BY DENNIS ESPADA
“Medyo bagong karanasan pero obligadong matutunan (It is a rather new experience and I’m obliged to learn it).” This was how 34-year-old poet Axel Alejandro Pinpin described his 30-day ordeal under police custody.
“Medyo bagong karanasan pero obligadong matutunan (It is a rather new experience yet I’m obliged to learn it).”
This was how 34-year-old poet Axel Alejandro Pinpin described his ordeal under police custodywith four others, for 30 days now, when Bulatlat reached him through mobile phone. He was calling from their detention cell at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Calabarzon Region Office in Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Laguna.
“Nung first night ng interrogation, meron akong tinula na, kumbaga, reyalismo ng mga nangyayari sa lipunan, kung paano ‘yung magkabilang-panig naglalabanan (During the first night of interrogation, I recited a poem which, in effect, describes the realism of social phenomena, of how opposites fight each other),” he continued.
“Sabi ng nag-interrogate sa ‘kin, ‘Maganda iyang tula mo pero dapat ‘yan na ‘yung huling pagkakataon na makakarinig ng tula o huling pagkakataon na merong ganyang tulang lalabas.’ Kumbaga, sa tingin siguro nila kundi subersibo, eh masyadong makatotohanan (My interrogator told me, ‘Your poem is good but it must be the last time we’re going to hear it or last time a poem like that will come out.’ In effect, they probably think it’s so truthful, if not subversive).”
Pinpin, who is also an agriculturist by profession, says all of them are still adjusting to this “unimaginable” kind of life.
Pinpin and peasant organizer Riel Custodio, agriculturist Aristedes Sarmiento, and local residents Enrico Ybañez and Michael Masayes are referred to as the “Tagaytay 5.” Their names made it to the front pages and newscasts after Navy and police intelligence operatives arrested and presented them to the media as New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas engaged purportedly in an anti-government “destabilization plot” out to disrupt the Labor Day rallies.
The five were held incommunicado for a week and afterwards, charged with rebellion before the Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court.
Accounts by the human rights watch group Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP) show that on April 28 somewhere in Sungay village, Tagaytay City between 6:30-7:00 p.m., their captors forced them to board a van at gunpoint and held them down on the floor.
Blindfolded and back-handcuffed, they were brought to the said camp for interrogation and were not fed until the next day. When their families went searching for them, they were transferred to another camp.
The five cried their captors tortured them into admitting they were NPA members, with Ybañez and Masayes suffering most of the beatings. Sarmiento also got a big wound on his right thigh when it was pressed into the van’s hot surface, CEMJP stated.
During the hearing on May 17, the information was updated to include Masayes in the case. Lawyers of the accused moved for a review of the evidences submitted to court arguing that these does not comprise the crime of rebellion but of illegal possession of firearms.
No less than former Sen. Wigberto Tañada Sr. agreed to serve as Tagaytay 5’s defense counsel – attesting that Sarmiento, his former staff consultant, is not an NPA member. Even Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla vouched that Pinpin, Sarmiento and Custodio were not communist rebels but in fact members of the Kalipunan ng Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Farmer’s Federation in Cavite).
“For the case to prosper, there has to be proof of armed conspiracy to overthrow the government,” lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno said when interviewed by reporters. “So far the only evidence which was attached to the information is the affidavit of the police, ‘yung mga nag-aresto. Wala naman silang personal knowledge ng any armed conspiracy (The arresting officers have no personal knowledge of any armed conspiracy).”