Release of 'Tinang 83' delayed despite bail payment, release order

Release of 'Tinang 83' delayed despite bail payment, release order
Photo shows the 87 farmers and peasant advocates arrested and charged with obstruction of justice being held at Concepcion Police Station in Tarlac.
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MANILA, Philippines (Update 4:53 p.m.) — Despite a court order, police delayed for two to three hours the release of free farmers, activists, and supporters arrested for supposedly damaging land in Concepcion, Tarlac during a land cultivation activity.

As of 4 p.m., 47 out of the 83 detained have already been released. 

According to Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo’s (SENTRA) lawyer Jobert Pahilga the police received the police order at 1 p.m. but initially refused to free the jailed farmers, their supporters, as well as members of the media who had been covering the event. 

"I called the COP (Chief of Police). Sinabihan daw siya ni Fiscal [Mia Mae] Montefalco na mali ang order. Sabi ko sa kanya may order to release, dapat sundin niya. Kung may mali sa order ng judge, si Montefalco mag-question," Kahilga told Philstar.com in an online message on Sunday.

(I called the COP. Fiscal Montefalco apparently told him that the order was incorrect. I told him there is already an order to release so it should be followed. If there’s something wrong with the order given by the judge, then let Montefalco question it.)

"In the meantime, release niya kasi utos ng korte. Otherwise, kawawa siya at ang daming kasong arbitrary detention kakaharapin niya."

(In the meantime, he should release them because the court already ordered for it. Otherwise, he would have to unfortunately face many cases of arbitrary detention.)

The release order signed by Presiding Judge Antonio Pangan was given after the arrested individuals posted bail for their provisional liberty.

According to an alert by peasant advocates organization Amihan - National Federation of Peasant Women at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday, it was Police Lt. Col. Reynold Macabitas — Concepcion, Tarlac acting police chief — who refused to recognize the release order. 

Why police refused to release the 'Tinang 83'

Town police initially did not want to release the detainees because they had expected the Information, or formal charge, to be filed before the court on Monday. The detainees lawyers brought the Information to the judge themselves so they could process bail proceedings, lawyer Joseline Martinez-Clemente of the National Union of People's Lawyers told Philstar.com over the phone.

"Kami na yung nagdala kay Judge Pangan kasi jurisdiction niya yun. Pagkatapos, nag-file kami ng motion to post bail tsaka reduce bail. Ginrant naman niya," she also said.

(We brought it to Judge Pangan because it is his jurisdiction. After that, we filed the motion to post bail and to reduce bail. He granted it.)

"Sabi nila, dapat sa Lunes pa yan, e nakapag-issue na ng order si ano, nakita naman ni judge na okay naman yung mga papel namin tsaka yung Information so kung meron silang reklamo then they file the corresponding complaint nila later, but at the moment, they have to follow the legal order of the judge."

(The police said the release should have been on Monday, but the judge had already issued it. The judge saw that our documents were in order and if the police have any issues, they can file the corresponding complaint later. But, at the moment, they have to follow the legal order of the judge.)

The 83 activists, workers, and agrarian reform beneficiaries were arrested last Thursday and have been detained for the past three days under what rights and advocacy groups called inhumane situations.

According to accounts from the police station, the detainees were put into the detention cells in shifts for lack of space. Several fainted from the heat and the close quarters.

They were arrested without warrant for their "bungkalan" or cultivation work activity on land in Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac covered by the government's agrarian reform program.

The arrests led to crowdfunding efforts to raise money for their bail.

Farmers, activists, and their supporters will face arraignment and a pre-trial conference on charges of malicious mischief and illegal assembly on June 17, Friday, at 8:30 a.m. — Kaycee Valmonte with a report from Franco Luna

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