Archive for the ‘Tagaytay 5’ Category

‘Tagaytay 5’ slams attempt to jail them anew

September 28, 2008

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 19:25:00 09/27/2008

CALAMBA CITY — THE FIVE POLITICAL prisoners known as “Tagaytay 5,” who were recently ordered freed by the lower court, lambasted the recent attempt of the police to jail them for the second time.

On Sept. 8, the Tagaytay City Prosecutors’ Office, through prosecutors Ernesto B. Vida and Edgar A. Ambagan, filed a motion for reconsideration with the Tagaytay Regional Trial Court Branch 18, challenging the dismissal of the rebellion charges against the five filed two years ago.

The Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police charged the five of rebellion for allegedly planning to overthrow the Arroyo administration.

In a statement sent to the Inquirer, the “Tagaytay 5” called the motion a “legal maneuver” of the prosecutors’ office to hound them and send them back to prison.

“In effect, what the DOJ and the PNP are asking the court is our baseless rearrest and unjust imprisonment,” it said.

Tagaytay Judge Edwin G. Larida Jr. ruled that the five farmers were innocent of the charge of rebellion, and consequently ordered their release from incarceration on Aug. 20.

In a phone interview Saturday morning, lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno said the motion was a mere scrap of paper.

“It would be a double jeopardy as the case against the ‘Tagaytay 5’ was duly tried and dismissed,” he said.

The lawyers of the five filed a manifestation opposing the motion for reconsideration on Sept. 19.

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Colleagues, Friends Celebrate ‘Tagaytay 5’ Victory in Poetry, Music Night

September 17, 2008

Though they were literally in the dark for about half of the program, the audience and participants were determined not to spoil the mood. The activity after all was a celebration for the recent release of the “Tagaytay 5”.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
CULTURE
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

For what seemed like a long time, there was apprehension on whether or not the program would push through. The rain was pouring mercilessly and had caused a power outage along Visayas Avenue and a few other nearby areas in Quezon City.

But the first set of people who entered the Conspiracy Bar and Garden Café to watch the event did not show signs of any intention to leave. And then more and more people started to come in. The storm and the power outage notwithstanding, they were determined to celebrate the victory of the “Tagaytay 5”. The rain and the blackout it caused failed to dampen and darken their spirits.

Poet-musician Joel Malabanan, who performed at the event, perhaps summed up the night’s mood best with a poem he sent through a text message as he was on his way to the venue:

Nangag-uunahang pumatak ang ulan
at ang aspalto ay naging karagatan
kwerdas ng gitara’y agad nabanlawan
ng bantang di tuloy, awit at tulaan
ngunit kalikasan din ang kalayaan
hangga’t ninanasa’y walang kamatayan
sapatos ma’y maging bangka sa tubigan
hala, tuloy pa rin ang ating tugtugan!

The Tagaytay 5 are Axel Pinpin, a consultant of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Farmers’ Confederation in Cavite) and a poet who was a fellow in the 1999 University of the Philippines (UP) National Writers’ Workshop; Riel Custodio, a Kamagsasaka-Ka member; Aristides Sarmiento, a freelance researcher for various non-government organizations; and Tagaytay City-based cockfighting aficionados Enrico Ybañez and Michael Masayes.

They are facing rebellion charges filed in 2006 for allegedly conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in a supposed plot to destabilize the Arroyo administration.

The five were abducted by a composite team of Philippine Navy and Philippine National Police (PNP) elements on April 28, 2006 in Tagaytay City.

Pinpin, Custodio and Sarmiento had just come from a meeting with coffee farmers in the city and were on their way to Manila for the forthcoming Labor Day rally. They hired Ybañez as their driver while Masayes accompanied Ybañez.

Three days after, they were presented to the media as “communist rebels” who were conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in an alleged plot to “destabilize” the Arroyo administration. They were subsequently charged with rebellion.

Following an investigation, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has recently ruled that their arrest and detention were unlawful.

Last Aug. 28, they were released on the strength of a court order issued by Judge Erwin Larida, Jr. of the Tagaytay City  RTC (Regional Trial Court), Branch 18.

The Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation (Artists’ ARREST) – an alliance of progressive filmmakers, visual artists, musicians, and literary writers – organized Huling Lagapak ng Kandado: A Victory Party for Tagaytay 5! last Sept. 9 at the Conspiracy Bar and Garden Café to celebrate the recent release of Pinpin, Custodio, Sarmiento, Ybañez, and Masayes.

Artists’ ARREST convener King Catoy said the Sept. 12 even was quite unusual in the history of the group’s activities.

“Whenever we hold an ARREST activity, it is usually about issues we are angry about,” Catoy said. “But this time, we have a reason to celebrate.”

For about half of the program, the audience had to make do with lights from candles provided by the crew. The speakers and performers, meanwhile, had to shout almost at the top of their voices just to be heard. But no matter: the mood certainly wasn’t damp and dark.

The lights went on again only about an hour later, or toward the middle of the program.

The program started with solidarity messages from leaders of people’s organizations – among them Willy Marbella, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines); and Connie Regalado, chairperson of Migrante International.

Marbella congratulated the “Tagaytay 5” for their hard-won freedom, while at the same time reminding the audience that there are still other peasant leaders and ordinary peasants whose release has to be worked for. He cited the case of KMP deputy secretary-general Randall Echanis, who has been detained since last January after being arrested on murder charges stemming from his alleged masterminding of a supposed 1984 purge within the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Inpopacan, Leyte even as he was in detention at the time. He also cited the case of the “Silang 9”, eight peasant leaders and organizers including Kamagsasaka-Ka chairman Renato Alvarez, and their driver – who were abducted in Silang, Cavite three days after the release of the “Tagaytay 5” and are being accused of illegal possession of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Regalado, meanwhile, praised Pinpin for having been able to keep his spirits high even while behind bars. “It is good that he was still able to write poetry even while he was in jail,” Regalado said.

Custodio thanked all those who visited them and worked for their release. “What you all did inspired us while we were in detention,” he said.

Pinpin recited one of his poems, “Huling Lagapak ng Kandado”, the very first poem he was able to write after their release.

Kumupas at kumupis ang kalendaryo
Kumalampag at ipininid ang kandado
Kumupad at bumilis ang oras
Nagasgas at numipis ang rehas
Dumatal at umalis ang lamig
Sumagad at umibis ang init
Nangutya at tiniis ang inip
Nanuya at nanikis ang inis

Walong daaan at limampu’t siyam na araw
Paulit-ulit, paikid-ikid lamang na galaw

Dalawang taon at apat na buwan
Pabalik-balik, paikit-ikit lamang na kawalan

Ninakaw, inagaw ang kalayaang inakalang
Maitatangkal sa kalaliman ng kadiliman
Ng libingan ng mga  buhay at matatabunan
Ng tambak ng batas na butas
Na nauna pang maagnas at ipag-aguniyas
Ang kamatayan ng sirkerong testigo na di-bihasa
Sa kinabisang panulayan at panimbangan.
Ay! Nagkandudulas sa lubid ng kasinungalingang
Ibinuhol ng buhong na piskal, nagkandabulol
At nagkandahulog ang katwiran
Na nagiging mahika-blanka
Sa tuwing kabulaanan ang bumubulagang
Sorpresa sa kahon ng ebidensya at hindi
Kunehong puti na sana’y mabilis at malinis
Na lilinlang sa namanghang mga
Mamamayang bantay sa katarungan
Sa sala ng Hukom na nagmistulang karnabal.

Walong daaan at limampu’t siyam na araw
Paulit-ulit, paikid-ikid lamang na galaw

Dalawang taon at apat na buwan
Pabalik-balik, paikit-ikit lamang na kawalan

At sa isang iglap, walang nakakurap,
Tapos na ang palabas!

He also gave an account of their abduction.

Other poetry performers for the night included Gelacio Guillermo, Noel Sales Barcelona, Rustum Casia, Dennis Espada, and this writer.

Casia recited Pinpin’s poem “Liham sa Anak” (Letter to My Child*), which was written for the latter’s son, Jamjam. The poem’s persona is a jailed father who tells his son to be strong in the absence of his father, to care for the peasants to whose service his father’s life was devoted, and to beware of those who took his father away:

Anak, walang magkukwento sa iyo ngayong gabi,
Mag-aalumpihit ka sa kama nang walang katabi;
yapusin’t dantayan mo ang unan na huli kong ginamit
Yakap rin kita rito sa matagal kong pagkakapiit.

Anak, walang magluluto ng iyong almusal bukas,
gigising kang walang tsokolate at pandesal;
gamitin mo ang tasang huli kong pinagkapehan
Kasalo rin kita rito sa panglaw ng bilangguan.

Anak, tahimik ang bahay sa iyong pagdating,
mabibingi ka sa lungkot ng silid nating madilim;
isalang mo ang musikang huli nating pinakinggan
isinisipol ko rin dito ang paborito nating tugtugan.

Anak, kabisaduhin mo ang kwento ng pangamba’t pag-iisa,
unawain mo ang gutom ng ipinaglaban kong magsasaka;
Pag-aralan mo rin ang mga musikang ng paglaban’t paglaya
at lagi kang mag-iingat sa mga dumukot sa iyong ama.

Pinpin could hardly hold his emotions as the poem was being recited.

There were also musical performances by Malabanan, a compadre of Pinpin’s and a high school Filipino teacher based in Cavite; and Bobby Balingit, front man of punk band The Wuds.

Malabanan performed his “Awit kay Macario Sakay”, a song dedicated to a revolutionary leader who refused to surrender to the US occupation forces even after Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and his allies had capitulated. Balingit performed, among other numbers, a musical version of a poem that Malabanan had written for Pinpin shortly after the abduction of the “Tagaytay 5”.

The mood was jubilant all throughout, with conversations frequently being “interrupted” by firm handshakes and tight bear-hugs with colleagues and friends of Pinpin and Custodio who had not seen both in a long time, or who had last seen them when they were behind bars. Though they were literally in the dark for about half of the program, the audience and participants were determined not to spoil the mood. Bulatlat

Naghihintay pang laban ng Tagaytay 5

September 8, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

ISANG tula ang naging tugon ni Axel Pinpin, isa sa mga tinaguriang Tagaytay 5, para ipahayag ang kanyang pananaw hinggil sa kanilang paglaya mula sa piitan noong Agosto 28.

Hapon ng araw na iyon, ibinasura ng Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court ang kasong rebelyon na isinampa ng gobyerno laban sa grupo noon pang 2006.

Halos hindi pa rin makapaniwala si Pinpin, at kanyang mga kasamang sina Aristides Sarmiento, Rico Ybañez, Michael Masayes at Riel Custodio na malaya na sila. Ang totoo’y nagduda sila nang matanggap ang balita.

Pero nang humarap sila sa midya isang araw matapos ang kanilang paglaya, masigla silang nakipagbalitaan sa mga miyembro ng midya, mga kaibigan at kasamahan sa organisasyon. Pawang kasapi ng Kamagsasaka-Ka o Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite ang Tagaytay 5. Ikinulong sila nang 28 buwan.

“Ngayon, may dahilan para magdiwang ng kahit kaunti ang progresibong mga grupo na nagsusulong ng karapatang pantao at ang militanteng kilusang masa, dahil muli na naman itong nagtagumpay sa mahabang paghahanap sa Kalayaan at Katarungan,” pahayag ng grupo.

Dinukot sila ng mga pulis noong 2006 dahil may kaugnayan umano sila NPA (New People’s Army at ipinadala para guluhin ang gobyerno sa Araw ng Manggagawa nang taong iyon. Sa loob ng pitong araw simula nang sila’y maaresto, hindi maayos na nasabihan ang kanilang pamilya kung nasaan sila. Sa loob ng mga araw na iyon, nanatili silang may piring sa mga mata at nakatali ang mga kamay sa kanilang likod.

Tagumpay sa karapatang pantao

Nagpahayag naman ng katuwaan ang mga abugado ng Tagaytay 5. Ayon kay Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno, natutuwa sila sa paglaya ng lima pero nababahala pa rin sila sa palasak na pagsasampa ng gobyerno ng mga kasong pulitikal tulad ng rebelyon para takutin ang nagpoprotestang mga mamamayan.

Ayon naman kay Donato Continente, isa ring dating detenidong pulitikal, marami at nagpapatuloy pa rin ang ilegal na detensiyon, tortyur at pagdukot. Bilang isang dating detenidong pulitikal sa mahabang panahon, nagulat pa rin umano si Continente nang unang madalaw siya sa kulungan na kinasadlakan ng Tagaytay 5 dahil hindi umano ito makatao.

Sang-ayon naman ang Commission on Human Rights sa pahayag ni Continente. Ayon sa CHR, hindi pasado sa minimum na pamantayan ng United Nations hinggil sa pagtrato sa mga bilanggo ang selda nina Pinpin.

Tinawag naman ng grupong Karapatan na isang tagumpay ng mga mamamayan sa pakikipaglaban para sa karapatang pantao ang paglaya ng Tagaytay 5. Pinatutunayan umano nito na ang pakikipaglaban para sa mga karapatan ay hindi isang krimen.

Gayunman, nababahala pa rin ang Karapatan sa kalagayan ng karapatang pantao sa ilalim ni Pangulong Arroyo. Umabot sa 225 ang detenidong pulitikal sa ilalim ni kasalukuyang administrasyon.

“Noong panahon ni Marcos, may batas militar kaya laganap ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Pero sa ilalim ni Arroyo, nangyayari ang mga bagay na ito kahit hindi nagdedeklara ng batas militar,” sabi ni Ruth Cervantes, public information officer ng Karapatan.

Isang libo’t isang pasasalamat

Sa kabila naman ng kahirapan sa loob ng kulungan, nakatagal ang Tagaytay 5 sa pamamagitan ng pag-aaral ng mga bagong kalaaman at pagiging produktibo.

“Malaki ang papel ng mga kilusang nakikiisa sa amin sa pagkuha ng mga balita sa ‘labas’, lalo na nang dumalang ang mga pagdinig sa korte, at kapag parang hindi na namin makayanan ang mga tensiyon at kahirapan sa loob ng bilangguan,” ayon sa Tagaytay 5.

Kaya naman lubos ang pasasalamat ng grupo sa suporta ng kanilang mga pamilya, mga abugado, mga organisasyong masa, mga relihiyoso at sektor pangkalusugan, at sa lahat ng sumuporta sa kanilang pakikibaka para sa kalayaan, katarungan at tunay na demokrasya.

Masakit sa alaala ng Tagaytay 5 ang dalawang taon at apat na buwang pagkakabilanggo. Puno umano iyon ng pangungulila, pagkainip at kawalang-hustisya. Kaya naman sa unang araw pa lamang ng kanilang paglaya, ipinahayag ng Tagaytay 5 na matapos lamang marahil ng ilang post-traumatic stress therapy at pagpapagamot sila babalik sa pakikibaka na anila’y pansamatalang inantala ng mga ahente ng Estado.

“May 26 na detenidong pulitikal pa sa Timog Katagalugan at mahigit 200 sa buong bansa, at halos 900 biktima ng pampulitikang pamamaslang na nananawagan pa rin ng katarungan. Kaya nga marami pang trabahong naghihintay. At wala nang lugar para sa malulupit na pag-antala,” pahayag ng grupo. (PinoyWeekly)

Groups say 9 jailed activists tortured; police deny charges

September 4, 2008

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 23:24:00 09/03/2008

CALAMBA CITY – A farmers’ group Wednesday assailed the alleged abduction and torture of nine of its organizers who were released from police custody on Tuesday afternoon.

The Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-ka or Farmers’ Confederation in Cavite) claimed that members of the Cavite police and the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) in Calabarzon seized and tortured its president and members on Sunday.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Senior Supt. Wilfredo Reyes, head of RSOG-Calabarzon, said he didn’t know of the group’s claim.

“It is never our practice to torture suspects just to get information,” Reyes said.

Axel Pinpin, Kamagsasaka-ka information officer and one of the newly freed Tagaytay 5, said the police officers involved should be held accountable.

Police claimed the nine were arrested at a checkpoint in Barangay Tartaria in Silang, Cavite on Sunday. Firearms were allegedly recovered from them.

The nine were identified as Renato Alvarez, 63; Franco Romeroso, 27; Felipe Nardo, 24; Bernardo Derain, 36; Mario Joson, 55; Jommel Igana, 19; Yolanda Caraig, 48; Neshley Cresino, 27; and Janice Javier, 26.

Threats, torture

They were charged with illegal possession of firearms but were later released after the provincial prosecutor said the police failed to present evidence against them.

The Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP) reported that the nine were abducted, harassed and tortured.

Diane Mariano, coordinator of the CEMJP, said the activists had just left Alvarez’s house and were bound for Tagaytay City when 20 armed men in police uniforms and aboard a van and a car blocked their path and told them to disembark from their vehicle.

