KARAPATAN Urgent Appeal:
Release NDFP Consultant Eduardo Sarmiento
and other Political Prisoners Now!

 

January 15, 2014

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Photos by KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog and stills from Kodao video as indicated by the filenames
           

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KARAPATAN URGENT APPEAL:
RELEASE EDUARDO SARMIENTO NOW!
13 January 2014

Dear friends and colleagues,

Greetings of peace!

On 11 December 2013, Eduardo Sarmiento, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace process with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH), was sentenced to 20 to 40 years imprisonment by Judge Myra Bayot Quiambao of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 203, on the basis of trumped up criminal charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Lawyers of Sarmiento are challenging the conviction, through a motion for reconsideration filed before the local court, and have also sought, for the second time, for the judge to inhibit herself from the case. These pleas are expected to be heard on Friday, 17 January 2014.

His arrest and detention is based on allegations of fabricated charges of arson, multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder filed against him in the courts of Samar and of illegal possession of firearms and explosives in Muntinlupa. All the charges in Samar have been dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Sarmiento was serving as the NDF consultant representing the Eastern Visayas Region in the peace negotiations with the GPH since 1986. Prior to the imposition of Martial Law, he was an active member of the KM (Kabataang Makabayan or Patriotic Youth) while studying at the University of Eastern Philippines in Northern Samar. He was imprisoned twice by the Martial Law regime because of his political beliefs. In his third year in college as an AB Political Science major, he decided to work full-time with the national democratic movement. Despite the perils of state repression that continued under the Corazon Aquino administration, when killings of activists and revolutionary leaders commenced, he represented the NDFP in various public fora and negotiations in Eastern Visayas as spokesperson and representative of the NDFP in the local peacetalks with the GPH. Sarmiento hails from Catarman, Northern Samar, a province located in the poorest region in the Philippines.

In February 2009, Sarmiento went to Metro Manila to participate in peace negotiations, when he was arrested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP). Sarmiento was blindfolded, forced to go inside a van, and was taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation and torture for 24 hours before being taken to the Southern Police District Jail. It was only then when he knew of the charges against him. The arresting police officers claimed to have found a grenade in his bag, a claim being disputed by Sarmiento and his lawyer. The grenade, they allege, was planted evidence, as the police did not follow required chain of custody of evidence procedure and did not document the grenade in the presence of Sarmiento or his counsel. Police testimonies during the court hearings indicate several irregularities regarding documentation of the supposed evidence. Sarmiento said that he was not carrying a grenade and that the first time that he saw the grenade was during his court trial.

Lawyers of Sarmiento are set to argue for the motion for reconsideration on his conviction on the basis that the court committed serious errors in its December 2013 judgement particularly on insufficient proof of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and several gross irregularities in the chain of custody of the evidence presented and the highly questionable performance of duties of the arresting officers.

Sarmiento’s lawyers are also asking for the judge to voluntarily withdraw from the case. In 2009, the judge was a Senior State Solicitor at the Office of the Solicitor General and she was part of “Task Force Rebellion,”a team of the GPH to review the cases of NDF consultants in the peace process. Given her previous involvement on the part of the GPH, there are serious questions regarding her objectivity and impartiality to the case. Sarmiento’s lawyers are asking that the judge voluntarily withdraw from the case so that another judge can review the judgement.

Sarmiento is on his fifth year of detention in Camp Crame, where he continues to conduct education work among fellow prisoners on their rights to fair and humane treatment inside jail as well on the various issues being confronted by the Filipino people, including the latest developments on the issue of pork barrel and corrupt practices of government officials, as well as the incompetence of the Aquino administration on the relief and rehabilitation for typhoon victims in the region where he hailed from.

Sarmiento is also a cultural worker, who uses various art forms to express the views of the people’s movement on various issues. Since his elementary days, it has been his passion to draw, but it was only in prison where he first attempted to write poems and paint. Except for his regular contribution of poems drawings to LARAB (Flame), the underground revolutionary news magazine in Eastern Visayas, he has not pursued painting or other art work outside of prison, due to other work priorities in the movement. Before his current detention, his last painting was in 1975—in a Lapu-lapu, Cebu prison camp. Since his arrest in 2007, he has written poems, children’s stories, and song lyrics. He has also made several paintings, the latest batch of his paintings were exhibited together with fellow political prisoner Alan Jazmines’ work.

