Citing loss of confidence on his integrity and impartiality to hear and decide the instant case pending before his Court, Judge Tomas Leynes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 40 in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro inhibited himself from hearing the multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder case filed by the Provincial Prosecutor and the Philippine National Police against 72 individuals, a number of whom are known leaders and personalities of people’s organizations in the Calabarzon Region. In another development, churches, human rights advocates and people’s organizations in Cavite gathered together on December 11 at the Imus Cathedral to express concern over the alarming situation of human rights in the province.
‘Loss of confidence’
The 27 November 2008 order to inhibit by Judge Tomas Leynes came at the heels of several letters of concern from various movements and organizations and queries of concern from personalities of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the procedures and bases for the filing of charges and issuance of warrants of arrest against the 72 accused.
In the order, Judge Leynes made particular mention of Most Reverend Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle’s inquiry about the judicial procedures that led to the issuance of the warrants of arrest against the accused. According to Reverend Father Jose Dizon, Executive Director of the Workers Assistance Center, Bishop Tagle committed the support of the Diocese of Imus for the accused leaders and activists of Cavite and has tasked his priests to assist in the needs of victims and their families. A number of the priests of the Diocese have known most of these Cavite leaders for years.
According to Pastor Migfried Taruc, Board Member of the Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP), the continued outpouring of letters of concern is an urgent reaction by advocates of human rights and concerned organizations from the international community and the Philippines on the series of arrests and filing of charges against activists in Southern Tagalog.
Father Dizon, added that WAC has been informed by different organizations from the United States, Canada, Germany, France and The Netherlands of their concern and have started parallel campaigns of support for Asuncion and his co-accused.
Emmanuel Asuncion, one of those charged and ordered arrested, appreciated this development as encouraging yet inadequate. Speaking in Tagalog, Asuncion said that, “Judge Leynes could have already recognized certain irregularities in the whole legal process that led to the filing of charges against me and the other leaders,” quickly adding, “but if he would just stand on the side of righteousness and fair justice, he should have dismissed the case outright instead of just inhibiting himself from it because there could be never be any evidence that will prove our involvement in the incident surrounding that case.” Asuncion is a known labor and community leader in Cavite, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Workers Assistance Center and a council member and the spokesperson of the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW).
In a separate statement, Cavite leaders included in the Oriental Mindoro case appealed for continued support for the campaign to dismiss the case against them. Beside Asuncion, those from Cavite include Renato Alvarez and Rogelio Galit, Chairman and Spokesperson, respectively, of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka); Rommel Valdez, Chairman of Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Intsikan; Sheryl Villegas, Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Cavite; Karen Ortiz, Deputy Secretary General of the Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice & Peace; and, Amelita Sto. Tomas, Provincial Coordinator of Gabriela Women’s Party. Galit, also the Anakpawis Provincial Coordinator, is now detained at the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Jail in Calapan City after his arrest on November 3 at his residence in Silang, Cavite.
Statement of Concern
According to Father Dizon, the alarming situation of human rights in Cavite has led to the banding together of the different churches, human rights advocates and people’s organizations into the Cavite Commemorative Committee for Human Rights.
On December 11, the Commemorative Committee organized a day-long series of activities to express their concern over this urgent issue even as the world commemorates the 60th year of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR).
The December 11 event started with the Human Rights Forum at the Bishop’s House of the Diocese of Imus, where victims and families of victims of human rights violations discussed and provided testimonials on the human rights situation. Mrs. Editha Burgos, mother of desaparecido Jonas Burgos; former political detainees Axel Pinpin of the Tagaytay 5 and UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero; and Tessie Alvarez, wife of accused peasant leader Renato Alvarez gave the testimonials to the horrors of human rights violations in the Philippines. Sr. Marinela Narvaez SSS, one of the Convenors of the Commemorative Committee, delivered the church response. Teary-eyed, she likened the speakers to theologians and called for more of the same kind of activities where people should be informed and called to action regarding the disturbing violations against human rights.
