CHR rules police violated human rights of ‘Tagaytay 5’


By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:13:00 07/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Policemen violated the rights of five farmers accused of trying to bring down the Arroyo administration when they allegedly abducted, arrested and arbitrarily jailed the suspected rebels in 2006, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The suspects are still in detention.

The CHR, headed by newly appointed Chair Leila de Lima, finally put closure to the 2-year-old complaint lodged by the farmers, collectively known as “Tagaytay 5,” by handing down a resolution on Friday.

In a two-page ruling, the CHR recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges in the Office of the Ombudsman against the Cavite police and the Naval Intelligence and Security Force for human rights violations.

“For human rights violation involving abduction, unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention, the CHR finds the respondents guilty of the charges with case recommended to be forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman,” the ruling said.

Among those held liable were Supt. Rhodel Sermonia and Police Officers 1 Alvaro Amba Jr., Eugene Arellano, Marvin Mejia, Rommel Dimaala and April Jo Ambajia.

The farmers—Enrico Ybañez, Michael Mesayes, Aristedes Sarmiento, Axel Alejandro and Ariel Custodio—were arrested in Tagaytay City while, police believed, they were on their way to carry out a plan to topple the Arroyo administration on April 28, 2006.

Blindfolded, hogtied

According to the Tagaytay 5, more than 30 armed men—in different uniforms and in plainclothes—abducted them while they were traveling along Ligaya Drive in Barangay Sungay that night.

For seven days, the Tagaytay 5 claimed they were blindfolded and hogtied, interrogated without aid of a counsel, tortured and repeatedly threatened with electrocution and summary execution by the police.

Incommunicado

The Tagaytay 5 were held incommunicado for at least a week before they were finally charged with rebellion.

Later, the farmers filed a case of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, torture, robbery and “incriminatory machinations” against the police.

The CHR, then headed by Purificacion Quisumbing, started an investigation of the complaint in June 2006, but it failed to resolve the issue.

Surprise visit

A month after her appointment in May, De Lima vowed to reopen the investigation upon the request of the complainants.

In its ruling, the CHR further noted that the farmers were entitled to humane treatment despite incarceration.

The resolution was handed down following De Lima’s “surprise visit” at the police regional headquarters in Cavite last month to check on the prison conditions of the five farmers.

Code of conduct violated

Based on her observation following the visit, De Lima said the detainees’ condition in the 20-square-meter custodial jail, where they have been locked up for two years, did not pass the United Nations’ minimum standard for treatment of prisoners.

The CHR resolution also stated that the police officials violated the code of conduct of law enforcement officials when they took the farmers into custody two years ago.(PDI)

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