The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network of the Philippines (Ascent) condemns the arrest of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) Southern Mindanao regional coordinator Amelia Pond by elements of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on August 16 this year in Cebu City.

Pond was outside the Living Gospel Renewal Center after the RMP National Assembly in Cebu City when four members of the CIDG came up to her and her companions and declared their intention to arrest her. She and her companions were not allowed to read the supposed warrant of arrest by the CIDG personnel despite repeated assertions by Pond and her companions. She was not immediately informed of the charges she was being arrested for. She was later brought to Camp Sotero Cabahug in Cebu City, where she is currently detained.

She is not the first member of RMP to be arrested and detained by the Philippine military on dubious charges. In 2013 RMP lay worker Joel Yagao was arrested in Misamis Oriental and slapped with charges of double murder and multiple murder. In 2014 RMP agriculturist Dominiciano Muya was arrested for illegal possession of firearms, multiple murder and robbery with homicide. Muya, a member of the Mandaya indigenous group, was also tagged by the military as a so-called high-ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Up to this day Yagao and Muya have yet to be released from jail.

For decades the government has neglected to provide basic social services to poor peasants and indigenous peoples (IPs). Organizations like RMP have taken it upon themselves to undertake socio-economic projects for poor and marginalized communities. Yet past governments and military-minded members of the current administration have branded RMP and other development organizations as fronts of the CPP, thereby putting the lives of our development workers in danger and making them targets for fabricated charges, illegal arrest and detention and liquidation by government death squads.

This latest assault on the rights and lives of development workers comes amidst the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in an effort to reach a peace agreement. We fervently hope that those in power stop trying to derail the peace talks by continuing to commit violations such as the illegal arrest of Pond. The Filipino people need genuine peace, and acts such as these can only undermine efforts to reach a meaningful solution to the lack of social justice and basic services for our poor people.

We demand that the military stop violating the rights of development workers. We also call on development workers to assert their rights as people and to continue their selfless service in marginalized communities.###

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