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Alex Constantine - August 1, 2008

by Philippines Cultural Studies Center
Jul 13th, 2008

US tax dollars are funding the corrupt and brutal Arroyo regime to imprison and torture civil-society activists such as the "Tagaytay 5." This is an appeal for world solidarity on behalf of writers, journalists and media persons in the Philippines who are jailed, tortured, and threatened with death by the terrorist Arroyo regime supported by Washington/Pentagon.


By E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Forum, New York City

Filipino writer Alex Pinpin was arrested by sixty heavily armed security personnel of the Arroyo regime last April 28, 2006, together with four companions, after a meeting with coffee farmers in Tagaytay City, Philippines, on their way to a May Day Labor rally in Manila. An experienced agricultural scientist, Pinpin was a fellow of the University of the Philippines Writers Workshop in 1999 and a research-information officer of the Confederation of Farmers in Cavite province. His companions--Aristedes Sarmiento, Riel Custodio, Michael Masayes and Enrico Ybanez--are all peasant organizers and advocates of farm workers’ rights and small farmers’ welfare. They are responsible, conscientious citizens of a poor, underdeveloped country dominated by predatory transnational corporations and US global hegemony.

The four civil-society militants, known as the “Tagaytay 5,” were charged with the crime of rebellion. For seven days they were blindfolded and hogtied, interrogated without aid of a counsel, tortured and repeatedly threatened with electrocution and and summary execution. After a week of holding them incommunicado, the police presented them to the media as “communist rebels.” They were accused of conspiring with “dissident soldiers” to “destabilize” the Arroyo administration. Despite a “Not Guilty” plea, the military has detained the four farmers for more than two years of ignominious humiliation and barbaric privations.

Pinpin and his fellow prisoners testified that they “were detained and padlocked 24/7 in a police camp with no provisions for sunlight and outdoor exercises for 10 months, thus endangering their health and welfare; and that it took a 67-day fasting/hunger strike to gradually improve their detention conditions” (cited by Alex Martin Remollino, “Court Starts Hearing Tagaytay 5 Bail Petition,” Bulatlat, 6-12 July 2008).

Last July 4, the Tagaytay City Regional Court Branch 18 started hearing their petition for bail. After a stalled investigation since June 2006, the State Commission on Human Rights (CHR) finally ruled that the state violated the activists’ rights when they were abducted and jailed. The CHR charged that the police violated the code of conduct of law-enforcement officials. It concluded that the police officers were guilty of human rights violations (abduction, unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention) and recommended their case to the government Ombudsman. The Tagaytay 5 earlier filed a case against the military for robbery, torture, and “incriminatory machinations.”

In her visit at the Cavite police regional headquarters, the Commission Chair Leila de Lima noted that the 20-square-meter custodial jail where the farmers have been locked up for two years did not pass the United Nations’ minimum standard for the treatment of prisoners (report by Jocelyn Uy, Daily Inquirer, 7 July 2008).

On the day of the hearing, however, the state prosecutors requested a postponement, claiming that they need time to prepare their witnesses. Pinpin and his companions responded that this delaying tactic would allow the police to “scrounge for more witnesses and manufacture credible evidences so as to win a conviction, which they failed to achieve after two years and two months of preparation for this legal offensive” (Nina Catherine Calleja http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20080708-147191/Tagaytay-5-slam-govt-delaying-tactics)

Alex Pinpin, now 34, continues to write poems, essays, and short stories in his cell measuring 5 meters by 6 meters shared with his four companions. His collection of poems, Tugmaang Walang Tugma (Rhythm Without Rhyme), is distinguished for their passionate commitment to social justice and popular struggles for equality and national liberation. A recent poem written in Filipino, “Visiting the Tomb of the Living,” articulates a wisdom gained from incarceration: “What are being decomposed here are not the cold earth bodies but the dreams and longings to be free. What are being corroded here are not the bones, the hair and the teeth but the battle experiences of the oppressed class” (translated by Nina Catherine Calleja, Daily Inquirer, 9 Nov. 2006).

In June 2008, three groups--the organization “Artists for the Removal of Gloria,” the association of poets Kilometro 64, and Southern Tagalog Exposure--organized a series of cultural nights called Tugma sa Laya (Rhyme on Freedom) to gather support for the detainees by publicizing their case nationwide. The Philippines Cultural Studies Center, among others, has mobilized international solidarity to demand the immediate release of the unjustly framed writer and his fellow activists.

Since 2001, Washington has funded the repressive Arroyo regime with millions of tax dollars for weapons, logistics, and police training. Thousands of US troops conduct war games every year, with hundreds of US Special Forces and CIA-secret service agents engaged in combat against Moro and marxist insurgents all over the islands. This unconscionable intervention mocks Philippine sovereignty and subsidizes state terrorism against 90 million Filipinos (see E. San Juan, US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines, New York: Palgrave, 2007). After meeting with Arroyo last June, Bush dispatched the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan to the Philippines, presumably to distribute relief goods to typhoon-stricken victims in a region where local insurgents are actively challenging the fascist military and its oligarchic patrons.

Enough is enough. If US citizens are concerned that their tax dollars are wasted to permit the brutal extra-judicial killings and abductions of Arroyo’s critics, including Pinpin and his four companions, they should clamor for a halt to US aid to Arroyo. They should call for the release of all political prisoners, immediate end of political assassinations and forced disappearances, and a prosecution of all military and police units guilty of state terrorism under the neocolonial regime of fake, corrupt president Arroyo.

I call on all concerned citizens and civil-society militants in the US and around the world to demand the release of Pinpin and his companions, and render justice to numerous journalists and media people killed by the Arroyo military-police apparatus. We need to confront this crisis with strong moral indignation and collective action. We join the voices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN Human Rights rapporteurs, World Council of Churches, Permanent People’s Tribunal, International Association of People’s Lawyers, and numerous public institutions protesting the fascist carnage in the U.S.’s former colony and Cold War “showcase of democracy” in Asia.--##


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