“Every single day of their detention is an injustice.” – Courage, federation of government employees’ unions
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Government employees and colleagues from Courage held a ‘lugawan’ for Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, collectively known as Courage 2, to call for their immediate and unconditional release.
“This lugawan is in solidarity with our two fellow organizers and union rights defenders. On July 3, it will be exactly seven months since they were arrested for crimes they did not commit,” Ferdinand Gaite, national president of Courage, said.
Vegas and Camposano were arrested in Quezon City and in Cavite, respectively and were detained in Daet, Camarines Norte, about 342 kilometers away from Manila.
The two are facing “trumped up” charges of murder, frustrated murder and theft for their alleged participation in a New People’s Army ambush on April 25, 2013 in Labo, Camarines Norte. Colleagues and their families were also later on informed that both Vegas and Camposano are facing charges of murder and frustrated murder also in connection with another NPA encounter on April 29, 2013.
Government workers believe that these charges were filed to “disrupt their activities, sow terror among their peers and paralyze them to inaction.”
Both were working closely with the workers’ union of the Metro Manila Development Authority. Camposano, in fact, was last seen by fellow Courage members when he joined employees of MMDA in their protest action on Dec. 3, 2012, where they managed to block the northbound lane of EDSA.
“Every single day of their detention is an injustice,” Gaite said.
Gaite said that in his recent visit with Vegas and Camposano in Daet, he found out that the judge assigned to their case is sick. The other judge who replaced him, he added, would only be able to look into the motions the Courage 2 filed on the dismissal of the case on Aug. 2.
Last June 3, 2013, Gaite said they have already filed a petition before the Supreme Court to help fast track the seeming setback of the proceedings of the case.
Not put in vain
During the lugawan, workers of the MMDA said they are continuing their fight that Vegas and Camposano helped them with. Their efforts, they said, would not be put in vain.
“If it wasn’t for us, maybe they would not be abducted,” Benny Angeles, a worker of MMDA, said, “We attended the first hearing. There were 14 of us there and we held a picket protest.”
Back here in Manila, Angeles said, the MMDA administration launched a tough fight against workers demanding for the release of the Collective Negotiation Agreement incentive. He said MMDA chair Francis Tolentino filed charges against them following the protest action where they blocked the northbound lanes of EDSA.
Angeles said MMDA also suspended the leaders of its union Kapisanan para sa Kagalingan ng mga Kawani ng MMDA for 90 days. But, he said, the Civil Service Commission ruled that their suspension was illegal and that they should be compensated for the days they did not go to work. Leaders returned to work last April 18.
“I can already retire if I want to. I have served MMDA for a long time. But this is the first time that I experience harshness from them,” he said.
Angeles said that since the MMDA administration is not listening to their demands, they are now conducting bus-to-bus campaigns to inform commuters what they are going through.
Happy with support
Teresa Sesaldo, 33, wife of Vegas, said she is very happy with the support they are receiving from progressive groups and government employees. But, Sesaldo said, she has been very emotional these days now that her husband has been languishing in prison for nearly seven months now.
Sesado said that while she still cries at night, “I am focusing on my work with Courage. I have also been with them for 11 years now. If I am not a member of Courage myself, I would have a hard time understanding why they are going through this.”