CASE SYNOPSIS OF TAGAYTAY 5

March 17, 2008 at 10:24 am | Posted in Campaigns | Leave a comment

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.

For seven (7) agonizing days, which seemed eternity for them and their relatives who were in frenzy searching for them, they were kept blindfolded and hogtied; involuntarily interrogated without the aid of a legal counsel, physically harmed and repeatedly threatened with electrocution and summary execution, held incommunicado in various military and police camps and safe houses; and deliberately hidden from their relatives, and divested of all valuables, personal belongings and organizational properties just like a HULIDAP (slang for hold-up in guise of an arrest) or KOTONG (pay off) operation.  The unmistakable marks of torture are now borne by at least two of them.  Sarmiento’s 2nd degree burn wound on his right leg was unhealed for 4 months after their abduction.

Unable to get even a shred of evidence, the abovementioned PNP units belatedly planted evidence on the Tagaytay 5 and declared in a press conference presided over by the then Chief PNP Director General Arturo C. Lomibao in Camp Crame on May 1, 2006 that those arrested belonged to a group of NPAs sent out to destabilize the Arroyo regime during the Labor Day celebration.  The Tagaytay 5’s inadvertent presentation to the press on that day was done to conjure an image that the NPA is out to sow chaos and terror on a rally sponsored by its supposed connections in the above ground “leftist” organizations.  It was also undertaken to buttress the DOJ’s fantastic claim of “left-right conspiracy” to topple Mrs. Arroyo from power. The Tagaytay 5 became the veritable sacrificial lambs at GMA’s altar of political survival – three weeks ahead of the Erap 5. 

All told, brute force and psychological terror were both unleashed to break down the Tagaytay 5 into admitting membership to guerilla organizations, such as the NPA in Cavite.  Indeed the case of Tagaytay 5 bears very striking similarities with those of the Batasan 5 and the Erap/UMDJ 5.

The Scheme To Legitimize the Illegal Arrest & Continued Prolonged Detention of the Tagaytay 5

In a serious attempt to keep the Tagaytay 5 in jail and legitimize the illegal arrest and continued detention, the PNP senior officers of the PRO4-RIID and Cavite PPO feloniously orchestrated a conspiracy with the political persecutors at the DOJ by belatedly charging the Tagaytay 5 with rebellion at the Tagaytay RTC Branch 18 on the basis of crudely manufactured evidences on 03 May 2006, more than 100 hours after they were abducted.  The PNP virtually dragged, if not kidnapped, a sleeping prosecutor on the late evening of May 2 to force him to conduct a moro-moro inquest in Tagaytay City.  And yet the poor prosecutor did not even get a chance to see, much more question, the five accused!

There was no preliminary investigation conducted on the evening of May 2 or thereafter until June 28, 2006.  Neither did the Tagaytay 5 waived their civil and constitutional rights to such legal remedies nor their right to counsel.

Yet on 05 May 2006, the Tagaytay 5 were unceremoniously hauled by the PNP PRO4-RIID to the Tagaytay RTC Branch 18 to reply to the trumped up charges against them, again without aid of counsel, which was belatedly provided impromptu by the Honorable Judge from the PAO for that day’s hearing and only after the detainees firmly informed the Presiding Judge of the irregularity.  This was also the first day that their relatives were able to see the Tagaytay 5 after 7 days of shuttling around various military and police camps and morgues!

In order to give the police ample time to scour for more evidences and maliciously justify their continued detention, the PNP also charged Sarmiento with the murder of an army officer based on a testimony conjured by a professional witness. The supposed murder case was presented by the PRO4 RIID at the Batangas Prosecutor’s Office in May 2006.  After three hearings at the Prosecutor’s Office, the murder charge was promptly dismissed for lack of evidence on September 2006.

A case of rebellion is now pending at the Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court Branch 18 of Honorable Judge Edwin G. Larida Jr., scheduled for arraignment.

