Saturday, November 29, 2008

3 in ‘Tagaytay 5’ sue police, Navy

By Maricar Cinco, Karen Lapitan
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 16:05:00 11/29/2008

Filed Under: Justice & Rights, Unrest and Conflicts and War, Laws

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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

AFP counters NPA recruitment in schools

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:50:00 11/25/2008

Filed Under: Military, Education, Subversion

MANILA, Philippines—The military has stepped up a campus tour to inform students of the “deceptive” recruitment strategies of the communist New People’s Army and warn them that joining rebel-linked organizations could lead to violent death.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Community Relations Service has visited more than 50 private and public colleges and universities in Metro Manila to counter the NPA recruitment of students, according to Army Lt. Col. Leopoldo Galon Jr., 7th Civil Relations Group commander.

Galon said the NPA gets its “quality cadres” from colleges and universities.

“We have intensified our education campaign in schools in line with our 2010 target to crush the communist insurgency,” Galon told reporters in an interview Monday.

But the AFP’s two-hour forum at the University of the Philippines in August was criticized in an article published in the Philippine Collegian last month, which accused the military of attempting to infiltrate academic institutions and silence student and youth leaders.

The article also said the film “Batang Aktibista,” which the AFP screened during the forum, portrayed activists simply as truants.

“As far as the movie was concerned, legitimate student issues, such as the lack of school facilities and tuition increases were baseless accusations meant to spread anarchy,” said the article.

Galon denied the claims, saying the military’s concern for the students was not unfounded.

Many lives of promising students recruited into the organization “ended too soon and too tragically because they crossed the path to armed struggle,” he said in an open letter distributed to reporters.

He said rebel life was being romanticized by insurgents, adding that in truth it was “a portal to a life of suffering, violence and crime.”

He said the campus tour was not meant to dictate upon or put pressure on student leaders but to inform them that activism and membership in “some” organizations could lead to a violent fate.

Meanwhile, human rights advocates and students gathered at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Saturday to launch the “Defend ST (Southern Tagalog)” movement to support activists from the Laguna-Quezon area facing serious charges and harassment by the military.

Police have filed non-bailable multiple murder charges and frustrated murder against 72 persons from the southern Tagalog region for alleged complicity in an ambush of police officers that happened two years ago in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. Of those charged, 30 were members of activist organizations.

The Defend ST alliance drew support from former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo. With a report from Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

OFW’s children plead for help

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:28:00 11/18/2008

Filed Under: Labor, Prison, Children, Regional authorities

BACOOR, Cavite – Unlike other children, Fatham, 13, and Mohd, 11, are not asking for new clothes or toys this Christmas. Instead, they are pleading that their stepfather, who has been in the Damman Central Jail in Saudi Arabia for eight years now, be freed.

“Please help our Papa,” teary-eyed Fatham told the Inquirer on Friday at their residence in Camella Homes in Bacoor.

In five days or less, they might be forced to leave the house, as they could no longer afford to pay the required amount of P99,000. The house has been foreclosed and a new owner might occupy the unit soon.

Rodelio Lanuza, 34, was jailed in August 2000 after he was charged of murdering an Arab who belonged to an influential family.

Lanuza is now in death row as he was sentenced to die in public execution through beheading last May 27, 2002. Fortunately, the beheading was delayed as he has to wait for another seven years until the youngest child of the victim reaches legal age.

“The youngest child of the victim can either forgive my husband or not. I am also appealing to the king of KSA to help us negotiate with the victim’s family,” his wife Maribeth told the Inquirer.

Lanuza worked as a technician in a private firm in Saudi Arabia before the incident happened.

Maribeth, 33, said: “His first two years in jail was very hard. He was put in solitary confinement.”

“He attended his first hearing all by himself. He had no lawyer to defend him. There was not even someone from the [Philippine] Embassy to accompany him,” Maribeth said, trying to hold back her tears.

The killing reportedly took place in August 2000 in a social gathering in Saudi where an Arabian national, who happened to belong to a known family in the area, assaulted him.

Maribeth refused to disclose details, saying the case is too sensitive. Lanuza’s case is with Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judicial Council.

She said her husband would even give his belongings that they had sent him to his inmates who are in need. “Even as he is in jail, he never fails to help other people.”