The policemen allegedly tied and gagged them, and covered their eyes with packing tape.
The Inquirer tried to contact one of the activists but he refused to talk because of fear.

Mariano, who had interviewed the nine while accompanying them out of Camp Vicente Lim, told the Inquirer that the most frightening thing happened when the nine were inside the camp.

An official allegedly threatened Cresino with rape and ordered her to undress while Javier was asked to climb a concrete post when she refused to respond to police questioning.

“Janice knelt down to plead for her life when an officer pointed a gun at her nape,” Mariano alleged.

The officer later asked Javier if she knew how long a body would burn if it was set on fire, he added.

Electric current was reportedly applied on the heads and sex organs of Derain and Nardo, while they were being forced to say they were members of the communist New People’s Army.

Crippling peasant groups

“Nardo was later asked to dig their graveyard,” she claimed, adding that when she saw Nardo, he had bruises in the legs.

Pinpin said the continuing harassment was part of a plan to sow fear and cripple legitimate peasants’ and other people’s organizations.

The Kamagsasaka-ka and its counterpart, the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Batangas, are protesting land-use conversion cases in Cavite and Batangas.

“It is ironic that while the government is calling for the prioritization and development of agriculture in the country, agriculturists and peasant organizers are being killed, abducted or jailed,” he said.

Pinpin cited the cases of Jonas Burgos, an agriculturist, who remains missing until now; detained Randall Echaniz, deputy secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Eduardo Serrano, a dairy industry agriculturist.

Pinpin and Aristides Sarmiento, also an agriculturist, and three others were jailed on a rebellion charge before they were released on Aug. 28 after a court dismissed the case.

Int’l groups plead for ‘Tagaytay 5’

August 22, 2008

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.

Tagaytay 5 Visitors Refused Entry, Harassed; Reading, Viewing Materials Confiscated

July 21, 2008

One would never have thought the literary/lifestyle magazine Rogue, which published its first issue sometime last year, would find its way into any police or military list of “propaganda” (read: subversive) materials, but that was just what happened to a copy of it that was brought over by artists visiting the Tagaytay 5 last July 12. Not only that: those who brought it along with other reading and viewing materials for the detainees were harassed by police at the PNP’s Camp Vicente Lim, where the Tagaytay 5 are detained.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

One would never have thought the literary/lifestyle magazine Rogue, which published its first issue sometime last year, would find its way into any police or military list of “propaganda” (read: subversive) materials.

But that was just what happened to a copy of it that was brought over by some members of the Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation (Artists’ ARREST) who went to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna on July 12 to visit the political prisoners collectively known as the Tagaytay 5.

The Tagaytay 5 are Axel Pinpin, a consultant of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Association of Peasants in Cavite) and a poet who was a fellow in the 1999 University of the Philippines (UP) National Writers’ Workshop; Riel Custodio, a Kamagsasaka-Ka member; Aristides Sarmiento, a freelance researcher for various non-government organizations; and Tagaytay City residents Enrico Ybañez and Michael Masayes.

They are facing rebellion charges filed in 2006 for allegedly conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in a supposed plot to destabilize the Arroyo administration.

The five were abducted by a composite team of Philippine Navy and Philippine National Police (PNP) on April 28, 2006 in Tagaytay City.

Pinpin, Custodio and Sarmiento had just come from a meeting with coffee farmers in the city and were on their way to Manila for the forthcoming Labor Day rally. They had hired Ybañez as their driver while Masayes accompanied Ybañez.

Three days after, they were presented to the media as “communist rebels” who were conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in an alleged plot to “destabilize” the Arroyo administration. They were subsequently charged with rebellion.

Following an investigation, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has recently ruled that their arrest and detention were unlawful.

Their July 12 visitors – filmmakers Sunshine Matutina, Waise Azimi, Dahci Ma, Kiri Dalena, and Bong de Leon; Con Cabrera, a visual artist; Edge Genciagan, Vincent Silarde, and Afol Martin – had brought over the copy of Rogue together with other reading and viewing materials for them, fully expecting to be able to personally hand these over to the detainees.

They were, however, refused entry. Several police personnel, led by SPO1 Gaudioso Reyes, told them that only the detainees’ lawyers and their immediate relatives – spouses, children, and siblings – were allowed to visit on weekends and holidays.

