On the second year of the abduction and subsequent detention of the “Tagaytay 5,” we — their relatives, friends, colleagues, and sympathizers — reiterate our call for their immediate release.
They should be released at the soonest possible, at the very least because the manner of their “arrest” which led to their detention was clearly unlawful.
The “Tagaytay 5” — Axel Pinpin, a consultant of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka) 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 people’s organizations; and Tagaytay City residents Enrico Ybanez and Michael Masayes — 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 — with Ybanez driving for them and Masayes accompanying Ybanez.
Three days later, they were presented to the media — with most of them bearing marks of torture — as “communist rebels” who were conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in a “destabilization plot” against the Arroyo administration. They were subsequently charged with rebellion.
Last April 28, they entered their second year of detention at the PNP’s Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna.
It is a bitter irony that because their paths crossed in the midst of a perfectly legitimate and legal struggle for “food and freedom, jobs and justice,” in the words of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno, they now stand accused of rebellion and languish in detention.
Their agony is being prolonged as the Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court sits on their case, conducting hearings as seldom as once every three months. We decry the court”s snail-paced action on their case. As those of us who have read the law closely know too well, “justice delayed is justice denied.”
The “Tagaytay 5” should be released immediately. For the likes of them, a day in detention is a day too many.