Four years ago today, 57 leaders and members of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers, and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were unjustly arrested and charged by the Duterte regime using politically motivated search warrants. This violent abuse of power, aided by a corrupt judiciary and military, was a part of the violent Oplan Sauron, a failed attempt to break the resistance of the Filipino masses and their solidarity with the New People’s Army (NPA). Despite the government’s unsubstantiated and hypocritical accusations of armed activity, the “Negros 57” were in reality advocating for farmers’ rights, social justice, and true national democracy.
The last of the Negros 57 finally made bail this July, after languishing in jail for years on trumped up ‘non-bailable’ charges of human trafficking. This included Albert dela Cerna and his daughter Karina Mae dela Cerna, who was only 19 at the time of arrest. They were allowed to post bail due to the courts finally acknowledging the weakness of the “evidence” used for the warrants. However, they and many activists continue to face imprisonment on these and other illegitimate charges.
Under the current Marcos-Duterte regime 20% of the country’s political prisoners are held on Negros, a number that skyrocketed under Duterte, with the human rights alliance Karapatan reporting nearly 600 arrests of political prisoners by the end of Duterte’s term. The red tagging and incarceration of activists has continued under the Marcos regime. Karapatan reported in June 2023 that “nearly 800 political prisoners in the country are living proof of the persisting… political repression under the Marcos Jr. administration.”
CPSO stands in solidarity with the Negros 57 and calls for the immediate release of all the political prisoners targeted by the Duterte-Marcos regime under false charges when in reality they were simply advocating for land and national liberation that threatens the current violent capitalist exploitation of the Filipino people.