Maza slams 'political persecution' against activists in PH

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National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 14) — National Anti-Poverty Commissioner Liza Maza said she would like to talk to President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the 'political persecution' against activists in the country.

Maza, along with former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael "Paeng" Mariano and former Bayan Muna House Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño, recently faced murder charges due to an election-related violence involving supporters of rival partylist Akbayan.

The charges against the four, who are also considered as prominent leaders of the Left, were filed back in 2006.

While the case was officially dismissed by a regional court in Nueva Ecija due to lack of supporting evidence, Maza expressed that a so-called 'culture of impunity' against activist groups should be tackled.

She planned to bring the conversation straight to the country's chief executive.

"Merong mga gumagalaw, merong mga istruktura, mga patakaran, maybe unspoken at this time na pang-gigipit pa rin sa mga aktibista tulad namin so yan ang kelangang leksyon na maunawaan," the former Gabriela Women's Party Representative said Tuesday.

(Translation: There are people, structures and rules, maybe unspoken at this time, which still oppress activists like us. So that's the lesson learned.)

"Kaya gusto ko makausap si Presidente para itanong ito, at 'di magkakaroon ng kapayapaan hangga't may ganitong political persecution."

(Translation: That's why I want to talk to the President, so that I can ask him about this. There won't be peace as long as there is political persecution like this.)

When asked why they initially evaded arrest, Casiño, meanwhile, explained they were concerned about their security given the rampant killings of criminal suspects in the country.

"Wala naman kaming balak takasan yung proseso (It wasn't our plan to escape the due process), in fact, our lawyers immediately engaged the courts," Casiño said. "Ang consideration namin (ay) yung personal safety dahil sa mga nangyayari ngayon."

(Translation: Our consideration was our personal safety because of what is happening in the country right now.)

The group also thanked Judge Trese Wenceslao, acting presiding judge of the Palayan Regional Trial Court, for 'impartiality' in handling the case.

Their legal camp is also looking into possibly filing a disbarment case against Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, after the latter offered a P1 million bounty for their arrest.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque welcomed the dismissal of charges, saying he's 'happy' the anti-poverty chief can come back to work.

"That proves the legal system is working. We're happy that Secretary Liza Maza can come back to work," Roque said in a media briefing Tuesday.