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Bounty for Tiamzon and Austria, a one-time bigtime organized racket – Karapatan

March 26, 2014

QUEZON CITY – “Mukhang pinagkakakitaan pa ng gobyerno at militar ang iligal na pag-aresto at pagdukot ng mga peace consultants, mga aktibista at ordinaryong sibilyan,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the 10-million peso bounty each for the arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

“The Aquino government’s practice of criminalizing political acts to cover up the illegal arrests of peace consultants, activists and civilians is legitimized by the highly questionable Joint memorandum 2012-14 of the Department of National Defense and of Interior and Local Government,” added Palabay.

Karapatan called the reward system as ‘one-time, big-time’ organized racket of the DILG and the DND and the list, a “secret hit list” akin to Gloria Arroyo’s Order of Battle.

The said hit-list carries the name of 236 alleged communist leaders with total reward money of P426 million for their capture. It was the same list that legitimized the illegal arrest, torture and detention of security guard Rolly Panesa, whom the military alleged CPP-NPA leader “Benjamin Mendoza” for P5.6 million. The money was awarded by the AFP to an unidentified person.

The same violation, Karapatan said, was committed against Oligario Sebas, a farmer from Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, who was also jailed because the AFP’s claimed he was “Felimon Mendrez”, allegedly a CPP leader in Negros.” The AFP said Sebas had a P5.2 million bounty on his head and was on the said list.

Also, the said DND-DILG Joint Order was used to legitimize the enforced disappearance, illegal arrest, and detention of Estelita T. Tacalan, a 60-year old peasant organizer and rural health worker in Misamis Oriental. Tacalan was reported missing on April 27, 2013 and was surfaced more than a week later at the Dipolog City Jail.

Tiamzon and Austria, with P10million each for their capture are in the said list, among other detained and missing peace consultants.

“The reward/bounty system is dangerous because it can be used to justify the victimization of any person so the military and police may get the reward money," Palabay said.

In earlier statements, Karapatan lambasted the joint memorandum saying “it is no different from the secret hit list of Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya which resulted to thousands of cases of human rights violations ranging from illegal arrest and detention, enforced disappearances and political killings.”

Karapatan called for the scrapping of the DND-DILG’s secret hitlist saying the “AFP should also be held accountable for squandering the people’s money to violate people rights”.