As much as the Tagaytay 5, their families and people’s organizations would want a speedy resolution of the charges filed against them, they were again continued to file several petitions to The Department of Justice and the Supreme Court in order to ensure fair trial, after they noticed that the DOJ-appointed Prosecutor (who was not originally from the Tagaytay City Prosecutor’s Office) had subjectively favored the PNP complainants in the process of a belated preliminary investigation conducted in June-July 2006.

A petition for review of the preliminary investigation is still pending with the Office of the Secretary of DOJ since September 2006. 

On several occasions, the Honorable Tagaytay RTC had insisted on arraigning the Tagaytay 5 but the Tagaytay 5 through counsels has assailed such arraignment since there are related legal matters which will render a prolonged trial a futile excuse since all purported evidences and testimonies are inadmissible in court.

In the beginning, the Tagaytay 5 were made to endure abduction, torture and other illegal actions by the PNP and AFP elements.  Now they are made to endure prolonged detention and undue punishment caused by the very slow grind of the judicial process.

They are not the only ones who are made to suffer – their families and even small kids are suffering their predicament.

 CASE UPDATE

People v Sarmiento, et. al.
Criminal Case No. TG-5273-06 for Rebellion
Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18
Presiding Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr.

As of 31 January 2008

In a court proceeding on 17 December 2007, the Hon. Judge Edwin Larida and the prosecution lawyer made no objection and upheld the 21 August request for a change of venue by Riel, Axel and Aris.

In an inquiry at the court in the first week of January 2008, a court staff confirmed that the Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court had forwarded the case documents to the Supreme Court.  To date, the petitioners await the decision of the Supreme Court on its request.

As of 30 November 2007

The schedule for arraignment set for 17 October 2007 has been cancelled because the Judge had to attend a seminar.  Prior to this, the scheduled June 25 hearing was likewise cancelled by the Court to give way to election-related cases. To date, no notice of hearing has yet been received by the accused or their counsels.

On 21 August 2007, Riel Custodio, Axel Pinpin and Aristides Sarmiento through counsels, Jose Manuel Diokno and Wigberto Tañada Jr., submitted a letter at the Office of the Court Administrator, Hon. Christopher Lock, requesting for immediate change of venue citing that “The arraignment of the accused in the rebellion case had been reset several time due to the pendency of a motion to quash (for lack of jurisdiction over the person), and a motion for reconsideration of the Order denying the motion to quash. These motions were filed by undersigned counsels on the ground that the accused had been unlawfully arrested without warrant.” {Please note that upon advise of counsels, the accused have not informed the media of this move nor have issued a statement about this]

The above-mentioned Motion To Quash was filed before the RTC-Tagaytay on 10 November 2006 basically on the premise that the Court have not acquired jurisdiction over the persons of the accused on the following reasons:

-the arrest was executed without warrant and was based merely on a tip of an unknown and yet undisclosed informant (unlawful arrest; no probable caused established)

-even as the arresting officers issued a sworn statement that they have seized one pistol and other explosive materials from the cars that the accused were riding in at the time of the “arrest”, there was no receipt issued for the seized items as required by law and no inventory of the items were submitted to the Court nor have the items been shown to the Court

-no preliminary investigation was conducted prior to the filing of the information in the case

-the accused were held in incommunicado detention from 28 April 2006 to 5 May 2006 without charges, without access to legal counsel and families

-to date, the prosecution has not submitted any evidence to support its claim that the accused were involved in a rebellion; the counsels of the accused, likewise, have not yet seen any of these supposed evidences

-Denied their rights to due process of law based on the above mentioned grounds

On 20 February 2007, the Motion To Quash was denied by the Court for lack of merit: “The allegations advanced by the accused in support of their arguments in their motion to quash are evidentiary in nature that may be properly appreciated in the hearing of this case…
… However, it should be emphasized that the legality of the arrest of the accused and seizure of the items, having been raised in a motion to quash, has now been put into issue. The accused can therefore adduce evidence in the hearing to this case to support their claim that the arrest and seizure are illegal…”

 (ldcs, 30nov2007)

 

Click to download file: 

Complete  Case Synopsis (PDF)

Pictures

An appeal

Letter of Concern (Sample)

 

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