Trumped-up charges against PEACE activist Rey Casambre arrested in 2018 ring familiar with case of recently arrested lumad advocate, medical doctor and human rights defender Dr. Ma. Natividad “Naty” Castro 

Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center is still languishing in detention after more than three years since he was arrested in the early morning hours of December 7, 2018. Rey and his wife were traveling home from a wake in Metro Manila when they were intercepted by an arrest operation on Molina Boulevard in Bacoor, Cavite just past midnight. In September of that same year, Casambre had been maliciously red-tagged in the military’s so-called “Red October” hoax, that also red-tagged weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz.  

During the arrest operation, a grenade, cord and detonator, and caliber 45 were planted inside Casambre’s vehicle. Only later, Casambre was also presented with a warrant for murder and attempted murder charges in Lupon, Davao Oriental: a place to which Casambre had never traveled.  

“These are very challenging times, especially for us who value and yearn for peace. Activism is not a crime. Activism is not terrorism. Activism is our way of working for transformative peace. Activism is our response to these very challenging times,” Casambre wrote to peace advocates from prison.

Like with Casambre, Dr. Ma. Natividad “Naty” Castro was also subjected to a commando-style arrest on February 18, 2022; after, she was spirited away to Mindanao without access to her lawyer. For some time, her whereabouts were unknown, raising protests from around the Philippines and abroad. As a much respected, community doctor and human rights worker who has facilitated various social outreach ministries and medical service formations, Dr. Naty Castro has also been red-tagged and vilified in military tarps marking her as a leader of the CPP-NPA. Dr. Naty Castro’s legal team is still studying the blatantly fabricated charges levied against her; however, her sister, who was present at the time of the arrest operation, has reported that Dr. Naty Castro’s name did not appear on the photocopied warrant that contained a list of around 300 names.  

Both Rey Casambre and Dr. Naty Castro are victims of State red-tagging and vilification. Both are respected and well-known progressive and activist leaders. Both have unabashedly pursued social justice and peacebuilding. As resource speakers in different forums and events, they are highly respected as civil society leaders with deep experience and wide knowledge for social advocacy and activism. Rey Casambre’s activism for peacebuilding led him towards participation in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations; he was often one who stepped forward to look for ways through impasses or difficulties. Dr. Naty Castro’s work expanded from treating medical conditions into also caring for the dignity and welfare of the community as a human rights defender.  

Both earned the ire of militarists in the Duterte administration. Both were subjected to red-tagging and vilification operations. Now both are behind bars. 

Free Rey Casambre and Dr. Naty Castro!
End red-tagging and arbitrary detention!
Activism is not a crime!

Most Revd. Rhee M. Timbang, Obispo Maximo, IFI
Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace

Pilgrims for Peace is a broad alliance of advocates for genuine peace, a lasting peace based on freedom, democracy and social justice. It is composed of Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths.