Peasant groups decry illegal arrest of leader

Peasant groups are calling for the release of a farmer leader from Southern Tagalog, who they said was illegally arrested by police based on trumped-up charges against him from 20 years ago.

Antonio "Tony" Pajalla, 54, was arrested at a police checkpoint in Catambo village, Catanuan, Quezon province on Aug. 12, and is now detained at the Philippine National Police office in Macalelon town. Police said the arrest was based on a rebellion case filed against him in 1995.

Pajalla is the national vice chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), regional vice chairperson of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), and provincial coordinator of Pinag-isang Lakas ng Magbubukid sa Quezon (Piglas-Quezon).

On Aug. 12, the KMP called on the PNP to surface Pajalla when they failed to trace his whereabouts after he called and said he was being arrested by Macalelon police and was to be brought to Gumaca town.

"The police did not show any warrant when they arrested Ka Tony, and have now shown any to his colleagues," said Orly Marcellana, Kasama-TK secretary general, in a statement.

Marcellana called Pajalla's arrest "a traitorous act by PNP-Quezon," carried out amid the ongoing preparations for the release of detained peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Pajalla was on his way to Catanauan, Quezon to prepare delegates for the assembly of coconut farmers for the Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa AMIN (CLAIM) campaign, to be held in Lucena City on Aug. 18.

Marcellana said Pajalla's arrest was meant to harass the 20,000-strong organized farmers in Bondoc Peninsula, that are leading the campaign for the return of the P246 billion ($5.28 billion)coco levy campaign, and various struggles for their right to land.

"The peasants of Southern Tagalog call on the Duterte administration, and to Quezon Governor (David) Suarez to immediately release Antonio Pajalla, and to stop political repression and attacks on peasants who are only fighting for their rights and genuine agrarian reform," Marcellana said.

Source: Bulatlat