Tagaytay 5 freed; rebellion case ‘nonexistent’

Free at Last. The so-called Tagaytay 5 -- Aris Sarmiento, Axel Pinpin, Riel Custodio, Michael Masayes and Rico Ybañez -- shown here inside their prison cell during their incarceration, were freed August 28, 2008. “The dismissal of trumped-up charges and release of Tagaytay 5 is a victory for human rights,” said Ruth Cervantes, Karapatan's public information officer.

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer

CAMP VICENTE LIM, LAGUNA—Five men accused of being communist guerrillas were released Thursday afternoon after the Tagaytay Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed the rebellion case filed against them by the police.

Released were Axel Pinpin, Aristides Sarmiento, Rico Ybañez, Michael Masayes and Riel Custodio.

Pinpin, a poet, said he and his fellow detainees were ecstatic and yet doubtful when they heard the news.

“We almost couldn’t believe it,” Pinpin said while packing his more than 100 books that fellow writers had given him in a 20-square-meter custodial jail.

The cell, according to the Commission on Human Rights, did not pass the United Nations’ minimum standard for treatment of prisoners.

The five men were excited to leave the detention cell with walls plastered with photos, news items about them, and posters calling for their release.

“We can now walk with freedom,” said Sarmiento, who was still clad in an orange shirt with the slogan “Free Political Prisoners” printed on it.

Ybañez, who will turn 61 on Sept. 5, said his freedom was the best gift he had received.

The men, known as the “Tagaytay 5,” were abducted while riding in a car by Cavite police and Naval Intelligence and Security Forces operatives on April 28, 2006.

Pinpin, Sarmiento and Custodio claimed they were members of the farmers’ group Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka, or Farmers’ Federation in Cavite) while Masayes and Ybañez were hired drivers.

They were held in the Calabarzon Regional Police Office (CRPO) headquarters for two years and four months.

Nonexistent crime

The CRPO Thursday received a copy of the ruling of Tagaytay RTC Branch No. 18, which was issued by Judge Edwin Larida on Aug. 20, according to Chief Supt. Ricardo Padilla, CRPO director. The ruling mentioned the prosecution’s “erroneous manifestations.”

“Faced with an information charging a manifestly nonexistent crime, the duty of the trial court is to throw it out. Or at the very least, and where possible, make it conform to the law,” Larida said.

The judge ordered the men’s immediate release.

Triumph of justice

Carlo Ybañez, the lawyer of the accused, joined by lawyers Frank Chavez and Jose Manuel Diokno, described the court decision as a “triumph of justice.”

“The decision favoring the Tagaytay 5 is proof that justice still exists in this country,” Ybañez said.

Ybañez said the trial took a while, the process sped up after he filed a writ of amparo.

A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

The arraignment of the Tagaytay 5 was postponed by the RTC six times. During the arraignment on June 16, the five pleaded “not guilty” to the rebellion charges.

Charges for illegal detention

Ybañez said Chavez told the court that there was no crime and the prosecution could not prove rebellion by citing subversion.

“The police who abducted and detained them are liable,” Ybañez said, emphasizing that the men’s lawyers were planning to file charges against the police in connection with the illegal arrest and detention, torture and planting of evidence.

The Tagaytay 5 said more than 30 armed plainclothesmen abducted them while traveling along Ligaya Drive in Barangay (village) Sungay in Tagaytay City on April 28, 2006.

After less than a week, the five were charged with rebellion and presented to the media as members of the communist New People’s Army.

In July, CHR Chair Leila de Lima recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges in the Office of the Ombudsman against the Cavite police and the Naval Intelligence and Security Forces for human rights violations.


Sarmiento said that while he was happy that he was now free, he also felt fear. “Fear of what will happen to us outside and what police can still do,” he said.

What happened to them within two years was unimaginable, Pinpin said. “I write poems but I couldn’t describe our experience in the span of two years,” he said.

Pinpin, research and information officer of Kamagsasaka-Ka, said he would be going back to the peasant movement. “The government had taken away so many things from us,” he said.

Punish the police

After the arrest, Pinpin said, the group’s trading operations involving muscovado sugar and coffee were affected.