Karapatan views the case of Eduardo Sarmiento as a case that illustrates the injustices being suffered by all political prisoners in the country -- rights violations which are being perpetuated by the Benigno S. Aquino administration through the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (Operational Plan Shoulder-to-Shoulder). At present, 449 political prisoners – 154 of them illegally arrested and detained under the current administration – remain imprisoned.

Aside from the injustices he suffered during his illegal arrest and detention, Sarmiento, as an NDF consultant in the peace negotiations, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed on 24 February 1995 by the GPH and the NDFP. The JASIG provides that consultants and negotiators in the peace process are guaranteed free passage in the country and should have immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation due to their involvement or participation in the peace negotiations. Sarmiento was listed as a peace consultant in the 2001 JASIG list and should not have been arrested nor convicted under this agreement.

Sarmiento’s case is another clear indication that the Aquino administration is blocking all roads towards peace and is in fact exacerbating poverty, repression, plunder of the country’s resources and violations on our sovereignty, miserably failing to fully resolve the root causes of the armed conflict. It has failed to demonstrate good faith and sincerity in respecting and implementing agreements and commitments to the NDFP-GPH peace negotiations, including its commitment to release most, if not all, detained peace consultants. It has continued the malicious practice of prosecuting NDF consultants in the peace negotiations for trumped up charges, and have denied justice for the peace consultants arrested, detained, killed and disappeared during the past regime. Through Oplan Bayanihan, it has spawned killings and other human rights violations.

We appeal to our fellow human rights advocates all over the world to issue public statements and communicate with Philippine authorities to press for the immediate release of Sarmiento and all political prisoners. We enjoin you to demand that the Philippine government stop its repressive policy of filing trumped up charges against political activists and peace workers, and its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. We call on you to appeal for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the GPH and NDFP. Attached is a template letter for Philippine authorities, which can be used for communicating your support for this appeal, and a picture of Sarmiento. You can also view his artworks through the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/GUOAmnesty

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Eduardo-Sarmiento-Free-All-Political-Prisoners/177680612252968.



Thank you very much.

In solidarity,
(SGD) Cristina Palabay
Secretary General, Karapatan

 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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Press Statement
January 17, 2014

Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

Counsels to contest detained NDFP consultant's conviction

Today, recently convicted peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento and his lawyers are set to argue on their Second Urgent Motion for Inhibition and Motion for Reconsideration at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 203.

Sarmiento is a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant who represented the Eastern Visayas Region in the peace negotiations with the Government of Philippines (GPH). Being a Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) holder, he is supposedly protected from arrest and detention or persecution to be able to perform his duties in the peace process.

"Yet, the BS Aquino government violated this agreement several times when it pressed Sarmiento and other NDFP consultants with trumped up charges," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said.

Sarmiento was found by Judge Myra Bayot-Quiambao guilty of the charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives despite having a planted evidence.

Sarmiento's counsels from the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers moved to inhibit Bayot-Quiambao. According to the Motion, "the presiding judge made such ruling despite the fact that no evidence was presented that could to establish the gravity of the offense... The prosecution miserably failed to establish the identity of the corpus delicti, i.e. fragmentation grenade."

The counsels raised serious questions regarding the presiding judge's objectivity and impartiality to the case. Bayot-Quiambao served as Senior State Prosecutor from 2002 to 2009, and was included in the GPH team created by then Justice secretary Agnes Devanadera to look into the cases of the consultants to the peace process and work for their release.

Thus, "having participated in some discussions on the consultants' cases in the peace process and having taken the position of the government, the presiding judge should have inhibited herself when she was asked for the first time to recuse herself in hearing the case," the counsels argued.

The motion further stated, "The manifest bias of the presiding judge in favor of the prosecution during hearing for the case left the accused in serious doubt as to her impartiality on rendering a just ruling," the motion stated.

