A month of incarceration on a baseless arrest- Freedom still elusive for Mindanao missionary-teacher Amelia Pond
Manila, Philippines – After a month of detention of Amelia Pond, missionary and teacher of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Salugpongan Lumad schools, the church group reiterated its call for her freedom and challenged the Duterte administration to put an end to the political persecution of land reform advocates in the country.
Pond was arrested on August 19 in Cebu City by elements of the Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP – CIDG) after the group’s national assembly by using a warrant of arrest named for a different person “Adelfa Toledo” and charged her murder charges. She was detained at Camp Sotero Cabahug in the said city and after about two weeks was transferred at the Composetela Valley provincial jail.
“While President Duterte is busy working for peace in the country, our missionary is languishing in jail for a month due to crimes she did not commit. We urge the President to drop immediately drop the charges against her and release her unconditionally,” Sr. Ellen Belardo, RGS, national coordinator of RMP.
The Catholic group also denounced Pond’s illegal arrest where the police implanted fake ids named similar with their warrant. RMP asserted the legality of Pond’s identity who possesses her passport, senior citizen id card and id card from the Salugpongan Lumad schools and RMP.
“The government forces are using the old way of keeping progressives in jail, by fabricating witnesses’ affidavits,” Belardo said.
Based on the report of RMP – Southern Mindanao Region (RMP SMR), a joint affidavit from a certain Alberto Egagamo, Jaymar Gonzaga and Andro Bansag is accusing her of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). The prosecution has also amended its warrant information replacing the doubtful name with Pond’s.
“The president has released political prisoners for the peace talks with the NDFP, but his men added an innocent, church worker to the more than 500 in the country. He promised peace, not the perpetuation of human rights violations reminiscent of the Aquino regime’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” the church leader said.
Pond is the latest addition of imprisoned RMP missionaries such as Dominiciano Muya, arrested and in prison in Bukidnon since 2013 and Joel Yagao, in Misamis Oriental jail since 2014.
“If we don’t see any sign that Pond is to be released in the near future, we are left with no option but to raise her issue in the international community and even to the Vatican, to press the president to keep his word of working for peace, it is his duty to protect the rights of the innocent who are committing their lives to the marginalized, such as the Lumad indigenous people,” Belardo said.
“Lastly, though faced with the predicament of being object of government repression, we will continue our campaign and advocacy work to help the Rural Poor and will remain vigilant within our ranks as servants of the Rural Poor”, ended by Belardo. ###
The RMP is a national organization, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of women and men religious, priests and lay. We live and work with the peasants (farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers).