AN environmentalist and human rights advocate has been arrested at a police checkpoint in Ilocos Sur while on board a bus on his way home from Candon City.
Sherwin de Vera, coordinator of Defend Ilocos, a network of environmental advocates in the Ilocos Region, has been facing charges of rebellion that were filed in Abra in September 2014.
De Vera said, however, that the charges were all fabricated.
Police said de Vera was temporarily detained Tuesday night at Camp Elpidio Quirino in Barangay Bulag in the town of Bantay and would be transferred today, Wednesday, to the Provincial Jail in Bangued town in Abra.
De Vera’s Defend Ilocos played a key role in leading the Save the Abra River Movement against the continued operations of the Lepanto Mining Company, which was reportedly affecting downstream communities in Ilocos Sur.
It also co-organized the People’s Summit against the planned exploration activities of Cordillera Exploration Co. Inc. in Cervantes town in Ilocos Sur and was involved in mobilizing and organizing against the proposed setting up of a coal-fired power plant in Luna town in La Union province.
“My arrest is a testament of Duterte’s crackdown on political dissent. The lurking martial law and tyranny is now at hand. Our democracy, our democratic rights are now in clear [and]present danger. We must rise up and oppose this tyranny,” de Vera said in a text message.
Meanwhile, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), in a statement demanding the immediate release of de Vera, said, “We express our utmost indignation over his illegal arrest.”
Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalaikasan-PNE, said this is not De Vera’s “first brush with the fascistic authorities” and that prior to his arrest, he was already receiving threats and intimidation from the military due to his work.
“His [Sherwin de Vera] arrest shows how the Duterte regime’s intensifying crackdown on perceived political dissidents affects environmental advocates as well,” Dulce said.
He said the arrest threatens to send a chilling effect on other environmental advocates who dare stand up against natural resources plunder and government negligence and indifference to people affected by environmental problems and issues.
“We demand his immediate release and the junking of the trumped-up charges against him. We call on our fellow environmental advocates to unite and resist the creeping dictatorship of the Duterte regime,” Dulce said.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), an independent federation of grassroots-based organizations among indigenous communities in the Cordillera, has also strongly denounced the arrest of de Vera.
“The unwarranted arrest of Sherwin de Vera and the intensified attack on peoples’ democratic rights nationwide strongly manifests the tyranny prevailing over our lands and the people must unite to fight,” the CPA said in a statement.