The Lanuza family’s difficulties do not end at having the family head in jail.

On Oct. 8, Maribeth was forced to go home as she learned that no one was taking care of their two children. Maribeth also worked in Saudi Arabia as a hospital aide.

With only the exact amount of fare in her pocket, she flew back to the country.

The couple decided to leave their children to a housemaid whom they trusted. It turned out that the money they sent did not go to the needs of their children but was instead spent by the housemaid.

Maribeth said she wanted to file a case against the housemaid, Deborah Balunsay.

“Filing a case, however, would mean shelling out money, so I decided not to pursue the case,” she said.

The experience had put their two children in despair, especially Fatham, who developed depression.


Maribeth felt that the government was not paying much attention to jailed Filipinos abroad. “The issue is not just about my husband. There are many Filipinos in jails abroad, some are already waiting for their death. I am appealing to the government to do something about our problem,” she said.

Lanuza is on his own in his case. Right now, no lawyer is assisting him and negotiations between the victim’s family are conducted without counsel. “He badly needs legal assistance,” Maribeth said.

However, she is thankful that individuals and groups have been helping them. “Some sent monetary support before, but what we need is an assurance that my husband will not be beheaded and he will be freed.”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Labor leader escapes slay try

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:07:00 11/08/2008

Filed Under: Crime, Human Rights, Regional authorities

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – A militant labor leader was almost hit by bullets when two unidentified armed men shot his residence several times Thursday night in Riverside, Calamba City at 9:30 p.m., a labor group reported Friday morning.

The labor leader, identified as Arnold Cerdo, is a staff member of the Cabuyao Workers Alliance.

According to Virgilio Colandog, member of Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno, two men wearing bonnets, suspected to be military agents, attempted to shoot Cerdo and his brother-in-law, Juanito Dacillo.

Fortunately, they (Cerdo and Dacillo) immediately saw the gunmen so they were able to evade the shots,” he added.

The two unidentified men with bonnets were reportedly riding a motorcycle, the usual style of perpetrators of political killings in the country, Colandog added.

Cerdo and Dacillo temporarily transferred into another house given the threats, Colandog said in a phone interview.

Prior to this incident, four Southern Tagalog activists were jailed in Calapan.

They were accused of multiple counts of murder and frustrated murder in an ambush on March 3, 2006.

Of the 72 names identified by the police, at least 30 are militant leaders.

Cerdo, however, is not included in the list.

In Cavite, a labor leader was arrested by the police Thursday morning in Barangay Manggahan, General Trias.

Arnaldo Seminiano, organizer of the militant Ilaw-Buklod Manggagawa (IBM), was reportedly arrested by four policemen, two of whom were not in uniform, at around 10 a.m. Thursday.

He was joined by another organizer of IBM, Sonny Gum-o, who was released after the police failed to present a warrant of arrest.

Their personal belongings like flash disks, cell phones and bags were reportedly confiscated by the police.

Seminiano was brought to Camp Vicente Lim, Laguna, for interrogation on Thursday.

His name is among the 72 names that appeared in the charge sheet in connection with the ambush of government troops on March 3, 2006, in Puerto Galera.

The ambush was reportedly staged by communist New People’s Army rebels.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

1 dead, 20 hurt in Cavite road mishap

By Karen Lapitan, Romulo Ponte
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 10:37:00 11/06/2008

Filed Under: Accidents (general), Road Transport

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – (UPDATE 2) Police said one person died and 20 others were hurt after a Manila-bound passenger bus fell into a rice field and hit a nipa hut in Kawit, Cavite at 5 a.m. Thursday, said police.

The Jethro Liner Bus bound skidded into a rice field at the Centennial Road in Barangay (village) Tramo Maroles in Kawit, Cavite as it tried to evade a motorcycle which attempted to overtake the bus, said Police Officer 1 June Conrado.

The fatality who lived in the hut was identified as Gil Magcawas, 78.

Police rushed Magcawas to the hospital but died on the way.

The motorcycle driver fled before police could reach the scene of accident.

The injured bus driver and passengers were immediately brought to Kalayaan Hospital in Kawit, Divine Grace Hospital in Rosario, and Crisostomo Hospital in Bacoor.