By RED CARAO
MANILA — As of 5 PM today, July 21, University of the Philippines student Maricon Montajes is released on bail after being in prison for seven years on trumped-up charges.
Montajes, along with two other activists, Ronilo Baes and farmer Rommiel Canete, dubbed as the Taysan 3, were arrested in Taysan, Batangas on June 3, 2010 for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives, violation of the firearm ban and the omnibus election code.
The three young activists were staying with a peasant community in Mayabas village in Taysan, when they were arrested by soldiers of the 743rd Combat Squadron of the Philippine Air Force. Their arrest was followed by torture and interrogation by the military.
Last year, a regional trial court in Batangas granted bail to the Taysan 3. Montajes’ was pegged at P604, 000 ($11,900). Family, friends, and the UP community stepped up to help collect bail money.
“For seven years, Maricon, her family and friends endured the unfair justice system and harsh conditions in jail,” Tinay Palabay of Karapatan said in a Facebook post, “Her release was made possible by her family, lawyers, human rights advocates, and UP students and teachers, who raised bail money for her.”
UP students are lauding Montajes’ freedom, considering it a “victory for the oppressed masses.”
Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) chairperson Almira Abril said that their call to release all political prisoners is louder than ever, as many others remain in jail.
“Pinatunayan ng sambayanang Pilipino na hanggang tayo ay magsasama-sama at lalaban, tiyak na may tagumpay tayong makakamit (The Filipino people have proven that if we fight together, we will triumph),” she added.
However, UP College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) Mikko Ringia said that the fight is far from over. He said that Montajes’ freedom should serve as an inspiration for the youth to take action and urge the government to respond to the systemic problems of the country, which he said includes the continuation of the peace talks.
“Kahit sino ay pwedeng maging Maricon Montajes at napakarami pa ng bilanggong pulitikal sa bansa. Hindi titigil ang pananamantalang ito ng gobyerno kung hindi tayo kikilos (Anybody can be like Maricon Montajes, and there are still many political prisoners in the country. This government will not stop this oppression if we will not resist),” he said.
Canete and Baez have yet to make bail, but Karapatan is hoping that they will be released soon.