Marie Hilao Enriquez, secretary-general of Karapatan, told Bulatlat that the military refused to release Elizabeth Principe’s clearance papers. “This is already a case of illegal detention since the court has already ordered her release,” Enriquez said. Principe was supposed to be freed Monday night.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
Human Rights Watch
MANILA – The release from jail of political prisoner Elizabeth Principe, which was supposed to have taken place last night, has been blocked by the Philippine military, the human-rights group Karapatan said today.
Principe, a health worker in Cagayan Valley and consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) for its peace negotiations with the government, was supposed to be released last night after a Regional Trial Court earlier dismissed all charges against her. But the authorities in Camp Crame still refused to free her, saying that they were still waiting for “comment” from the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the court’s release order, Karapatan said.
Marie Hilao Enriquez, secretary-general of Karapatan, told Bulatlat that the military refused to release Principe’s clearance papers. “This is already a case of illegal detention since the court has already ordered her release,” Enriquez said.
Family and friends were at Camp Crame, the national police headquarters in Quezon City, since last night to see to it that Principe was released. Police later said that she would be released at around 1 am today but that did not happen.
Principe is “going on hunger strike inside Camp Crame and we are calling for support,” said DJ Acierto, Karapatan’s spokesman. Acierto said a protest rally in support of Principe will be held today outside Camp Crame by his group.
Principe has been in prison for almost two years. The military has said that she is a top-ranking leader of the communist movement.
The court’s order to release her from jail came on the heels of pronouncements by the NDF and the government that the negotiations would resume next month.
Principe was abducted by five elements of the Military Intelligence Group on Nov. 28, 2007, in Cubao, Quezon City. For three days, she was handcuffed, blindfolded, heavily interrogated and kept incommunicado. She was presented to the media as a high-ranking member of the New People’s Army (NPA) before being transferred to the Philippine National Police’s headquarters in Camp Crame.
Principe was among the NDF consultants protected under the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee (Jasig), which provides safety and immunity privileges to members of the NDF involved in peace negotiations, including panel members, consultants and staff members. Jasig was suspended by the government in September 2005 after the NDF withdrew from the negotiations.
On July 17, the government lifted the suspension of the Jasig to pave the way for the resumption of formal peace talks in August.
Besides Principe, 10 more NDF consultants have been slapped with criminal charges and are still in jail including Randall Echanis, Angelina Ipong, Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan, Glicerio Pernia, Eduardo Serrano, Randy Felix Malayao, Jaime Soledad and Edgardo Friginal.
Human-rights groups have blamed the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) of the administration for the filing of trumped-up charges against activists. In May, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was compelled to abolish the group due to international and local pressure. (Bulatlat.com)