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Government accused of rights office break-ins

Series of robberies raise activists' suspicions

Government accused of rights office break-ins
Activists protest against rights violations and harassment. (Photo by Arkibong Bayan) reporter, Manila

February 25, 2013

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Rights group Karapatan and other activist organizations today condemned a recent series of break-ins at their offices, describing the incidents as part of a "rising and systematic forms of state repression and harassment of government critics."
In a letter submitted to the Interior Department on Monday, the groups said the incidents were made to appear as "common crimes" but were actually targeted attacks on activists.
Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo, spokesman of the Philippine National Police denied allegations that police intelligence operatives might be behind the incidents and vowed to take action.
"We will investigate incidents like these regardless of who the victims or the perpertrators are," he said. He urged the groups to report any incidents. 
There have been 12 cases of break-ins of houses of activists, peace advocates, or offices of leftist organizations in the past 12 months, according to Bayan, another rights group.  
The most recent, on February 14, was at the offices of the Bayan and Karapatan chapters in Metro Manila. Desktop and laptop computers, data storage devices, cameras, and mobile phones were taken. 
Bayan spokesman Renato Reyes also cited the case of student activist Nikki Gamara whose laptop computer was stolen in March 2012. 
What seemed to be an ordinary case of theft turned suspicious after Gamara's father Renante, a consultant for the rebel National Democratic Front, was arrested days later on allegedly trumped-up charges, Reyes said. 
Reyes said the offices that have reported break-ins are those of the women's party Gabriela, the Health Alliance for Democracy, the Parents Alternative for ECCD Inc., and the Salinlahi Alliance for Children's Concerns. He described the frequency of the incidents as "unprecedented, and not seen even during the [previous] regime."
Kristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, said personalities involved in peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels have also been victims of robberies in recent weeks.
"The attacks against persons involved in the peace process derail and undermine the peace negotiations between the [communist rebels] and the government," she said.
"It appears that intelligence operatives are gathering more data on government critics as a prelude to possibly more attacks, especially during the election season," she added.
She said the attacks seem to be part of a military operation against organizations accused of being "fronts" of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army.
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