URGENT APPEAL: RELEASE EDUARDO SARMIENTO NOW!

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
and through 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

 


Please send the following letter with your name and signature to the Philippine government addresses indicated. You may also download the letter template in MSWord format below:

[DATE]

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III                                                   
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph


RE:  Appeal for Political Prisoner Eduardo Sarmiento, NDF Consultant in Peace Negotiations

Dear President Aquino:

I am writing regarding the case of Eduardo Sarmiento, an NDF Consultant in the Peace Negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

I understand that in December 2013, Eduardo Sarmiento was sentenced to 20 – 40 years in jail for trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

We are concerned that the Muntinlupa court committed serious errors in its December 2013 judgement particularly on insufficient proof of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, several gross irregularities in the chain of custody of the evidence presented which affirms Sarmiento’s assertion that the explosive presented as evidence was planted by the police, and the highly questionable performance of duties of the arresting officers.

We are also concerned that the presiding judge for the case, Judge Myra Bayot Quiambao of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 203 has an obvious conflict of interest, having previously been involved in reviewing NDF consultants on the part of the Government of the Philippines. We understand that Quiambao served on a team, “Task Force Rebellion,” for the Government of the Philippines to review the cases of NDF Consultants including the case of Eduardo Sarmiento. This raises serious cause for doubt over the impartiality of her judgement.

We, in the international community, are also disappointed to hear that Eduardo Sarmiento, an NDF peace consultant is being prosecuted despite the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed on 24 February 1995 by the GPH and the NDFP.

As an NDF Consultant since 1986, who was also attending peace negotiations at the time of his arrest, we are concerned that the conviction of Eduardo Sarmiento demonstrates that the Government of the Philippines is not acting in good faith in the peace negotiations between the GPH and NDFP.

We call for Judge Myra Bayot Quiambao to voluntarily withdraw from the case and permit another judge to review the judgement and reconsider the conviction in light of the strong indications that the evidence was planted.

We call on the Government of the Philippines to honor the JASIG agreement and release Eduardo Sarmiento as an NDF Consultant covered by the said agreement.

Please urgently respond to this request for the release of Eduardo Sarmiento.

Yours faithfully,

{Signature}
{Name and Organisation}

Cc: See Below

Sec. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
doj.delima2@gmail.com

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
osec@opapp.gov.ph

Hon.  Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email:   chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com, lorettann@gmail.com

His Excellency Knut Solem
Ambassador
Royal Norwegian Government Mission in the Philippines
Official Third Party Facilitator of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations
21st Floor, Petron Mega Plaza Building,
358 Senator Gil Puyat Avenue
1209 Makati City, Metro Manila
Voice: +63 (0)2 982 2701 / +47 23 95 47 01
Fax: + 63 (0)2 9822799/+ 47 23 95 47 99
Email: knut.solem@mfa.no

AttachmentSize
Template - Letter of Appeal for E Sarmiento.docx16.42 KB
 

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