State forces tried to pick up an urban poor leader but were arrested and brought to question by the villagers

ILOILO City – Two state forces around 10 o’clock this morning failed to abduct urban poor leader Wilfredo Panuela, a senior citizen at 65 years old, from his home at Brgy. Bitoon, Jaro of this city.

Panuela, a local leader of urban poor organization Kaisog, is preparing their lunch when two men in plainclothes arrived outside their house on-board two motorbikes. They were armed.

Upon noticed, Panuela went out and confronted the armed men. They refuse to identify themselves and insisted that Panuela should go with them for a talk. Panuela’s son noticed the men were holding on to their guns as they approached his father.

Panuela’s voice grew louder when he realized that this could be an abduction which prompted his family members and neighbors to go out and encircle the armed men.

During the commotion, one of the armed men attempted to pickup his gun from his bag to which Panuela shouted, “shoot me, shoot me and the people will truly know who you are!”

Two village officials were present that time and together with Panuela’s families and neighbors brought the armed men to the Barangay Hall.

Upon questioning by the village chief, the armed men were identified as Art Diaz, an National Bureau of Investigation agent and Rey Gomez of the Philippine Army.

Diaz and Gomez refused to disclose their intention of talking to Panuela despite queries from the community and village officials.

Panuela further explained that a week ago, also on a Sunday, suspected elements of the state harassed and intimidated him in a restaurant along the coastal area. The suspected state forces, different from Diaz and Gomez, told Panuela of his activities and engagement with the local urban poor group.

Panuela has been involved with Kaisog for almost three decades now. He has been recognized by community officials as a active citizen with no criminal records or outstanding cases in any court.

Kaisog led the anti-demolition campaign against the urban poor in Balabago-Bitoon in Jaro since 2016. Recently, they had a city-wide synchronized clean-up drive and continuing campaign to fight dengue and called the government’s attention to provide more funds to aid the victims.

After the documentation process, Panuela said the police released Diaz and Gomez.

Kaisog together with human rights group Panay Alliance Karapatan condemned the incident and called on the government to stop the attacks on progressive leaders./


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