Sarmiento's Motion for Reconsideration, on the other hand, stated that "the honorable court committed serious errors of facts and law in finding the accused (Sarmiento) guilty of violating PD 1866, as amended by RA 9516 despite the (1.) failure of the prosecution to prove the offense charged beyond reasonable doubt, (2.) failure of the prosecution to establish the chain of custody of the fragmented grenade, and (3.) blindly relying on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties over the constitutional right of the accused to be presumed innocent."
 

Two other criminal charges -- for the use of fictitious name and arson -- that were filed against Sarmiento are already dismissed.

Karapatan, Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) and other human rights and peace advocates gathered in front of the RTC during the hearing to call for the release of Sarmiento and the other 12 detained NDFP peace consultants. ###

 

     

           
           

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.The human rights alliance KARAPATAN stormed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) as Eduardo Sarmiento, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant and illegally detained by the government in violation of prior peace agreements, was convicted with life imprisonment by a municipal court. This impedes the resumption of peace talks between the NDFP and the Manila government. Protesters scored President Aquino's peace office as a war tool and pressed for the release of all political prisoners.
 

Click link below to play video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CspuxUIqEWE

           
     
 
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Peace Process ni Aquino, Binatikos ng Mamamayan.
15 Enero 2014
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Ortigas, Metro Manila

KARAPATAN-ST nanawagan sa OPAPP para sa Pagpapalaya sa Panibagong Naitalang Bilanggong Pulitikal sa Rehiyon ngayong 2014

Naglunsad ng kilos-protesta ang KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog ngayong Enero 15, 2014 sa harapan ng tanggapan ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) upang ipanawagan ang pagpapalaya sa bagong naitalang bilanggong pulitikal sa Timog Katagalugan sa pagpasaok ng taong 2014.

Enero 9, 2014 ng gabi nang arestuhin ang mag-asawang Dionisio “Joel” Almonte at Gloria Almonte sa inuupahang bahay sa Valenzuela, Metro Manila. Maraming kasong gawa-gawa ang isinampa kay Dionisio na umaabot sa sampu hanggang dalawamput limang kaso.

Si Dionisio, 56 taon gulang ay may malalang sakit na diabetes, malabo na ang mata, mahina ang pandinig at hirap ng maglakad. Kilalang dating organisador ng mga bangkero si Dionisio sa Pagsanjan, Laguna. Samantala, si Gloria Almonte, 52 taon gulang ay inaresto nang wala namang ipinakitang warrant of arrest. Matapos pa lamang ang ikalawang araw ay tsaka pa lamang ipinakita ang impormasyon sa kaso. Tubong Pagsanjan, Laguna ang mag-asawa.

Mariing kinukundena ng KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog ang panibagong paglabag sa karapatang pantao na unang naitala sa rehiyon pagpasok ng 2014. Ayon kay Glendhly Malabanan, pangkalahatang kalihim ng KARAPATAN-ST, “ Panibagong crackdown ang pagsalubong ni Aquino sa mamamayan ng Timog Katagalugan na mariin namin kinukundena. Ang pagkilos sa OPAPP ay bilang panawagan sa mga taga-payo ni Aquino para sa usapang pangkapayapaan na palayain na nila ang mga bilanggong pulitikal upang magtuloy-tuloy na ang usapang pangkapayapaan na siyang minimithi nating lahat. Dahilan sa tinambakan na ng sangkatutak na gawa-gawang kaso ang mga bilanggong pulitikal, ang tanging pag-asa na lamang nila na makalaya ay ang pag-usad ng usapang kapayapaan”.

Dagdag pa ni Malabanan, “Malinaw na paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang panibagong crackdown na ito ng rehimeng Aquino. Sa pagpapatuloy ng phase II ng Oplan Bayanihan ni Aquino, lalung dumarami ang bilanggong pulitikal dahil sa patuloy na paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Patuloy ang pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawang kaso kahit pa nga sa mga may sakit na. Ginagamit nila ang mga gawa-gawang kaso na marami at kung sino-sinong mga co-accused. Ginagawa rin ng pamahalaang negosyo ang paglalagay ng mga reward o bounty sa kanilang mga pinaghihinalaang kalaban ng gubyerno. Sa kaliwa’t kanang pagtaas ng kuryente, tubig at mga bilihin at umiigting ang paglaban ng mamamayan, ang sagot naman ng pamahalaan ay pagsupil sa karapatan ng mamamayan upang ipaglaban ang kanilang batayang karapatan. Nanawagan kami kay Aquino na itigil ang mga paglabag na ito at sa halip ay tugunan nya ang hinaing ng mamamayan”.

