farmers in the Philippines

Police ‘reject’ release order, then free 83 in Tarlac farming activity

Sofia Tomacruz
Police ‘reject’ release order, then free 83 in Tarlac farming activity

PROTEST. On the 34th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, farmers' groups and advocates protest at the Department of Agrarian Reform headquarters in Quezon City on June 10, 2022, to demand the release of dozens arrested in Tarlac on June 9.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

Police initially refused to recognize a release order issued by a local court, says Jobert Pahilga, who is among the lawyers of the group

MANILA, Philippines – After spending three days in detention, 83 people – including farmers, land reform advocates, artists, and journalists – were finally freed in Tarlac province on Sunday, June 12.

Lawyer Jobert Pahilga of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers confirmed this in an interview with Rappler, saying a local court issued a release order for the remaining 83 of the more than 90 individuals who were detained last Thursday, June 9, during a cultivation activity at Hacienda Tinang in the town of Concepcion.

Pahilga said the order was secured at around 1 pm on Sunday, after bail for the 83 had been posted. Each individual had faced complaints of illegal assembly and malicious mischief, with the amount of bail initially at P39,000 per person and P3.23 million in total for the group.

Pahilga said the final bail amount totaled P1.2 million, with the amount for each individual lowered to P13,500, plus a processing fee of P1,000 per person.

According to Pahilga, police initially refused to accept the release order.

“Nakausap ko ‘yung chief of police at sabi niya ‘mali’ daw ang order ni judge, sabi ni prosecutor. Pero sinabihan ko ‘yung chief of police na kung may mali man sa order ni judge, maghabol ang prosecutor doon sa court. But for now, may utos si judge na i-release ‘yung mga tao. Dapat mo i-release,” Pahilga said in an interview. 

(I spoke to the police chief and he said that the judge’s order was “wrong,” according to the prosecutor. But I told the chief of police that if there was something wrong with the order of the judge, the prosecutor should pursue that in court. But for now, the judge has ordered the release of the group. Police should release them.)

As of 5:12 pm, Pahilga said the 83 had been released and that police were only completing administrative tasks related to processing the judge’s order.

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Police arrest over 90 farmers, land reform advocates in Concepcion, Tarlac

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In a statement, Kabataan said at least four women who were among the detainees collapsed and were taken to the hospital. Several others also launched a hunger strike in protest, the group added.

Pahilga earlier said Tinang SN Multipurpose Cooperative had filed the malicious mischief complaints against the 83, who had also been accused of illegal assembly.

In separate statements, meanwhile, Anakpawis, Amihan, and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura earlier explained that farmers and land reform advocates were present at the event simply to cultivate land. Some of the arrested farmers were beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program in the area.

Outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo earlier joined mounting calls for a speedy and just resolution to the incident.

“Bagaman tinutukoy pa ang kabuuang detalye, ilang bagay ang malinaw: Mapayapa ang naganap na pagtitipon. Walang ibang layunin ang mga magsasaka kundi ang magbigay ng maayos na pamumuhay sa kanilang mga pamilya,” Robredo said on Saturday, June 11.

(Even though the details are still being threshed out, some things are clear: The event was held peacefully. The farmers have no other intention but to provide for their families.)

Pahilga said the 83 individuals plan to file complaints against the prosecutors involved in their detention, adding that “there was great prosecutorial misconduct starting from their inquest.” – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.