At 1:00 P.M., the Forum was followed by an ecumenical service at the Imus Cathedral concelebrated by Most Reverend Bishop Tagle of the Roman Catholic Church Imus Diocese, Bishop Gabriel Garol of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines Southern Luzon Jurisdiction, Bishop Pedro Ojascastro of the Philippine Independent Church Diocese of Cavite, and Rev. Dr. Larry Baquiran of the United Methodist Church in Imus. Speaking during the liturgy, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima highlighted the need to uphold the UDHR. She admitted that the CHR still has a long line of work to do taking particular note that not any one involved in extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances have ever been convicted by a court of law in the Philippines.
At around 3:00 in the afternoon, the participants made the “Walk for Human Rights” to the Cavite Police Headquarters at Camp Pantaleon Garcia also in Imus for a dialogue with police authorities. Police intelligence chief Col. Ludan received UCCP Bishop Garol, Rev. Father Dizon, Rev. Fr. Hector Arellano, UCCP Pastors Berlin and Migfried, Fr. Ramil Aguilar of the PIC, Mrs. Burgos, and Mrs. Alvarez.
The day was capped with the gathering of human rights victims, relatives and supporters in an early Christmas celebration to establish closer relationships and stronger unification and gather strength from each other amidst the very trying and difficult times in their lives.
“We have nothing to celebrate of.” These were the words of the 5 peasant advocates and organizers, known as Tagaytay 5, lasting their two-year detention in Camp Vicente Lim on 28 August 2008.
The group was abducted by state forces on their way to Batangas from Tagaytay City for a meeting with farmers on the evening of 28 April 2006. The authorities hid them in various secluded military shelter for days and presented to the media on 5 May 2008 as rebels trying to stage an attack to Malacañang on the International Labor Day Commemoration.
After more than two grueling years in jail, the rebellion charges for the 5 respondents were dismissed by the Regional Trial Court in Tagaytay City under presiding judge Edwin Larida.
However, before the dismissal order on the rebellion charges was issued, the court scheduled that on all the Fridays of the July the court would hear on the petition of the 5 respondents for bail and dismissal of the case. The court on the other hand only managed to realized three hearing s out of the four scheduled and the proceedings were sufficient to issue a decision regarding the case.
Before the court hearings were realized, the Tagaytay 5 requested organizations, the religious, and other sympathetic individuals to write appeal letters to Judge Larida in speeding up the resolution of their case.
Truly enough, though the case is already two years old, on the 20th of August the RTC issued a resolution dismissing their rebellion case.
Though the dismissal and release order for the Tagaytay 5 was issued on 20 August, the family and their legal counsel were only informed on the 28th of August as one of the family members of the respondents inquired for the status of the case. After receiving the order, he immediately passed the paper around the family members and the legal counsel and headed swiftly to Camp Vicente Lim where the 5 was detained.
The Tagaytay 5, their families, and legal counsel saw that the state was still trying to delay their release from jail to buy time for the authorities to draw another case against them.
The families of the Tagaytay 5 informed them that they will be released on the day of August 28. Waiting behind the prison bars seemed-like forever for the respondents as each one became restless of mixed emotions in anticipation of their release.
The Tagaytay 5 was released after they underwent several procedures and stepped out of the gates of the camp minutes before three in the afternoon of the same day.
Welcome and Thanksgiving
On the afternoon of August 31, a thanksgiving mass was held in the grounds of workers’ assistance center in Rosario to welcome the freed detainees and thanking every one who supported the campaign for their liberty.
However, the day was not-so-joyous at all as a peasant provincial leader, 7 peasant organizers along with their driver – known as Silang 9, were reported missing in the morning of the same day.
After the mass and short messages from the detained, a team was sent out to reinforce the group to search the missing Silang 9.
The Silang 9 was later released after two (2) days of detention in Camp Vicente Lim.
Updated, 31 January 2008
Circumstance Of Arrest, Torture And Detention Prior To Formal Indictment
Now collectively called “Tagaytay 5”, Riel R. Custodio of Batangas City; Michael M. Masayes of Tagaytay City; Axel Alejandro A. Pinpin of Indang, Cavite; Aristides Q. Sarmiento of Calamba City, Laguna; and Enrico Y. Ybanez of Tagaytay City, are all peasant leaders, organizers and advocates associated with the Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (or Kamagsasaka-Ka, Confederation of Farmers in Cavite) and The Cavite Farmers Consultative Council (CFCC). Custodio, Pinpin and Sarmiento also work with farmers and farm workers’ organizations in sugarcane plantations in the first district of Batangas Province, adjacent to Cavite.
