By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The country’s oldest woman political prisoner has been released from the Misamis Occidental Provincial Jail in Oroquieta City last Feb. 17.
After almost six years in detention, Angelina Bisuña Ipong, 66, finally walked free as the last in the string of cases filed against her by the military was dismissed.
Ipong, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was arrested on March 8, 2005, in Lumbayao village, Aloran town, Misamis Occidental, by combined elements of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Southern Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). She was held incommunicado for 14 days and was allegedly subjected to sexual molestation and torture.
Angelina Ipong in detention.
Presiding Judge Bernadette S. Paredes-Encinareal of the Regional Trial Court Branch 36, Calamba, Misamis Occidental, dismissed the double murder, double frustrated murder, and arson charges against Ipong, according to a statement by the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM).
Ipong’s release marked the third day of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP in Oslo, Norway.
The dismissal of the charges came after Pablito Sanidad, a member of the GPH peace panel, sent a letter to Encinareal purportedly asking the latter to expedite the decision on Ipong’s cases.
Lawyer Emiliano Deleverio, UPLM, vice chairman who served as Ipong’s counsel received a copy of Sanidad’s letter. The UPLM acknowledged the critical importance of Sanidad’s letter to the court, and the overall significance of the peace process in Ipong’s eventual release.
“UPLM hails the dismissal as a victory in the fight against massive human-rights violation committed by state forces, as the cases were fought mainly on the merits by (Ipong) and her counsel in the past six years. In fact, the repeated calls, both by local and international groups and individuals, for her release on humanitarian grounds were largely ignored, particularly during the time of the disgraced regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Carlos Isagani Zarate, UPLM secretary general, said in a statement released to the media.
Lawyer’s group UPLM called for the release of all remaining political prisoners and the decriminalization of political offenses. According to Karapatan and Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), there are 344 political prisoners in the country. Most of them have been slapped with common crimes, a violation of the Hernandez political doctrine.
“Political prisoners are prisoners of conscience for any repressive administration. Anyone espousing a political belief should not be imprisoned,” Zarate said.
“We call on the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, as a further goodwill gesture to the ongoing peace process, to also order the unconditional release of all political prisoners all over the country, many of whom were unjustly incarcerated during the time of the hated Arroyo regime,” Zarate said.
Selda has been calling for unconditional general amnesty for all political prisoners. Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, granted such amnesty to hundreds of political prisoners who fought the Marcos dictatorship.