One of the most bitter ironies in the Philippines today is that there are so many who are languishing in jail because they dreamed of a better life for every Filipino, and actually took steps to realize this dream, while the country’s worst criminals run around like beasts.

Among them is a fellow artist of ours, poet Axel Pinpin — who was a fellow for poetry in the 1997 UP (University of the Philippines) National Writers’ Workshop. For almost two years, he and four other companions — Riel Custodio, Aristides Sarmiento, Enrico Ybanez, and Michael Masayes — have been detained at the “temporary” holding facility at the PNP’s (Philippine National Police) Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna.

Now collectively known as the “Tagaytay 5,” Pinpin and his companions were on their way to Manila when they were abducted by a Navy-PNP composite team in Tagaytay City on April 28, 2006. Pinpin, Custodio, and Sarmiento — all peasant advocates — were to participate in the forthcoming Labor Day rally in Manila, with Ybanez driving for them and Masayes accompanying Ybanez.

After a few days, they were all presented to the media as “communist rebels” involved in a “destabilization plot” against the fictitious Arroyo regime. They bore signs of torture and would later tell relatives, colleagues and friends that they were indeed tortured — as is usually the fate of political prisoners in the Philippines, a country which loudly proclaims itself before the whole world as a democracy.

The “Tagaytay 5” are among the more than 200 political prisoners documented by the human rights group Karapatan as having been jailed under the Arroyo regime.

As more than 200 of our countrymen continue to languish in jail for political reasons, for their efforts at genuinely serving the Filipino people, the worst criminals in the country — they who use the power that comes with high office to give full vent to their diabolical rapacity and complete disrespect for the rights of the people — run around like wild animals.

The Arroyo couple have so many times been caught with dirt in their hands; the mess surrounding the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal is just the latest, albeit the most brazen, instance. So many have been left to rot in jail for far lighter offenses. They deserve to be in jail and not even a thousand life sentences are enough to punish them for their crimes.

We support our fellow artist Pinpin and his four companions in their three-day fast, starting March 12, for Truth and Accountability, Justice and Freedom. Their fasting is in support of a three-day activity organized by the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) for jailed Ptr. Berlin Guerrero and other political prisoners.

We join our friends, the “Tagaytay 5,” as well as the other PPs and the PCPR in their call for the three-day activity: “Jail the First Couple, free the political prisoners!”

Artists’ ARREST
(Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation)

12 March 2008

Alexander Remollino. Bobby Balingit. Bong de Leon. Buen Calubayan. C-An Lucas Reyes. Con Cabrera. Cynthia Alexander. J. Pacena. Jason Valenzuela. Kakoi Abeleda. Kapi Capistrano. King Catoy. Kiri Dalena. Lourd de Veyra. Maki Lim. RJ Mabilin. Rustum Casia. Teta Tulay. Winnie Balingit. Anino Shadowplay Collective. Anak ni Aling Juana. EarthFishFish. Gapos. Kilometer 64. Pilipinas Street Plan. Republika de Lata. Southern Tagalog Exposure. Uwawi.

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