Until GMA’s state terrorism befell them.
At around 6:30 sundown of April 28, 2006, while travelling along Ligaya Drive, Brgy. Sungay, Tagaytay City, they were forcibly abducted by an estimated 30-40 heavily armed elements who later turned out to be from the Philippine National Police (from the combined units of Cavite PPO under PS/Supt Benjardi Mantele and PSupt Rhodel O. Sermonia; PRO4-RIID under PS/Supt Aaron D. Fidel and PSupt Rafael S. Aguilar; Cavite PPMG-Tagaytay under PS/Supt Cabillo; and other units) and the AFP-Philippine Navy Intelligence and Security Force (NISF) under LTSG Peter Tolentino. Their abductors wore various uniforms and plainclothes, all bearing no nameplates and carrying no legal warrants. Continue Reading CASE SYNOPSIS OF TAGAYTAY 5…
Family, friends, and companions were surprised when P/Sr Supt Fidel Posadas, the provincial police director said that Lourdes Rubrico popularly known as Nanay Ude was abducted due to her involvement in a land scam.
Everybody is not resolved with the statement of the provincial police office in April 5. We with the family and friends believe that what happened is another round of political repression and harassment in the province under OPLAN BANTAY LAYA 2.
The incident also shows the mode that the elements of state is using against progressives and militants. Evident in the previous incidents of killings and frustrated killings in the province, all were packaged to be showcased to be a common crime and not included in the string of political repression in the country.
For instance, the frustrated killing of Gerry Cristobal, then union president of EMI-YAZAKI in Imus, april 28 last year was dubbed by Col. Rhodel Sermonia, the provincial police intelligence officer, that he is involved in a drug trade and that the shooting is part of a legitimate operation. Like wise, the killing of Jesus “Buth” Servida a union leader of the same company in Dec. 11 last year was made public that the incident was due to a business rivalry.
We pose a challenge to the provincial police office to stop intriguing and stories. Conduct a deep investigation and resolve the worsening human rights violation in the province.
While the whole Christian world recalls the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in
Calvary where he was crucified, political repression continues when a sixty-year old urban poor leader was abducted by four armed men while sleeping in a shelter at Megahouse, Sta.Cruz 1, DBB-E, Dasmariñas.
Lourdes Rubrico, popularly known as Nanay Ude one of the pioneers of Ugnayan ng mga Maralita sa Gawa at Adhika (UMAGA) Federation, was known for her four-decade long struggle with the urban poor sector in Dasmariñas in fighting for their rights for a decent housing for they were one of the relocatees in Bagong Bayan in 1970’s from different parts of Metro Manila.
Witness accounts say that Nanay Ude was sleeping when they saw a light brown colored van entered the abandoned industrial site, set by the National Housing Authority (NHA) to be as temporary relocation, in Sta. Cruz 1 at three o’ clock in the afternoon. They never suspected that the four fairly-looking men who alighted the vehicle would abduct the sleeping urban poor leader in a dwelling. The men woke and forcibly took the victim inside the van. Although the witnesses tried to get into Mrs. Rubrico, one of the abductors pointed his short firearm to them and carried out the abduction. Bystanders acquired the plate number of the vehicle that hurriedly went off in the community.
Nanay Ude’s companions said that the former has no personal enemy but her deep commitment with the cause of the urban poor groups may have induced abhorrence to the organizers of Barangay Alternative Community Leaders (BACAL) group of organizations under the office of the provincial governor being the one under UMAGA Federation who rejects the idea of BACAL to relocate individuals under them in Megahouse, Sta. Cruz 1. BACAL is said to collect a certain amount from people from the time of their relocation in the said community while UMAGA Federation who handles the case and recognized by the NHA fights to award the temporary relocation site to the people.
Relatives, friends, and companions of Nanay Ude strongly condemn the abduction and now are tirelessly searching in camps, hospitals, and other possible locations.