A day following their release from detention, the "Tagatay 5" said that they can only relish the freedom granted by a court if those responsible for their "arbitrary arrest and torture" would be held accountable.
"Our freedom will only be complete, if those who violated our rights, like the PNP (Philippine National Police), will be held responsible," said Riel Custodio, who was held in prison for more than two years.
The Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court junked Thursday rebellion charges filed against Custodio, Aris Sarmiento, Axel Pinpin, Michael Masayes and Rico Ybañez in 2006, and issued a release order stating that the "information for rebellion against the accused is dismissed. The accused are hereby ordered released from custody immediately."
"The rebellion case against the Tagaytay 5 should have been dismissed as early as November 26, had the Department of Justice through the Office of the City prosecutor of Tagaytay City not persisted in its legal bamboozling and hoodwink tactics by using the non-criminal act of subversion to prove the criminal charge of rebellion to prolong our unlawful detention so as to convict unarmed militants," said Sarmiento.
Lawyer Jose Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group meanwhile condemned the claim of police that the farmers were guilty of rebellion using the Anti-Subversion Law as evidence. Diokno explained that after EDSA Revolution in 1986, the law had already been repealed and cannot be used as evidence against individuals charged of rebellion.
He said that the release order was issued while they were filing a petition for bail before the court.
Charges vs PNP mulled
The lawyer added that they are still studying whether the farmers would file criminal, civil, or administrative charges against the PNP.
Diokno said police officers involved can be indicted for criminal charges for abducting and torturing the farmers before they presented them as alleged rebels in a police press conference.
The five former detainees also said that they plan to file a civil suit against the police officers who kept them in detention without basis, where they said they experienced post-traumatic stress.
Administrative charges may be filed, Diokno said, to compel the PNP to conduct its own investigation and place police officers involved under disciplinary action.
Lawyer Carlo Ybañez, legal counsel of the Tagaytay 5 and niece of Rico Ybañez, said his uncle wants to seek redress after the Department of Justice barred him from visiting his wife’s burial and his son’s wake.
Ybañez added that his uncle suffered emotionally while in detention.
Human rights group Karapatan along with Samahan ng mga Ex-detainee Laban sa Detensyon at Amnestiya (SELDA) said that the release of the farmers is a victory for all human rights advocates, they however called for the immediate release of other political prisoners in Southern Tagalong and more than 255 political detainees all over the country.
Tagaytay 5 were abducted by joint elements of the Cavite City police and the Naval Intelligence and Security Forces last April 28, 2006 in Tagaytay City in Cavite.
The five were charged with rebellion and were suspected as communist guerillas that allegedly were set to overthrow the Arroyo government during the Labor Day of 2006.