Elizabeth Principe’s release followed a protest by supporters today in front of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police, and after Principe held a brief hunger strike to denounce the military’s attempt to prevent her from being freed despite a court order dismissing all charges against her.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Elizabeth Principe, the political prisoner whose scheduled release from a Camp Crame jail on Monday was blocked by the Philippine military, was finally freed Tuesday afternoon.
Her release followed a protest by supporters, friends and relatives today in front of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police, and after Principe held a brief hunger strike to denounce the military’s attempt to prevent her from being freed despite a court order dismissing all charges against her.
As of 5:14 pm, Principe was brought to the Quezon City offices of Karapatan, the human-rights group, to be reunited with family and friends.
Earlier in the day, Principe’s daughter, Lorena Santos, led a picket outside Camp Crame. “Release my mother now!” Santos said at the rally. “Stop persecuting her. Her continued detention is a violation of her human rights; the cases against her have been dismissed,” she added.
Political prisoners Randall Echanis, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento and Prospero Agudo and female detainees detained at the Camp Crame joined Principe in her hunger strike, Santos told Bulatlat.
It has been two weeks since a local court in Nueva Ecija dismissed the last of six charges filed against Principe. The court has ordered her release.
Principe was supposed to be released yesterday but the family was told that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) refused to release Principe’s clearance papers.
A community health worker, Principe, 58, was arrested by military elements in November 2007. After three days of being held incommunicado and subjected to mental tortured, she was presented to the media as a high-ranking officer of the New People’s Army (NPA).
At the time of her arrest, she was a consultant for negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which is engaged in peace negotiations with the government.
“Is the military above the law?” asked Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, in a statement Tuesday, reacting to the military’s move to block Principe’s release. “It seems that the Armed Forces have no respect to the magistrates. Do they have separate rules of law?” Enriquez said further.
As consultants of the NDF in its peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), Principe, Echanis, Serrano and Sarmiento are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
Peace negotiations between the government and the NDF is set to resume in August following Manila’s lifting of its suspension of the Jasig. (With a report from Raymund Villanueva / bulatlat.com