Doctor Maria Natividad Castro, who was arrested Friday on charges of kidnapping and illegal detention, has been brought to Agusan del Sur after she was arrested.
The Philippine National Police said Castro, 53, who is being held without bail, will be tried on charges of kidnapping for which a lower court had ordered her arrest in 2020.
“After proper documentation and booking procedure upon her arrest in San Juan City on Friday morning, she was immediately flown to Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur where she is presently detained,” PNP-PIO chief Police Brigadier General Roderick Augustus Alba said in a statement.
“As a Person Under Police Custody (PUPC), and upon her request, she was provided with a hygiene kit, clothes, and toiletries, while the local office of the Commission on Human Rights [has] been red-tagged…duly informed of her present status,” Alba added.
He, however, clarified that her arrest had nothing to do with accusations of being a leader of a Maoist rebel group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the government.
“The arrest of Maria Natividad Castro is the result of a regular police operation pursuant to the Warrant of Arrest issued on January 30, 2022 by Hon. Fernando R. Fudalan, Acting Presiding Judge, 10th Judicial Region, Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur,” Alba said.
But her former employer, human rights monitor Karapatan, said Castro was facing “trumped up” charges after she investigated alleged human rights violations in the volatile Mindanao region while also setting up community health centers there.
“Karapatan denounces the arrest of human rights and health worker Dr. Naty Castro as yet another form of attack against human rights defenders,” the group said, referring to Castro by her nickname.
Critics say allegations of communism – known locally as “red-tagging” – have been used to discredit and detain activists, journalists, lawyers and dissidents.
CHR on Saturday expressed concern over the manner of Castro’s arrest.
“Dra. Naty had been red tagged for her work as a human rights and development worker. Before the pandemic hit the country in 2020, Castro initiated several health programs in Mindanao. She also brought members of the Lumad community before the United Nations in Geneva to seek help against harassment in their areas. She also once served as secretary general of rights group Karapatan in Caraga region,” the CHR said
The CHR said it has conducted a motu proprio investigation on the alleged violations of the PNP rules of procedure, among other issues, with regard to Castro’s arrest.
On Facebook, Castro’s brother insisted she was just a health worker who had served indigenous communities.
“My sister is accused of multiple charges of kidnapping and illegal detention, all related to her human rights advocacy. ALL UNTRUE,” he
wrote. With AFP