This clearly contradicted the agreement that the Tagaytay 5 reached last December with the then newly-appointed Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) PNP Director C/Supt. Ricardo Padilla. In a dialogue with Padilla last December, the Tagaytay 5 put forward a number of demands, among them that they be allowed to receive visitors other than their lawyers and immediate relatives even on weekends and holidays.

“The logic behind that is that for most of our other relatives and our friends, it is more convenient to visit us on weekends and holidays than on weekdays,” Pinpin said.

Padilla granted this demand, along with four others: beddings inside the cell, regular outdoor activities, allowing them to talk with their visitors inside the cell, and regular medical attention.

In fact, according to sources at the Camp Vicente Lim, Padilla even summoned S/Insp. Patricio Baludong Corcha, then the camp’s Base Police commanding officer, and gave him a dressing-down on weekend and holiday visits after the dialogue with the Tagaytay 5. (The Tagaytay 5 are detained at Camp Vicente Lim’s Base Police Detention Center.) “Who told you that you can ban weekend and holiday visits?” Padilla reportedly asked Corcha.

But this agreement between the Tagaytay 5 and Padilla on weekend and holiday visits is apparently lost on several of Camp Vicente Lim’s Base Police, as they have been frequently refusing entry to weekend and holiday visitors – who, on one occasion, even included Pinpin’s brother Berwyn. The July 12 visitors were just the latest to be refused entry.

They tried to negotiate for almost two hours, after which they just decided to leave the reading and viewing materials they had brought for the Tagaytay 5. These consisted of the copy of Rogue; as well as a biography of Cuban cultural leader Haydee Santamaria, a book on the Cuban health system, and a comic book on the political prisoners collectively known as the Cuban Five; as well as DVDs of the recent Gawad Eden Marcellana; Rights, a series of public-service announcements on human rights violations, and several short Southern Tagalog Exposure documentaries. According to them, Reyes promised that these materials would reach the Tagaytay 5.

They would, however, learn from friends who visited the Tagaytay 5 a few days later that the materials never reached their intended recipients.

Two of them (whose names are being withheld upon their request, for security reasons) went back on July 16 to be able to talk to the Tagaytay 5, as well as to demand an explanation on the confiscation of the reading and viewing materials. As they were entering the detention center, they asked a policeman identified only by his surname Sangria whether the materials they had brought on July 12 had reached the detainees, to which Sangria replied in the affirmative. They were later informed by the Tagaytay 5 that as of that date, the materials still had not reached them.

The two then went to the office of the current Base Police commanding officer, Insp. Alex Pornes, to ask for an explanation on the confiscation of the materials. Pornes advised them to go to R2 (Intelligence Division), which is headed by P/Supt. Primitivo Tabojara.

This they did, only to find that Tabojara was not present. They were instead led into the office of another officer, who was later identified by R2 personnel only as Inspector Mendoza.

“The materials you brought are propaganda material,” Mendoza told the two visitors. “So we placed them under custody and they are now the subject of investigation.”

As one of the visitors was asking him to elaborate, Mendoza started asking for their names. They agreed to give their names, on the condition that the officer (who had not yet been identified at that moment) would give his first. Mendoza said it was the two visitors who should give their names first since they were the ones who entered his office. The two argued that it was he who should give his name first so they could be sure that if anything happened to them, someone would be held accountable.

The argument almost turned into a shouting match, but Mendoza eventually stopped asking for their names and sent them out of his office.

The two July 16 visitors brought five more books for the Tagaytay 5. These are: an anthology of flash fiction edited by Vicente Garcia Groyon; as well as poetry, essay, and fiction collections by E. San Juan, Jr., Jose F. Lacaba, Conrado de Quiros, and Jun Cruz Reyes. These were all confiscated. Bulatlat

(Photos courtesy of Artists’ ARREST)

Court Starts Hearing Tagaytay 5 Bail Petition

July 11, 2008

After more than two years of being abducted and detained, the Tagaytay 5 finally had their day in court as the latter started hearing their petition for bail.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

The Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18 has started hearing the Tagaytay 5’s petition for bail after more than two years of their being abducted and detained.

