PHILIPPINES: Court orders release of falsely charged activists
ISSUES: Torture; human rights defenders; right to liberty and security; right to justice; political detainees; arbitrary arrest and detention; administration of justice.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to inform you that the five persons, three of whom are activists, illegally arrested and falsely charged in April 2006, were released on August 28, 2008. The court hearing their case dismissed the charges filed against them. We are also reproducing a copy of the decision.
As we reported in our previous appeal (AHRC-UAU-041-2008, UA-143-2006), Riel Custodio, Alejandro Pinpin, Enrico Ybanez, Michael Masayes and Aristides Sarmiento, were charged with Rebellion before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 18 in Tagaytay City.
Although the court issued its decision on August 20, it was only yesterday afternoon (the 28th) that the detainees were released from police detention. Also, it was only yesterday morning that their relatives were informed of the court's decision. (Please see the original or only word version)In the court's ruling, Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Edwin Larida Jr., rejected the prosecutors argument they should be able to pursue the prosecution of the detainees for a crime of Rebellion for possessing alleged subversive documents when police arrested them on 28 April 2006.
The court ruled it cannot allow the indictment for Rebellion by using the alleged subversive documents as their evidence. Subversion is no longer a criminal offense in the Philippines; thus, the detainees cannot be prosecuted for Rebellion by using the evidence of possessing subversive documents.
While we welcome the dropping of charges and release of the detainees, it is also extremely important that the police officers and other security forces who are responsible for illegally arresting the detainees and for torturing them while they were in their custody should be held to account.
It may be recalled that on May 14 of this year, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) in Quezon City, concluded, after conducting their investigation into allegations of torture and other human rights violations, that the rights of the detainees had been violated. The CHR's findings should be given meaning by prosecuting those involved and affording compensation to victims.
The AHRC thanks all those who supported this appeal, in addition to the strenuous work the detainees' families, their legal counsels and persons helping them had been doing, by continuously drawing the concerned government's attention to the plight of the five detainees.
We are also sharing to you the message we have received today from Laura Sarmiento, wife of Aristides, who is among the detainees;"Yesterday indeed was a very good day. After we got the information in the morning that the judge had dismissed the rebellion charges against them, Aris, Axel, Riel, Rico and Michael finally walked out of prison yesterday afternoon after having been ordered released by the court. We are going to send a longer acknowledgement of appreciation to all who supported the campaign for their release in the next few days."
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)