Sarmiento said the police who arrested and detained him and the others should be punished. “It is so easy for them to arrest someone but it’s hard for them to free innocent people,” he said.

Sought for reaction, Padilla said: “We are filing a motion for reconsideration. Then we will let the court decide.”


Dying nanny wants law change

Filipina caregiver Juana Tejada, ill with cancer, granted residency after battle with federal government led by our friends at Migrante Ontario and other groups

August 26, 2008

Deena Kamel
Staff Reporter - Toronto Star

Juana Tejada, a Filipina nanny with terminal cancer who celebrated becoming a permanent resident yesterday, wants to make her dream of security in Canada a reality for other live-in caregivers.

A campaign led by unions and immigrant support groups is proposing a "Juana Tejada Law" – an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would help guarantee the rights of medically inadmissible but otherwise qualified foreign caregivers living in Canada.

"It's an honour for me," said Tejada, 38, who is facing terminal colon cancer. "I really don't want other caregivers to go through my situation because it's been very tough."

Tejada had her immigration application denied twice because, though healthy when she arrived, she developed cancer while working in Canada and was now deemed a burden on the health-care system. But after strong public support, she was recently cleared to apply for permanent residency.

"I dream of a society that gives value and concern to its people who create its wealth," sang the band at yesterday's celebration and launch of the amendment campaign.

Before arriving in Canada, live-in caregivers undergo stringent medical exams.

They must live with the same employer for 24 months out of three years, then undergo a second medical exam to apply for permanent residence. Tejada's supporters want to see that second exam requirement eliminated for caregivers.

"Through sheer bad luck or fate, after meeting the permanent residence requirement, she faced deportation because she got sick, through no fault of hers," said Tejada's lawyer, Rafael Fabregas. "She did not lie or commit criminal offences or cheat."

The campaign has the support of Migrante-Ontario, the Independent Workers Association and United Steelworkers, among others. Some politicians are already backing it.

"(We) feel very strongly that if you are good enough to work in Canada, you are good enough to apply for landed immigration," Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash said yesterday, to a roar of applause from members of the Filipino community and others. She said she was "optimistic" the proposed amendment would be adopted by Parliament in the fall, barring an election call.

Nash's fellow NDP MP Olivia Chow agreed, suggesting it should be on the election platform of all parties.

"They take care of Canadian children. Working families would not survive without them. They raise our kids. For me, this is priceless," said Chow, responding to criticism about the possible burden on the health-care system. "They deserve our respect and appreciation. Some have left their own kids behind."

The subject of children strikes a chord with Tejada.

"It's sad. I've been taking care of somebody's child, but I don't have any of my own," she said. "There's sickness that's now hindering me." Though doctors say the illness is terminal, she still hopes to recover and have a family.

The amendment would help some of the 13,000 live-in caregivers who arrived in Canada last year, said Fabregas.



Making a killing: The military-industrial complex in 2008

Please check out the excellent article by CAP-CPC member Aziz Choudry that recently appeared in Bulatlat and towardfreedom.com

The Military and the Monetary, they get together whenever they think its necessary, they've turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, they are turning the planet, into a cemetery (Gil Scott-Heron)

GATT Watchdog
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

"In the late 1990s, well before Bush’s ‘war on terror’, New Zealand TV screened a particularly awful US action drama called ‘Soldier of Fortune Inc.’, about an elite team (composed of former US Marines, Delta Force, CIA, British SAS personnel) who performed ‘unofficial’ covert missions for the US Government. They would get a briefcase full of money from a shadowy military liaison and head to the Middle East, Latin America, Haiti, or the Balkans, or smoke out foreign agents and assorted enemies within the USA, missions for which Washington could claim plausible deniability because none were active duty soldiers. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it to keep ‘US democracy’ safe, for a price. Sounds familiar? Truth is indeed sometimes stranger than fiction, and the onscreen adventures of this squad of special operations and intelligence experts pale into insignificance when held up against reality." More...