Judge Erwin Larida Jr. started hearing the case last July 4 and is expected to hold hearings in the succeeding Fridays of July. The Tagaytay 5 is composed of Axel Pinpin, a consultant of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Association of Peasants in Cavite) and a poet who was a fellow in the 1999 University of the Philippines (UP) National Writers’ Workshop; Riel Custodio, a Kamagsasaka-Ka member; Aristides Sarmiento, a freelance researcher for various non-government organizations; and Tagaytay City residents Enrico Ybañez and Michael Masayes.

The series of hearings follow their June 16 arraignment for the crime of rebellion, to which the five entered a “Not Guilty” plea.

The five were abducted by a composite Philippine Navy and Philippine National Police (PNP) team on April 28, 2006 in Tagaytay City.

Pinpin, Custodio and Sarmiento had just come from a meeting with coffee farmers in the city and were on their way to Manila for the forthcoming Labor Day rally. They had hired Ybañez as their driver while Masayes accompanied Ybañez.

Three days after, they were presented to the media as “communist rebels” who were conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in an alleged plot to “destabilize” the Arroyo administration. They were subsequently charged with rebellion.

Pinpin, Custodio, and Sarmiento said that they expect the prosecution together with their PNP “abductors-torturers” to “demonize” them to secure a conviction – which, under the Revised Penal Code, carries a penalty of reclusion perpetua (20 years and one day to 40 years in detention).

“The prosecution and the PNP will again publicly peddle their pack of lies and life-threatening intrigues,” they said. “They will again cover up the truth about the case of the Tagaytay 5 in order to get their much-awaited judicial victory against ‘bomb-wielding communists-terrorists out to destabilize’ the corrupt and fascist Arroyo regime. They will repeatedly gloss over substantive issues and matters of judicial principles such as the human rights violations committed by government authorities during our abduction, interrogation, incommunicado status, prolonged detention, and delays in the judicial process, in order to consign us to perpetual silence and public oblivion.”

They vowed, however, to assert “rigorously” the following “truth(s) and substantive issues”:

· That they were waylaid and abducted by more or less 60 heavily armed men without necessary warrants on April 28, 2006; hence violating their basic right against arbitrary arrest;

· That they were not carrying guns or explosives of any kind at the time of their abduction, yet the list of evidence showed that they were in possession of one handgun; but all their personal belongings (including dentures and flashlights) and money totaling almost P800,000 (or ¥1,904,700 or $18,300) were missing and never accounted to them, an act which they said is “tantamount to highway robbery by law enforcement agents” and which violates their right against unlawful search and seizures;

· That they were shuttled to various military camps and safe houses, where they were repeatedly interrogated against their will and without counsel – acts which violate the basic rights of arrested persons under the Miranda Doctrine and judicial guarantees against illegal detention;

· That they were physically and psychologically tortured, having been hidden from their families, lawyers and friends for seven days and nights, to enable their abductors to extract extrajudicial confessions, again without the aid of counsel of their choice; thus violating their rights against torture and self-incrimination;

· That they were “persecuted” in a court after being held for more than 100 hours without charges, thus violating basic rights against illegal detention;

· That they we were detained and padlocked 24/7 in a police camp with no provisions for sunlight and outdoor exercises for 10 months, thus endangering their health and welfare; and that it took a 67-day fasting/hunger strike to gradually improve their detention conditions; and

· That their court hearings are few and far between, and are often postponed “for whatever flimsy reason,” thus prolonging their hardships, and “effectively silencing some critics and dissenters of the current regime.”

Pinpin, Custodio, and Sarmiento also said that on several occasions during the 26 months since their being charged with rebellion, the prosecution and the PNP were asked to present all necessary evidence and affidavits.

“But all the prosecution can show are three joint testimonies packed with lies and half-truths on what really happened on that fateful night of April 28, 2006 – full of loopholes, self-serving alibis, pock-marked with hearsays and afterthoughts, and coached assertions,” they said. “The prosecutors haven’t produced in court any credible evidence to buttress their trumped-up rebellion charge – for they have none, and have nothing to hold on to; for it is cardinal rule in criminal proceedings that any illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in court, and that planting of evidence against any suspect is punishable by law as incriminatory machination.” Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: Tagumpay ng Tagaytay 5

July 7, 2008

Congratulations!

CHR rules police violated human rights of ‘Tagaytay 5’

July 7, 2008

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)