 

           
     
     
     

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Press Statement
January 15, 2014

Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

Karapatan scores OPAPP, conviction of NDFP consultant impedes peace talks

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights and other people’s organizations stormed the office of Secretary Teresita "Ging" Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in protest of the continuing detention and conviction of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento.

The group expressed its outrage and concern through a strongly worded letter saying, "... the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)... promotes discord and contempt with the peace talks, through the continuous arrest and conviction of NDFP consultants, rather than fulfill its mandate to foster just and lasting peace in the country."

The letter, signed by Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay stated, "We view the recent conviction of Sarmiento... as another blow impeding the peace process between the two parties and a clear indication of the Aquino government’s insincerity to resume the peace talks."

Sarmiento was arrested on February 2009 in Metro Manila by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Without any warrant, Sarmiento was blindfolded, forced into a van, interrogated and tortured for 24 hours. Later, Sarmiento found out he was facing a charge of illegal possession of explosives for a grenade that the arresting officers claimed to have found in his possession. The grenade was planted evidence.

Nearing five years of imprisonment at the Custodial Center of the Camp Crame PNP Headquarters in Quezon City, Sarmiento was convicted with life imprisonment in December 2013 in promulgation issued by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 203. Other trumped up charges against Sarmiento in the Eastern Visayas were dismissed for lack of evidence.

"For Karapatan, the case of Eduardo Sarmiento illustrates the injustices being suffered by all political prisoners in the country—rights violations which are being perpetuated by the Benigno S. Aquino administration through its counter-insurgency program OplanBayanihan," the letter said. "At present, 449 political prisoners—154 of them illegally arrested and detained under the current administration—remain imprisoned," Karapatan stated.

"The Aquino administration through the OPAPP ...is mocking the peace negotiations by not respecting and rendering inoperative the agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)—agreements painstakingly forged throughout the years," Karapatan said. The JASIG provides protection for NDFP peace consultants and staffs from arrest and detention in order to perform their duties and push through the program for just and lasting peace.

"We challenge the Aquino administration and the OPAPP be true to its words in “forging peace” and not turning the negotiating tables around. It should respect The Hague Declaration, JASIG and the CARHRIHL. We also call on the GPH and the OPAPP to stop attacking the previous bilateral agreements, resume the peace talks and release all political prisoners now," Karapatan called on the OPAPP.

Meanwhile, Karapatan condemned the latest arrest and detention of DionisioAlmonte, 56 years old and wife Gloria PritargueAlmonte on the night of January 9, the first documented political arrest in 2014.

Dionisio is an organizer in Pagsanjan, Laguna, while Gloria is a sari-sari store owner. He is currently in Metro Manila to seek treatment for his severe diabetes, slip disc and other ailments.

"We are now on the second phase of BS Aquino's OplanBayanihan where human rights violations are disguised as legitimate police operations, such as this case yet, the motive for political repression and persecution still exist," said Palabay.

"We fear that the year 2014 will be haunted by more arrests and more numbers of political prisoners in the country," Palabay said. "The Filipino people have more reasons to fight against a corrupt, negligent and war mongering regime," she ended. ###

 

     
           
     
     
     

 

 


LETTER TO SEC. DELES/OPAPP

15 January 2014

Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
Dear Secretary Deles:

Greetings of peace!

We are concerned over the developments on the cases of political prisoners, especially that of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants who have been arbitrarily arrested, are detained, and, in the case of Eduardo Sarmiento, convicted, despite the existence of agreements between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), granting them protection and immunity from arrests.

We view the recent conviction of Sarmiento, a consultant in the peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP as another blow impeding the peace process between the two parties and a clear indication of the Aquino government’s insincerity to resume the peace talks.

