Nathaniel B. Vallente
Nathaniel B. Vallente – also called Pastor “Dodo” – has been imprisoned for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives (a violation of Republic Act 10591 and Republic Act 9516) in Bohol since June 25, 2021. For eight years, he has been a pastor of the Bohol United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Tugnaw, Basyaw, and Pitogo. Pastor “Dodo” is a dedicated and respected human rights defender. He has been a known advocate of peasants’ rights, especially with respect to the implementation of the national agrarian reform program in the Philippines. Most recently, he has been the adviser of the local peasant organization Nagkahiusang Maguuma sa San Jose (NAMASAJO) that actively campaigns and stands vigorously for the welfare of the peasantry in the province.
In the early morning hours of June 25, 2021, Bohol Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives implemented a search warrant against Pastor “Dodo” at his house in San Jose, Mabini, Bohol, for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Initially the CIDG operatives have mistaken Pastor “Dodo” ‘s house for the house of his father-in-law, Victoriano Boybanting. At that time, Pastor “Dodo” was sleeping inside his actual house, which was located just a few meters across Boybanting’s house. Thus, the CIDG operatives then asked Pastor “Dodo” at his house to come over to his in-law’s house. Before commencing the warrant in Boybanting’s house, the CIDG operatives waited for the Barangay officials to join the search. While Pastor “Dodo” and his wife were waiting, the CIDG operatives searched the house and allegedly found inside a room three pistols and a grenade. Pastor “Dodo” insisted that he is not the owner of the found firearms and explosive but was still arrested.
Fabricated charges through the planting of weapons on human rights defenders is a common practice applied by security forces to discredit and imprison them. They take advantage of the lack of forensic expertise that makes witness testimonies essential for the investigation and court proceedings.
Since July 2021, Rev. Nathaniel “Dodo” Vallente has gone through at least six court hearings. He was transferred to different jails a couple of times during the early parts of his imprisonment – this happened without providing proper notices to his family.
To date, Pastor “Dodo” ‘s family, friends, UCCP colleagues, and supporting organizations are advocating for a fair trial and his immediate release from prison with all unfounded charges to be dropped.
The AMP accompanies Pastor “Dodo” ’s case closely and has been advocating his immediate release by enabling more international visibility and diplomatic support.
Update: April 12, 2023
Photo © Raffy Lerma