2 human rights defenders in Quezon face "terrorism financing" charges

This article is available in Pilipino

Defend Southern Tagalog condemned what it called a fabricated case filed against two young human rights defenders in Quezon this April. The group said they only learned on April 8 that criminal cases on violation of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 were filed against Paul Tagle, spokesperson of Tanggol Quezon, and Fritz Labiano, coordinator of Kabataan Partylist in the province.

On February 23, the Department of Justice issued a preliminary investigation resolution recommending that the two be charged.

“[Tagle] and [Labiano] were not aware that there were complaints filed against them, having received no subpoena nor notice for preliminary investigation,” Defend Southern Tagalog said.

The group said the case filed against the two pertains to an incident when they helped political prisoners Rowena Dasig and Miguela Piniero in July 2023. In a statement by Kabataan Partylist Quezon, the 85th IB accuses the two of “terrorism financing” after allegedly giving ₱500 and food to political prisoners.

Dasig and Piniero were arrested by the 85th IB on July 12, 2023 in Purok Banaba, Barangay Caridad Ibaba, Atimonan, Quezon. An arrest warrant was issued against them, and six others, on July 18, 2023 for violating the Anti-Terrorism Act.

They were then conducting an investigation on the impact of the planned construction of a cycle gas turbine power project and a liquefied natural gas terminal plant in that area. The project that is being constructed by the Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (A1E), a subsidiary of Meralco PowerGen Corp, will severely affect copper miners and fishermen in Atimonan.

“The charges against [Tagle] and [Labiano] are yet another desperate attempt by state forces, particularly the 85th IB, to silence human rights defenders and force us to stop serving the oppressed,” Defend Southern Tagalog explains.

The group asserts that providing aid to political prisoners is neither a terrorist act nor a crime.

In addition to helping Dasig and Piniero, the two young human rights defenders also helped other political prisoners. They served as participants in humanitarian missions and fact-finding missions in the province of Quezon that expose the 85th IB and other state forces for crimes and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

AB: 2 human rights defenders in Quezon face "terrorism financing" charges