In February 2009, Sarmiento went to Metro Manila to participate in peace negotiations, when he was arrested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP). Sarmiento was blindfolded, forced to go inside a van, and was taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation and torture for 24 hours before he was taken to the Southern Police District Jail. It was only then he knew of the charges against him. The arresting police officers claimed to have found a grenade in his bag, a claim being disputed by Sarmiento and his lawyer. The grenade, according to them, was planted evidence, as the police did not follow required chain of custody of evidence procedure and did not document the grenade in the presence of Sarmiento or his counsel. Police testimonies during the court hearings indicate several irregularities regarding documentation of the supposed evidence. Sarmiento said he was not carrying a grenade, and that the first time he saw the grenade was
during his court trial.

Lawyers of Sarmiento are set to argue for a motion for reconsideration on his conviction on the basis that the court committed serious errors in its December 2013 judgement, particularly on insufficient proof of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt; and several gross irregularities in the chain of custody of the evidence presented; and, the highly questionable performance of duties of the arresting officers.

Sarmiento’s lawyers are also asking for the judge to voluntarily withdraw from the case. In 2009, the judge was a Senior State Solicitor at the Office of the Solicitor General and she was part of “Task Force Rebellion,” a team of the GPH that reviews the cases of NDF consultants in the peace process. Given her previous involvement, there are serious questions regarding her objectivity and impartiality to the case. Sarmiento’s lawyers are asking that the judge voluntarily withdraws from the case so that another judge may review the judgement.

For Karapatan, the case of Eduardo Sarmiento illustrates the injustices being suffered by all political prisoners in the country–rights violations which are being perpetuated by the Benigno S. Aquino administration through its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (Operational Plan Shoulder-to-Shoulder). At present, 449 political prisoners – 154 of them illegally arrested and detained under the current administration – remain imprisoned.

Aside from the injustices he suffered during his illegal arrest and detention, Sarmiento, as an NDF consultant in the peace negotiations, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed on 24 February 1995 by the GPH and the NDFP. The JASIG provides that consultants and negotiators in the peace process are guaranteed free passage in the country and should have immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation. Sarmiento was listed as a peace consultant in the 2001 JASIG list and should not have been arrested or convicted under this agreement.

We lament that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), a government body mandated by law to facilitate and undertake efforts to oversee and coordinate the promotion of the comprehensive peace process, appears to be a party that promotes discord in, and contempt of, the peace talks through continuous arrest and conviction of NDFP consultants, rather than fulfill its mandate to foster just and lasting peace in the country.

The Aquino administration through the OPAPP has expressed its commitment in “forging peace” yet, mocking the peace negotiations by not respecting and rendering inoperative the agreements such as the Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) – agreements painstakingly forged throughout the years.

May we also remind the OPAPP that the government earlier committed itself in the January and February 2011 Oslo GPH-NDFP Joint Statements to release “most, if not all, political prisoners,” an obligation, not a precondition, it has to fulfil under the said agreements and commitments. Instead of honouring and complying with these agreements, the OPAPP has particularly undertaken steps to undermine them, by harping on the non-existence of the JASIG list of protected persons and by making preposterous and malicious preconditions for the release of the detained peace consultants.

By these actions, we view the GPH’s refusal to release NDFP consultants as a violation of the CARHRIHL. It was stated in the CARHRIHL that political prisoners charged, detained or convicted for common crimes in violation of the Hernandez political offense doctrine should be released while the JASIG stipulates that NDFP consultants are immune from arrest, surveillance and detention. The conviction of Eduardo Sarmiento and the continuing arrests and detention of peace consultants, political activists and ordinary Filipinos are blatant violations of this agreement.

During the talks in Amsterdam last February 2013, the Aquino administration demanded for indefinite, unilateral and simultaneous ceasefires and rejected the NDFP offer of truce and cooperation achieved through a declaration of common intent to uphold national independence and carry out land reform and national industrialization. It must also be noted that in October 2011 in Oslo, the Aquino government attacked the Hague Joint Declaration as “a document of perpetual division.” It later declared JASIG “inoperative” in 2012.

We challenge the Aquino administration and the OPAPP be true to its words in “forging peace” and not turning the negotiating tables around. It should respect The Hague Declaration, JASIG and the CARHRIHL. We also call on the GPH and the OPAPP to stop attacking the previous bilateral agreements, resume the peace talks and release all political prisoners now.

For just and lasting peace,


Cristina Palabay
Secretary General
Karapatan
 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
 
           
           
           

 

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