“It appears that the Arroyo policy of witch-hunting, arrest, criminalization of political offenses and/or the slapping of fabricated criminal charges to silence and put behind bars human rights defenders continues to be implemented under Aquino,” Angelina Ipong, Selda spokeswoman, said.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Hundreds of political prisoners in various detention cells nationwide have started fasting today up to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
Dramatizing their call for general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty, 230 political prisoners in Camp Crame, Camp Bagong Diwa, New Bilibid Prisons, Manila City Jail, Quezon City Jail and other detention cells in Central Luzon, Batangas, Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas, Iloilo, Eastern Visayas, Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga, participated in the fasting.
According to Karapatan and Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), there are 354 political prisoners nationwide. Majority of them were arrested during the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“The redress of injustice to all political prisoners and the return of the freedom deprived from them are both a basic human right and an essential element in the peace process,” political prisoners detained at Camp Crame said in a joint statement.
“One year since the first Sona of Aquino, nothing has been done to serve justice for the illegal arrest, torture and illegal detention of the 354 political prisoners who are still languishing in jails all over the country,” Angelina Ipong, a recently released political prisoner and Selda spokeswoman, said.
Ipong added that under the Aquino administration, 45 political prisoners have been detained. “It appears that the Arroyo policy of witch-hunting, arrest, criminalization of political offenses and/or the slapping of fabricated criminal charges to silence and put behind bars human rights defenders continues to be implemented under Aquino,” Ipong said.
Karapatan called on Aquino to stop the implementation of his version of the counter-insurgency program now named as Oplan Bayanihan. “His version of the program is no different from the previous one; both of these entail the persecution of political dissenters that engender illegal arrests, detention and torture of political prisoners and other human rights violations,” the group said.
In support of the political prisoners, members of Selda, Karapatan, Hustisya, Desaparecidos, Tanggol Bayi held a picket rally in front of Camp Crame’s Gate 2 this morning.
Political prisoners reminded the Aquino administration of its commitment to release detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants.
“The government of Benigno S. Aquino III needs to abide by the agreement between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) peace panels last February for the release of all political prisoners – most of whom are unjustly and illegally imprisoned, and whose release should be part of the confidence-building measures on the part of the Aquino government, if the peace process is to progress,” they said.
After the first round of talks, both parties signed a Joint Communique stating: “The GPH Panel agreed to work for the expeditious release of detained NDFP consultants and other Jasig- protected persons in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and in the spirit of goodwill.”
Among those detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center inside Camp Crame are National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Alan Jazmines, Eduardo Sarmiento, and Eduardo Serrano.
Jovencio Balweg was released before noon today. The release, however, has nothing to do with the peace talks. (see separate story)
Former political prisoner Angelina Ipong campaigns for the release of other political prisoners. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
In their statement, political prisoners detained at Camp Crame added that the Aquino government should also abide by its promise to release imprisoned Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces. Eleven prisoners from the MILF detained at Camp Crame and 63 Moro political prisoners at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig also joined the fasting.
Karapatan deplored that while special treatment is accorded to rich and influential prisoners, allowing them to seek medical care in well-equipped hospitals, there are political prisoners who languish in jail for as long as 23 years or those who are equally sick who suffer in prison hospitals without proper medical attention and medicine.”
Selda cited Rolando Pañamogan, a political prisoner at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP), who is suffering from diabetes, deep toxic goiter and congestive heart failure.
In a joint statement from NBP, political prisoners said if Aquino really wants to take the straight path, he should listen to the voice of the Filipino people.