Also see: http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1386/1/


Les gens s'organisent suite à la mort de Fredy Villanueva - réportage de Radio-Canada

La Zone Audio • Vidéo | Radio-Canada.ca

Greetings from ILPS Chairman to new Nepalese Prime Minister

16 August 2008

Comrade Prachanda
His Excellency Pushpa Kamal Dahal
Prime Minister
Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal

Dear Comrade Prachanda,

We the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS) convey to you our warmest greetings of revolutionary solidarity and congratulations for your election as the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal (FDRN) by overwhelming majority vote. We share the elation over your outstanding achievement with you as leader, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the People's Liberation Army, the mass organizations and the entire people of Nepal.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the people of Nepal have advanced from one major political victory to another. The cumulative victories have been due to the correct general line of new democratic revolution through people's war against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Through a decade-long revolutionary armed struggle, your Party was able to build a powerful mass base and make advances in an all-rounded way.

The people of the world have celebrated the great historic victory of your Party and the people of Nepal in overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. They expect, as your own people demand, that the revolutionary process continues through fundamental reforms by constitutional changes, policy-making, executive action and mass mobilization.

We fully and firmly support the demands of the people of Nepal that under your leadership the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal uphold, defend and promote national independence, people's democracy, social justice, economic development through industrialization and land reform, a national, scientific and mass system of culture and education and an independent foreign policy for peace and international solidarity.

There are great possibilities of global significance arising from the revolutionary strength of your republic, Party and people. Nepal can serve as a base for promoting the global historic mission of the working class for defeating imperialism and building socialism and for generating the broadest possible mass movement of international solidarity against imperialism and reaction.

We extend to you our most militant best wishes. We are hopeful and confident that you as Prime Minister will lead the republic, your Party and the people of Nepal towards still greater revolutionary victories. The prospects are bright because your Party and people are united, reliant on their own revolutionary strength, ever vigilant and militant in defense of revolutionary gains and are determined to struggle and make the necessary sacrifices to reach the next new and higher level of the Nepali revolution.

Please accept the assurances of our highest comradely regards.

For the International League of Peoples' Struggle

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International Coordinating Committee


IFI priest receives death threat in Philippines

A priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) received a death threat from suspected state agents.

Volume VIII, Number 28, August 20-26, 2008

Reverend Father Romeo Tagud of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) received an envelope containing an M16 bullet around 6:30 a.m.

Tagud is the secretary-general of Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) in Negros.

In a statement, the PCPR said, “We strongly condemn this desperate and evil act as this is clearly a handiwork of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Oplan Bantay Laya 2 that uses unjust, brutal, destructive and anti-people instruments to sow fascism and terror against legitimate, legal, progressive and democratic personalities and consistent anti-Arroyo oppositionists like Fr. Romeo Tagud.

Oplan Bantay Laya 2 is the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo government.

Tagud recently joined the eight-member delegation of Filipino-Americans from the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, USA who visited Guihulngan, Negros Oriental last June 30 to July 2.

The PCPR said, “It is in this pastoral visit that Fr. Romeo Tagud bonded himself with the delegation’s expressed serious concern on the continuing deterioration in the observance of human rights in Negros, the existence of pervasive climate of fear and the lack of care and respect by government and the military towards the Filipino people who live in extreme poverty.”

The PCPR deemed that the harassment against the priest is a ‘wicked, immoral and unjust act aimed to silence him in pursuing his sincere advocacy for the defense of human rights.’

The PCPR added, “As a church worker, Fr. Romeo Tagud adheres to the Christian tenet of ‘Love the least of thy brethren’ and uphold the democratic rights of the poor and the oppressed to assert and exercise their basic right to life.”

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, 27 church workers have already been killed, according to the PCPR. These include the former IFI Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento and IFI priest Fr. William Tadena.

The PCPR called on all peace-loving church workers, priests, religious sisters, brothers, formandi, pastors, deacons, deaconesses, bishops, lay workers and to all the Filipino people to help defend and advocate human rights.

“…the Christian Church urged us to courageously defend and vindicate the rights of the poor and the oppressed, even when doing so will mean alienation or persecution from the rich and powerful,” said PCPR.

IFI Priest Receives Death Threat | Bulatlat


Fisher-folk in the Philippines Oppose Bilateral Trade Accord with Japan

Article by activist/journalist Stefan Christoff, a member of the International Observers Mission (IMA) to the Philippines in May 2007.

