AFP refutes Colmenares' claim gov't treats political dissent as crime

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FILE PHOTO. Aspiring senator and former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) The military on Sunday refuted a former partylist lawmaker's claim that the administration is treating political dissent as a crime.

Media reports said aspiring senator and former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares during a forum on Saturday lamented the government's alleged attack against political activists, citing the arrest of activists from left-leaning groups during military operations last week.

He was also quoted as saying activists are treated as criminals, and the AFP branded those who protest against high prices and abuses as communists. He also said Malacañang is behind a supposed "crackdown" on groups critical of government.

In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) called Colmenares' claim "misleading if not a malicious imputation."

The AFP said the arrested activists have been released as their charges are still subjected to further investigation. But it maintained that the case was not "flawed," adding that the military will follow due process.

"In arresting persons with outstanding warrant of arrest for 15 counts of murder and a host of others carrying firearms, ammunitions (sic), and explosives illegally when accosted in a joint AFP-PNP checkpoint, it is not criminalizing a certain 'militant group' of people," it said.

The operations, according to the AFP, "actually upheld the law and protected the Filipino people at large."

The military said Filipinos "must be guarded against terrorist propaganda" spread by people pretending to be advocates of human rights and freedom.

"Vigilance [and] performance of duty include arming the nation with information of what we know of the evil designs of terrorists so that our people will be aware and those who were still being duped into joining them in a sinister plot are insulated," AFP said.

"It's not being alarmists. It's being forthright. That the plan was foiled; that it fizzled out because it was prevented doesn't mean it was a propaganda. Or that the plot did not exist," it added.