Court denies mother’s plea for sick child

Zenaida Llesis, the 46-year old political detainee who gave birth to a girl at the Bukidnon Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center last year, went on hunger strike last Jan. 20. Llesis, who has been detained since Aug. 2002 for being an New People’s Army (NPA) suspect, took the move after the lower court barred her from accompanying her ill baby for treatment at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Manila.

Instead, the court last Dec. 6 instructed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to bring the baby – who still depends on her mother’s milk – to Manila.

The 10-month old baby Gabriela was diagnosed to have a hole in her heart and a tumor in her liver when she was still 14 days old.

SELDA, an alliance of former political prisoners, revealed that Zenaida is one of the 310 political prisoners in the country who “continue to suffer mental and physical torture at the hands of their captors and are denied their basic rights.” She is also one of three nursing mothers and 12 other women political prisoners held by the Macapagal-Arroyo government.

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NDFP, GRP to resume formal talks

The negotiating panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), chaired by Silvestre Bello III and Luis Jalandoni respectively, declared in a Jan. 20 joint statement that they will resume formal peace negotiations in February.

No venue has been set, however. Informal talks have been ongoing since October last year in Oslo, Norway.

The joint statement contained seven main points of agreement including the issue of “terrorist” listing and the indemnification of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship.

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Migrante demands probe of M/V Rocknes tragedy in Norway

Migrante International, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers groups, has asked the Philippine government in a Jan. 22 statement to hold an independent and comprehensive investigation after the M/V Rocknes capsized last Jan. 19, entrapping 16 of the 24 Filipino seafarers on board.

Citing records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Migrante said there had been 420 seafarers who died at sea from September 2002 to September 2003 alone.

Migrante said that despite the alarming statistics and other issues confronting seafarers, “the POEA Seafarers’ contract is filled with anti-seafarer provisions that inhibit the seafarers or their families ability to receive full compensation.” Among these is a new amendment that says once seafarers or their relatives obtain death and disability benefits, they cannot file other damages for negligence against a foreign ship.

The international group’s secretary general, Maita Santiago, denounced the provisions as “greater injustice to migrants and their families committed by their own Philippine government.”

Santiago added that in the case of MV Rocknes, “relatives and seafarers can do nothing in terms of pursuing them (MV Rocknes owners) for additional damages” if the owners were found liable for negligence.(

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