by Frances Josephine Espeso
Youth and human rights organizations bolster fundraising efforts for the bail of three political prisoners after the Rosario Regional Trial Court allowed the Taysan 3 to post bail on March 2.
UP Diliman Film student Maricon Montajes, Rommiel Cañete, and Ronilo Baes, also known as the Taysan 3, were arrested on June 3, 2010 in Taysan, Batangas for trumped up charges.
The three were charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, illegal possession of explosives, and violation of the gun ban. Baes was also charged with frustrated murder and homicide.
The court cited a lack of significant evidence in more than five years, and imposed a 400,000 pesos bail each for Montajes and Baes, and a 500,000 pesos bail for Cañete.
Task Force FrEEDOM, an initiative made up of alliances, organizations, offices, and individuals both inside and outside the university, is leading the movement to raise funds.
Montajes, or Eedom to her friends, was integrating with Batangas farmers and documenting their everyday lives when she was arrested. The film student was only 21 years old when she was apprehended by the 743rd Squadron of the Philippine Air Force.
Task Force FrEEDOM member Justine Siscar said the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) computed the amount necessary for the Taysan 3 totalling to P 2.1 million, which includes the overall bail for the non-bailable charges.
Former CMC Associate Dean Danilo Arao confirmed the amount, adding the legal fees are not yet included in the computation.
In line with this, several Mass Communication organizations will hold #FreedomFriday next month, a fundraising event comprised of a benefit concert and film screening.
According to Siscar, head of Welfare for #FreedomFriday, the organizers are planning to pin the ticket price to 100 pesos apiece.
“Lahat yun mapupunta na doon sa bail [ng Taysan 3],” said Siscar.
Which is why solicitations and donations would be a huge help, she added. As much as possible, the organizers are trying to waive fees to ensure that all the proceeds would be devoted to the Taysan 3 bail.
#FreedomFriday, along with direct solicitations, publicity materials, and online thrusts, is primarily shouldered by the student arm of Task Force FrEEDOM, Siscar said.
For their part, some CMC faculty members are sending out solicitation letters and providing relevant information on the Taysan 3 and their plight to help out with the fundraising efforts.
Arao said the bail is a major step in the Taysan 3 case. “It reflects weakness in terms of evidence against the three,” he said.
He said that temporary freedom via bail is crucial for the Taysan 3 to resume their lives.
“We want to include here the possibility of [Montajes] coming back to finish her degree in Film,” said Arao, adding that the final decision would still rest with Montajes, nevertheless. “Even if she’s been absent for almost six years now, I think there’s still a possibility of her coming back.”
Regarding the bail amount of the political prisoners, Arao said he finds it “definitely too high,” given said weakness of evidence against the Taysan 3.
Current students of CMC might be too young to remember what happened to Montajes, Arao said, but they still should know her situation, even if he doesn’t expect them to raise on their own “such an atrocious and atmospheric amount of money.”
“We have to let [Montajes] go, and to do that, we have to comply with what the court says. Even if I think, and I hope, there would still be a reduction in the bail,” Arao added.
Task Force FrEEDOM initially focused on campaigning for the release of Montajes and eventually expanded to advocating for Cañete and Baes. Established in late 2010, the initiative persisted in drawing awareness to political prisoners and campaigning for their freedom.
As of now, Task Force FrEEDOM is calling for volunteers and donations. For volunteers, the online signup sheet for #FreedoomFriday is right here http://goo.gl/forms/Qs4ZZDZUjR.
For donations, account details are the following:
FOR PESO DONATIONS
Name: Maria Concepcion Montajes
Bank: Banco de Oro (BDO)
Account Number: 003760012293
FOR DOLLAR DONATIONS:
Name: Ma. Concepcion C. Montajes
Bank: Philippine National Bank, Claveria St., Davao City
Acct No.: 325807700021
Organizations under said task force include the CMC chapter of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP CMC), the CMC student council, the Office of the Student Regent, the (NUPL), the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and the First Quarter Storm Movement.