Int’l groups plead for ‘Tagaytay 5’

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 01:02:00 08/22/2008

CALAMBA CITY – More international groups are sending letters of appeal to the regional trial court (RTC) judge handling the rebellion case of five farmers detained allegedly for being communist guerrillas, the wife of one of the accused said on Wednesday.

Laura Sarmiento, wife of Aris Sarmiento, one of the farmers who are also known as “Tagaytay 5,” said groups and individuals based in Belgium, Hong Kong and Japan had sent Tagaytay RTC Judge Edwin Larida letters expressing the innocence of the five farmers and called for their immediate release.

Sarmiento said the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, Intal (International Action Alert) in Belgium and individuals from Japan had been monitoring the development in the Tagaytay 5 case.

The groups also furnished some of the relatives of the Tagaytay 5 with the copies of the letters recently, she said.

She added that local groups, like the labor center Workers’ Assistance Center, poetry group Kilometer 64 and the Tagaytay Religious Association had also made an appeal to the judge.

Two years ago, Sarmiento and colleagues in the farmers’ group Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka) Axel Pinpin and Riel Custodio, and hired drivers Rico Ybanes and Michael Masayes claimed they were abducted by 30 armed men in plainclothes who later on identified themselves as policemen.

Police previously said there was sufficient evidence to implicate the five men since a big amount of money, antigovernment documents and firearms were recovered from them.

In a copy sent to the Inquirer, Intal’s letter said it was alarmed that the five had been detained for two years “without any legal evidence for the charge of rebellion.”

“Arbitrarily and politically motivated detention is a human rights violation. Therefore, we appeal to you [Larida] for the immediate dismissal of the complaint,” the group said in the letter signed by six of its leaders.

It also mentioned in the letter that it had paid a visit to the detainees.

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