Members of Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) and Freedom for Tomada (FFT) network urged justice secretary Leila De Lima to immediately review the cases of peasants detained in jails nationwide and order their immediate release.  They are calling for the immediate release of Dario Tomada, a former peasant leader of SAGUPA-SB (Eastern Visayas regional chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, KMP) who was arrested late evening on July 22 in Biñan, Laguna.  He was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and responsible for the alleged “mass graves” in Inopacan, Leyte.

“Dario Tomada is a simple peasant leader who was being targeted for extra-judicial killing in 2005, during Maj. Gen. Palparan’s stay in the region, thus, he was forced to go to Manila in 2006 to do odd jobs to support his family.  Now he is being accused of a crime he never could have committed as he was not yet a member of any organization in 1985 when the alleged crime took place,” said Antonio Flores, Tanggol Magsasaka and Freedom for Tomada Co-convenor.

“We urge justice secretary De Lima, a defender of human rights to look closely his case, see that he is innocent and order his immediate release,” called Flores.

The groups said that Tomada is being charged of multiple murder, 15 counts of murder, the very same case charged against Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo.  They added that Tomada was also the regional chair of SAGUPA-SB in 2004 and former KMP National Council member.

In addition, the groups are also calling for the immediate release of Felicidad Caparal, an organizer of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura who was arrested January 27, 2009 in Lavezares town, Northern Samar, went incommunicado for 9 days, subsequently accused of being part of an ambush of the NPA on the military.

“We are really bothered of Felicidad’s case.  She was just with us during the Mendiola Massacre commemoration on January 22, then she was arrested when she went to fetch her mother from the province for medical care here in Manila.  She is totally innocent of the crime accused of her,” said Flores.

The groups are drumming up the cases of peasant political prisoners who are victims of the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya.  They urge De Lima to review heavily their cases and order their immediate release in light of promoting and protecting democracy and human rights.  Tanggol Magsasaka is calling for the immediate release of political prisoners dubbed as Antipolo 4, Talisay 3, Cadiz 4, Quirante 2, Guihulngan 2, Buenavista 5 and Morong 43.

“They are peasant leaders and activists who struggle for genuine land reform, thus, they were targeted for political persecution, under the Oplan Bantay Laya program.  The Aquino government should immediately release them in the name of democracy and end Oplan Bantay Laya, prosecute the military and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” called Flores.  #

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