“In the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, particularly articles twenty-eight and twenty-nine in the agreement, outlines that huge fishing fleets from Japan will be allowed to explore our national waters in the Philippines, particularly our exclusive economic zones.”

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

"Opposition to a bilateral trade accord between Japan and the Philippines is growing increasingly public throughout the Pacific archipelago and this week Pamalakaya, a national fisher-folk alliance, announced a national campaign to oppose the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

As negotiations within international trade institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) continue to falter, multiple G8 nations, such as Japan, the U.S. and Canada, are switching their attention to negotiating bilateral or regional trade accords throughout the world. Bilateral trade accords generally articulate a similar economic vision common to the WTO, which views natural resources, public sector institutions and the environment in terms of rapid economic profit. More...


Murdered Filipino Mother and Activist Commemorated in Victoria, Canada

Dr. "Chandu" Claver is the former Chair of Bayan Muna in Kalinga. A physician-surgeon by profession, for many years he served his community in the Cordilleras as a people's Doctor. Having been a survivor of an attempted political assassination that killed his wife, Dr. Alice Claver, and left him with multiple gunshot wounds, he and his young children continued to be harassed and threatened by the Philippine military. Because of this, Dr. Chandu and his children are now in Canada seeking refuge in this country. He continues his activism in Victoria, British Columbia where he helps organize the Victoria Philippine Solidarity Group.

Bayan Canada National Organizing Committee



Victoria, BC, 04 August 2008 – A public commemoration service for a murdered human rights advocate was held last August 2 at the Selkirk Montessori School. Two years ago this week, Alice Claver, a human rights worker, was killed in an ambush by suspected government agents in the Philippines. Her husband, Dr. Constancio Claver, and their three daughters survived, and have fled to Canada. They have been waiting in Victoria for more than a year for the Immigration and Refugee Board to hear their case for a refugee claim.

The commemoration service was followed by a Forum on Human Rights and the Philippine Situation, sponsored by the Victoria Philippine Solidarity Group and the Stop the Killings in the Philippines Network. “As of today, we still have no justice for Alice. No effective police investigations have happened, and those who planned and perpetrated her death are still at large.” Dr. Claver explained.

The video presentation entitled “The Philippines: Waging War on the People” was publicly shown for the first time in Victoria. The video indicates how on that fateful day on July 31, 2006, two riflemen hosed down the Claver family car containing the couple and one of their daughters. Alice did not survive her seven gunshot wounds. Dr. Claver and his daughter, though much wounded, survived. Since then, Dr. Claver has linked up with human rights groups in an international campaign called the Stop the Killings Campaign.

Alice Claver was one of 903 Filipinos victims of extra-judicial killings since 2001. Most of the victims were members and leaders of legitimate progressive social organizations working for social changes in the Philippines. Local and international bodies and investigators, notably from the United Nations, have indicated the direct involvement of the Philippine military in these killings. In his talk, Dr. Claver said, “. . . the present Philippine rule is a de facto martial rule, a far cry from the so-called ‘vibrant democracy’ that even the present Canadian government seems to stubbornly think and adhere to.” The killings have been linked to the Philippine Government counter-insurgency program – a program strongly and directly supported by the United States War on Terror.

The Stop the Killings in the Philippines Campaign has spread into numerous countries around the world. This culminated in a process involving the filing of charges against Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush at the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. This international opinions court found both Arroyo and Bush guilty of crimes against humanity. “International solidarity of peoples across the world has made this possible.” Claver said. But he added, “The number of killings may have noticeably decreased in the last 6 months due to the local and international pressure, but (the killings) definitely have not stopped. . . . Getting Arroyo and Bush out of the scene may not be the total answer, but may be a start for better things to come.”

He appeals to Canadians to continue to lobby their government to review Canada’s trade relations with, and military aid to the Philippines. He urged that Canada should find “means of making truly sure that Canadian tax payer’s money is not being used to make the Armed Forces of the Philippines a more efficient killing machine”. ###

For reference:
Victoria Philippine Solidarity Group