Peasant organizer arrested, tortured - Karapatan

“Despite laws that prohibit the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, such methods are still being employed by State security forces. Under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, or RA 9745, there has only been one recorded conviction. This is regardless of the 248 torture incidents recorded by Karapatan under the BS Aquino regime, and 18 incidents under Duterte. This is only possible when the military and the police operate with impunity, sanctioned by the State to commit violations against the people,’ said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the continuing use of torture, most recently involving a peasant organizer in Nueva Ecija.

On March 22, 2017, at around 2am, Rommel Tucay, 38, peasant organizer of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) was abducted by 30 composite elements of the 73rd Infantry Brigade and 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, and the Philippine National Police. Tucay was accosted in a house he was staying in Brgy. General Luna, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija. He was tied and was repeatedly beaten and kicked. Tucay was later blindfolded using a towel and a masking tape, and was dragged towards a private vehicle.

Tucay was psychologically tortured inside the vehicle, with death threats and warnings that they are already at a river where his body will be disposed. He was eventually brought to the PNP Carranglan station where he asked for a warrant, to which the police handed an old warrant bearing a different name. During this time, Tucay was insistently discussing the peace talks to his abductors, reiterating to them the need for peace when he was punched in the gut.

“Despite what Tucay had gone through, he continued talking and discussing about the issues of farmers in Carranglan. He discussed to his captors the need to continue the peace talks and explain to them the plight of peasants, despite the kicks and punches he got as a response. Such a brave and courageous peasant organizer should not have been arrested in the first place. Instead, his dedication and perseverance to raise the issue of farmers and bring to light the prevailing landlessness in the countryside and subsequently engage in all forms of viable methods to resolve it should be celebrated,’ said Palabay.

Tucay was brought to the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) compound in Burgos St., Cabanatuan City where he underwent further interrogation. On March 24, 2017, he was brought to court and was filed with a trumped-up charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. 

Palabay said that “the practice of filing trumped-up cases is a textbook ploy by the military and the police – a move that is a testament to their repressive character, further steered by US-driven counter-insurgency programs. Tucay will add to the number of political prisoners in the country, now numbering to 402. It must be said in the clearest terms that Tucay was imprisoned for his decisiveness to organize peasants to act and change their dire circumstances. His only crime is in choosing to serve alongside the marginalized sectors of society.”

“As the fourth round of the formal peace talks is set to push through this April, Karapatan reiterates that the Duterte government should release all political prisoners and seriously tackle the pertinent agenda in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), of which free land distribution and peasant rights is a major issue. There can be no just and lasting peace so long as the farmers, which constitute the majority of the Filipino people, remain landless, poor, oppressed and repressed in a feudal and fascist system,’ Palabay concluded.