Progressive groups condemn ‘trumped-up’ charges against CMC alum

Progressive groups condemned the arbitrary arrest and trumped-up charges against Bakwit school teacher and UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) alumna Lorena Sigua, denouncing the Duterte administration’s crackdown on activists.

Sigua was arrested in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan on Sept. 19. This comes after she was tagged as the primary suspect in killing military men Bebot Bayong Sag-ob and Jerald dela Cruz Giron at Agusan del Sur in 2018, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office 3. The city police office also red-tagged her as a finance officer of the New People’s Army.

Human rights group Karapatan said that Sigua is experiencing “psychological torture and systematic harassment” under detainment due to sustained interrogations by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the PNP without the presence of her legal counsel.

The 1987 Constitution guarantees that a person under investigation will have the right to competent and independent counsel, under Article III, Section 12. Without due process of the law, “no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense.”

Human rights group Karapatan denounced Sigua’s illegal arrest.

“Since her arrest, state forces have repeatedly threatened and coerced Sigua, in clear violation of her rights,” added Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay adds that Sigua wasn’t notified of her Miranda rights during her arrest. The PNP Manual requires police to inform the person under arrest of their Miranda rights, or their right to remain silent and right to an attorney.

Sigua was also forced to put a phone call with her lawyer on loudspeaker, a violation of her attorney-client privilege or confidentiality between Sigua and her legal counsel.

Sigua’s belongings were also confiscated “despite lack of basis to obtain them.” Police said they would return the items only if human rights lawyer Jobert Pahilga would turn himself in. 

Pahilga is one of the founding members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers. He testified during a November 2020 Senate hearing on the alleged red-tagging by military officials.

Karapatan said that Sigua was forced to identify “persons she doesn’t know.”

“We urge a stop to the filing of trumped-up charges in courts, leading to unjust arrest and detention. As long as Duterte and his minions remain in power, they will also continue to make a mockery of justice and of our rights,” Palabay said. “This has to end now.”

Immediate release

In a Sept. 28 statement, the UP CMC Student Council (CMCSC) denounced the trumped up charges against the college’s alumna.

“Isinasalegal nito ang markadong taktika ng estado na gamitin ang mga berdugong pulis upang takutin at busalan ang sino mang mangangahas na magsalita laban sa abusadong rehimen at tumitindig kasama ang masa,” the CMCSC said. 

In a Facebook post, the Amado V. Hernandez Resource Center (AVHRC) and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines called for Sigua’s immediate release. 

“We call on the people of conscience everywhere to protect her and many others who have been detained for their political beliefs,” the AVHRC added.

Sigua worked as a production manager for the AVHRC, conducting cultural workshops and organizing workers.

This is not the first time Bakwit School teachers were illegally arrested. Volunteer teachers Chad Booc and Roshelle Porcadilla, along with five individuals, were detained following a joint raid of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the PNP in Cebu last February.

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Booc and Porcadilla faced kidnapping and illegal detention raps, which the Davao Del Norte Prosecutor’s office dropped in May due to lack of evidence. Booc is one of the petitioners who challenged the unconstitutional Anti-Terrorism Law before the Supreme Court.