Seized union organizer was held, interrogated incognito then presented as ‘rebel’ – KMU

February 24, 2018 - 10:26 AM
Detail from a KMU poster demanding freedom Marklen Maojo Maga.

MANILA, Philippines — Detained union organizer Marklen Maojo Maga was illegally arrested, driven around blindfolded and denied access to his relatives and counsel as he was interrogated for several hours Thursday, a day before police presented him to media as a supposed communist rebel and then subject to inquest, again without a lawyer, the Kilusang Mayo Uno said.

The labor center, in a statement on Saturday, accused the Philippine National Police of “spreading fake news, fake charges and planted evidences against the 39-year old union organizer, who it said was “abducted” by plainclothes state security agents as he played basketball with neighbors on Colorado Street, Greenland New Townhomes, San Mateo, Rizal after bringing his son to school Thursday morning.

Maga is the son-in-law of Rafael Baylosis, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, who was also arrested recently in Quezon City and charged with what human rights groups have described as “trumped up” charges of illegal firearms possession based on planted evidence.

KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis said the same tactic was used on Maga and that police “planted the firearms allegedly seized in his bag.”

The KMU also called the murder charges against the union organizer as “fake” because it “involved an incident in Agusan del Sur, where Maga has never been to as he has long been a union organizer in the port area of Manila, in factory belts in Valenzuela and in special economic zones in Central Luzon” and, before that, a student activist at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

It said at least eight men grabbed and handcuffed Maga then forced him into a white Hi-Ace van with the license plate VH 1410, which was accompanied by another car and motorcycle.

“Maga was illegally arrested, without any standing warrant against him. At the time of his abduction, he was not informed of why they were taking him or what charges were being leveled against him,” it said.

“A quick check into the plate number of the white Hi-Ace van revealed that it is registered to a different vehicle,” the KMU said. The driver of the vehicle, who logged in a the subdivision guardhoue as Ken Estocado Flores, “introduced himself as a policeman,” it added.

Although there were several eyewitnesses, including Maga’s basketball playmates, they were warned against informing his wife. It was only around noon when one of the witnesses finally told her.

Maga was finally allowed to contact his family around 5 p.m., almost 10 hours after he was seized, but when his lawyers and a team from KMU and youth group Anakbayan saw him at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group detention facility in Camp Crame, they were “not presented with any charge sheet or warrant against him.”

It was during Maga’s interrogation in Crame that “one of the police officers presented to him a photograph of a half-cocked .45 caliber” and seven bullets, and told the weapon was his. Maga denied this and refused to sign documents presented to him.

“At the time of his abduction, Maga only had in his possession a basketball, a backpack with an airpump for his bike and his bicycle,” the KMU stressed. “All were confiscated by the police.”

Early Friday afternoon, Maga was presented by the CIDG as an alleged member of the executive committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ National Youth and Students Bureau, National Organizing Division, then taken to the Department of Justice for inquest.

“His lawyer was not informed and was not present during the inquest proceedings, where trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms were reportedly filed against him,” the labor center said.

According to police reports, elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – National Capital Region, Internal Security Division and Intelligence Group of the Philippine National Police, and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted the said operations against Maga.

“Organizing workers is not a crime,” the KMU’s Adonis said. “Maga’s abduction and arrest is clearly trade union repression. The PNP is spreading fake news, filing fake charges and planting fake evidences to criminalize Maga who has actively been organizing workers to assert their rights against Duterte’s tyrannical rule.”