FREE THE TAGAYTAY FIVE!
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN THE PHILIPPINES!
On April 28, 2006, the writer Axel Alejandro Pinpin and four companions were abducted in Sungay village, Tagaytay City, by the Philippine National Police and charged with rebellion.
Pinpin’s companions, researchers Aristedes Sarmiento and Riel Custodio, together with local residents Enrico Ybanez and Michael Masayes, were on the way to attend Labor Day commemoration events in Cavite and Quezon. All were tortured, held incommunicado for a week, all their personal property confiscated by the police. They are now detained at Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Laguna. They have been padlocked for over 100 days now in cells measuring 5 x 6 meters cell, with minimum ventilation and unhygienic regimen (Bulatlat, May 14-20; May 28-June 3, 2006, reports by Dennis Espada; Press Statement from Laura Sarmiento, Aug. 4, 2006).
Pinpin, a graduate of Cavite State University, was 1999 Fellow of the University of the Philippines Writers Workshop. Riel is an organizer for the Farmer’s Federation in Cavite.
Like most citizens critical of the Arroyo regime, Pinpin and his companions, now known as the “Tagaytay 5,” were accused of being members of the Communist-led New People’s Army engaged in “destabilization plots.” Their experience falls into the well-documented pattern of State terrorism: harassment of Bayan Muna activists (the most prominent is Representative Crispin Beltran), warrantless arrests, kidnapping, “disappearances,” and extrajudicial killings by paramilitary death-squads and/or government troops.
Over 700 civilians (half of whom are affiliates of cause-oriented groups) have been murdered since Arroyo became president in January 2001, according to KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights).
The flagrant terrorism of the Arroyo-led State apparatus has now been universally condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, U.S. National Lawyers Guild, Asian Commission of Human Rights, and other transnational bodies. Arroyo’s complicity with kidnappings, tortures, and murders may be prosecuted under the terms of the 1966 International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights as well as various international treaties and protocols signed by the government.
The massive political killings and enforced “disappearances” recall the genocidal “Phoenix” massacres of Vietnamese suspects during the Vietnam War in the sixties supervised by CIA agent Col. Edward Lansdale, chief adviser to Ramon Magsaysay. It also recalls the systematic “vigilante” low-intensity assassinations during the Corazon Aquino administration. The U.S. gives annually several hundred million dollars’ worth of military aid (weapons, logistics, training) ostensibly to fight “international terrorism.” But this aid is used to suppress the New People’s Army (NPA) combatants, Muslim separatists, as well as ordinary Filipinos critical of Arroyo’s corruption, cheating, and subservience to the Bush administration.
Recently, the U.S. and Arroyo set up a Security Engagement Board to legitimize a prolonged U.S. military presence in violation of the Philippine Constitution (Article II, Sec. 3) prohibiting foreign troops from getting involved in internal security matters (IBON Media Release, May 26, 2006). These violations have been rampant since the country became “independent” in 1946.
Since 2001, the U.S. has manipulated the Arroyo regime to maintain its hegemony and strategic economic-political dominance in southeast Asia with a predominantly Muslim population. Recently, U.S. Intelligence head John Negroponte met with Arroyo advisers Eduardo Ermita and Norberto Gonzales to implement U.S. directives. Hundreds of U.S. Special Forces operate in Mindanao, Sulu, and other regions of the Philippines to counter insurgents of the Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the NPA guerillas, under the guise of rooting out the CIA-begotten terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf.
After President Bush’s visit in October 2003, the Philippines was declared a “model for Iraq,” a “sovereign” country open any time to U.S. political and military intervention. One result of this regular infringement of Philippine sovereignty is the gang rape of a 22-year old woman by six U.S. soldiers last November 2005. Hundreds of such cases occurred periodically, without a single court indictment, when the U.S. military bases in Clark Field and Subic Bay functioned from 1946 to 1992.
Under all accepted norms of republican democratic states today, Pinpin and the Tagaytay political prisoners are presumed innocent until proven guilty. When constitutionally mandated due process and other civil liberties are denied the citizens of the Republic, then a fascist authoritarian order has usurped power. It is the right of all citizens to overthrow such an illegitimate government and replace it with one truly representative of the common welfare and the consent of the governed.
We are petitioning the United Nations and the World Court of Justice to condemn the intolerable violations of human rights in the Philippines being committed daily by the Arroyo regime. U.S. citizens should demand cutting off military and other assistance to the tyrannical Arroyo regime. Citizens of other countries should pressure their governments to terminate normal relations with the illegitimate and corrupt Arroyo regime.
The officers and staff of PCSC protest the unjust torture and imprisonment of the Tagaytay 5, Crispin Beltran, and other political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and indemnification. JUSTICE TO ALL VICTIMS OF MILITARY VIOLENCE AND STATE OPPRESSION!
THE PHILIPPINES CULTURAL STUDIES CENTER (PCSC)
Alegria Concepcion, Staff Coordinator
Storrs, CT, USA