LOS BAÑOS, Laguna -- Three former political prisoners on Friday filed damage claims against "government instrumentalities" for what they called their unlawful arrest and illegal detention by the authorities for 28 months.
The three -- Riel Custodio, Axel Pinpin, and Aristides Sarmiento -- members of the so-called Tagaytay 5 who were ordered released by a court last August, said in a statement that they were determined to pursue their case against the Calabarzon regional office of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Navy Intelligence unit which they filed with the Department of Justice.
Calabarzon consists of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.
Chief Superintendent Ricardo Padilla, regional director for Calabarzon -- Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon -- found no problem with the damage claims filed against them.
"When somebody files charges against us just because we are performing our duties, we will be happy to answer those in court," he said.
In the statement, the three former detainees said they are still being harassed by the military and the police.
"Despite our acquittal, justice was only partially dispensed and the perpetrators of the human rights violations done to us are still on a witch-hunting binge in the Southern Tagalog Region,” they said.
Whatever amount the court awards them should they win the case “can never assuage the physical pain, psychological terror and hardships that they suffered, along with their
families and supporters, in the hands of their abductors, accusers, tormentors and torturers,” the statement added.
The three, along with Michael Masayas and Enrico Ybañez, were arrested on April 28, 2006, in Tagaytay City on charges of rebellion.
Last August 20, Judge Erwin Larida Jr. of the Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court ruled that the five had been accused of a “non-existent crime,” dismissed the case against them, and ordered their immediate release.
They were released from Camp Vicente Lim Headquarters on August 28.
The Commission on Human Rights had also ruled earlier that their rights had been violated and that they had been arrested and detained illegally.
Pinpin, in a phone interview, said "this is just the tip of the iceberg."
He said they had consulted a lawyer regarding their next move to reclaim personal belongings, such as a laptop computer, wristwatches, passports, and cash amounting to around P800,000 that police allegedly took from them when they were arrested.
The money, he said, belonged to the Kamagsasaka farmers group that was intended to finance the organization’s livelihood projects.