News in Pictures: Free Detained Peasants, DOJ Urged

Text and photos by RONALYN V. OLEA

MANILA — Members of Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) and Freedom for Tomada (FFT) network urged Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to immediately review the cases of peasants detained in jails nationwide and order their immediate release.

The group is calling for the release of Dario Tomada, a former peasant leader of Sagupa-SB (Eastern Visayas regional chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, KMP) who was arrested late evening on July 22 in Biñan, Laguna.  He was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and responsible for the alleged “mass graves” in Inopacan, Leyte.

“Dario Tomada is a simple peasant leader who was being targeted for extra-judicial killing in 2005, during Maj. Gen. Palparan’s stay in the region, thus, he was forced to go to Manila in 2006 to do odd jobs to support his family.  Now he is being accused of a crime he never could have committed as he was not yet a member of any organization in 1985 when the alleged crime took place,” said Antonio Flores, Tanggol Magsasaka and Freedom for Tomada Co-convenor.

“We urge Justice Secretary De Lima, a defender of human rights to look closely into his case, see that he is innocent and order his immediate release,” Flores said.

Tanggol Magsasaka also called for the release of Felicidad Caparal, an organizer of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) who was arrested on January 27, 2009 in Lavezares town, Northern Samar. She was held incommunicado for nine days and subsequently accused of being part of an ambush of the NPA against the military.

Tanggol Magsasaka also cited the arrest of Isidro Pasatiempo and Totsie Timtim, farmers of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, on June 24. They are now detained at Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Guihulngan. The two have been charged with illegal possession of firearms, explosives and ammunitions and were forced to admit that they are members of the NPA.

Flores said the soldiers kept on tagging Pasatiempo as cook of the NPA and Timtim as one of the medical personnel.

The group said the filing of trumped-up charges against the peasants is part of the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya.

“They are peasant leaders and activists who struggle for genuine land reform, thus, they were targeted for political persecution, under the Oplan Bantay Laya program.  The Aquino government should immediately release them in the name of democracy and end Oplan Bantay Laya, prosecute the military and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Flores said.  (

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