By Emlyn Jones
Jaime Tadeo, "Ka Jimmy", is the chairperson of the KMP, the peasant movement of the Philippines. He is currently in prison, serving an 18-year sentence on frame-up charges.
In 1979 Tadeo resigned from his job in the National Irrigation administration and became the manager of the Central Bulacan Area Marketing Cooperative (CBAMC). Although the pay was less, he did this in order to straighten out the financial difficulties which had occurred under his deceased predecessor.
Tadeo discovered that the 1978 inventory was wrong; there was a discrepancy of about 1000 sacks of rice. Tadeo was not successful in getting the report amended. The audit and inventory committee said they had been unable to inspect the warehouse stocks and so had signed without making an independent count.
Upon learning of the dubious transactions of the warehouseman, Tadeo filed complaints with the provincial fiscal (public prosecutor) of Bulacan. On December 9, 1981, Tadeo led a large number of farmers belonging to the Alliance of Central Luzon Farmers (AMGL) in a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Agriculture in Quezon City. This was the first peasant rally since the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1972.
On the following day, Tadeo received a demand letter from the National Grains Authority (NGA) about the accounting of NGA's rice and sacks. On the day after that, the CBAMC warehouse was gutted by fire. The NGA profited from insurance which covered all its losses.
An investigation by five AMGL organisers discovered that was a case of arson; NGA employees were suspected.
In 1982 Tadeo was charged with estafa (swindling). The AMGL organisers who could have shed light on the case were murdered by military men on June 1, 1982. In 1985 the civil case was dismissed by the court, but the Marcos government opted to pursue the criminal case and obtained a conviction.
The Marcos regime fell in 1986, and President Aquino came to power. Aquino showed her confidence in Tadeo by appointing him as the peasants' representative to the constitutional commission. However, she did not get the support she expected from Tadeo and the KMP, who continued to expose the exploitation and unjust treatment of farmers.
On January 22, 1987, farmers protested because promises of land reform had not been fulfilled. This protest, in which Tadeo was involved, ended in the massacre on Mendiola bridge, when troops fired on the farmers, killing 13 and injuring 100. The Tadeo estafa case was brought up by the government in its investigation of the Mendiola massacre.
The KMP continued to lead rallies and mass actions exposing the ouring of the landed elite.
When Tadeo ran for a seat in the Senate, the government tried to smear his reputation by bringing up the estafa case.
On May 3, 1990, the KMP posted a symbolic notice of closure on the entrance of the Department of Agricultural Reform to emphasise the uselessness of President Aquino's agrarian reform program. A week later, Tadeo was illegally arrested, without a warrant, by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
He was detained in an NBI cell, without formal charges, for two hours until a formal charge of sedition was filed against him. Shortly after, this was changed to estafa — the charge which had been lodged against him in April 1982 by NGA and which had been dismissed in 1985 by the Bulacan Regional court for lack of evidence.
In 1990 the Supreme Court upheld the 1985 criminal court ruling convicting Tadeo. Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon ordered him to be taken to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa, where he will serve a maximum jail term of 18 years.
A letter from Australia protesting against the political harassment of Tadeo received the following reply: "The crime Mr Tadeo was charged with and convicted was a common crime, estafa or swindling. It has no political color whatsoever."