Abducted Peasant Leaders Detail Torture by Police

When Axel Pinpin and the rest of the “Tagaytay 5” were under tactical interrogation two years ago, they were being asked about Renato Alvarez, chairman of Kamagsasaka-Ka to which two of them belong. Three days after the release of the “Tagaytay 5”, Alvarez along with seven peasant organizers and the driver of the van they rented were abducted and heavily tortured.

Vol. VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

When Axel Pinpin and the rest of the “Tagaytay 5” – peasant organizer Riel Custodio, freelance researcher Aristides Sarmiento, and cockfighting aficionados Rico Ybañez and Michael Masayes – were under “tactical interrogation” following their abduction on April 28, 2006 by police and Navy elements, among the questions they were being asked were about Renato Alvarez, then 63, chairman of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Farmers’ Confederation in Cavite), of which Pinpin and Custodio are members. That was within the three days before they were presented to media as “communist rebels” allegedly in cahoots with dissident soldiers in a plot to “destabilize” the Arroyo administration.

The “Tagaytay 5” were released on Aug. 28 this year after the Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court, Branch 18 under Judge Erwin Larida, Jr. found the rebellion case lodged against them to be “non-existent”.

Last Aug. 31, it was Alvarez’s turn to be abducted.

“It appears the police and military were already hot on Tatay Atoy’s trail as early as 2006,” said Pinpin, now Kamagsasaka-Ka’s information officer, in an interview.

Based on a fact sheet prepared by Diane Mariano of the Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP), Alvarez and eight other companions – now known as the “Silang 9” – were traveling on Aug. 31 from Barangay (village) Tartaria in Silang, Cavite to Nasugbu, Batangas.

Alvarez, and seven other peasant organizers belonging to Kamagsasaka-Ka and the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Batangas (Sambat or Farmers’ Federation in Batangas) had just come from a planning meeting in preparation for the observance of Peasant Month this coming October. With him were: Franco Romeroso, 27; Neshley Cresino, 27; Felip Nardo; Yolanda Caraig, 47; Janice Javier, 23; Bernardo Derain, 32; and Jomel Igana, 19.

They were riding in a yellow multi-cab with plate number GIS-619, driven by Mario Joson, 56, of Cavite.

Upon reaching Brgy. Lumil, they saw a police mobile parked where they were passing. At the same time, they noticed a van following them. At Brgy. Pasong Langka they were cut off by a car and were ordered by its occupants to alight. They were blindfolded with packaging tape and their hands were tied. They were briefly taken for a ride before being brought to a place where, for the rest of the night, they were repeatedly tortured.

Detention and torture

Alvarez was hit in the chest whenever he refused to answer questions.

Joson was beaten up and, as a result felt extreme pain in his chest. His hands were also twisted so he fears his hand may be broken.

Igana’s hands were swollen from being tied too tightly.

Meanwhile, Javier was ordered to climb a concrete post when she refused to answer questions. An officer pointed a gun at her nape and repeatedly hit her head and knees with a dipper. Later the officer threatened to burn her with gasoline and to rape Cresino.

Cresino herself was strangled and repeatedly slapped in the head, and alternately had a gun and a knife pointed at her. She was ordered to undress and would be threatened with rape whenever she refused to answer questions.

Romeroso’s testicles were squeezed and his nipples were pinched whenever he refused to answer questions. His ears were stapled.

Derain was electrocuted in the head and genitals. He also felt something hard being inserted into his penis. His head was covered with a plastic bag.

Nardo was electrocuted in the genitals and his head was dipped into a drum filled with water. He was also ordered to dig his own grave. A small wound was found on his thigh.

The CEMJP fact sheet stated that most of the “Silang 9” were forced to sign affidavits while blindfolded, and were being coerced into admitting they were members of the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA).

Supt. Romano Cardino, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) chief of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for Operations and Intelligence, said the nine were captured in a joint operation of the Calabarzon Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) and Army soldiers in Silang. He said two of them were suspects in the bombing of a Globe cellsite in Lemery, Batangas last month.

Cardino claimed that they recovered one .45 caliber pistol, one 9mm pistol, and assorted devices and explosives from the nine.

On Sept. 1, their relatives were allowed to talk to them at the RSOG detention center in the PNP’s Camp Vicente Lim. That was also the first time the nine – except for Nardo who was brought first to the CIDG and then to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) – saw each other since being abducted.

A lawyer negotiated for their release since they had not been charged with any offense, but the RSOG officers told the lawyer they could not be freed since they have subjected to an inquest on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The next day, Cavite Chief Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco ordered their release, citing the RSOG’s failure to produce evidence against them for the charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“Their ‘arrest’ is part of the government’s plot to cripple legitimate people’s organizations,” Pinpin told Bulatlat.

Land-use conversion

Kamagsaska-Ka and Sambat have been in the thick of campaigns against land-use conversion. According to Pinpin, among the high-profile cases that the two organizations have been handling are the following:

· Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, involving 8,650 hectares;

· Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas, involving 2,000 hectares;

· Asturias Mining in Brgy. Calbayog, Calatagan;

· Hacienda Roxas in Batangas, involving 7,000 hectares;

· the Cavite-Laguna Road project, affecting major agricultural cities and towns including Tagaytay City and Silang; and

· Kuok Properties, involving 300 hectares in Carmona and Silang, Cavite.

“These are just a few of the many cases the two groups are working on,” Pinpin said. “If they could put the peasant movement’s activities in Cavite and Batangas to a halt, land-use conversion would push through.”

Pinpin added that the “Silang 9” and their organizations are planning to file counter-charges against their abductors. (Bulatlat.com)

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