held accountable for the exercise of these rights, and the right to free speech, press, association and assembly; and
7. The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.
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H.E. Rodrigo Duterte