By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – A political prisoner who had been in and out of the hospital for almost a year due to heart enlargement died last Sept. 20.
Crisanto Fat, 48, a peasant leader, passed away at the Western Visayas Hospital in Bacolod City at around 4:30 p.m. that day. He left behind his wife Ma. Magdalena, and their nine children, the youngest is four years old.
According to Karapatan-Negros, Crisanto was arrested on April 29, 2009 by 20 elements of 2nd Scout Ranger Company of the Philippine Army in Quintin Remo village, Moises Padilla town, Negros Occidental. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms and illegal possession of explosives; he was brought to the Bacolod City Provincial Jail before he was transferred to Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Bago City in July of that year.
Due to his ailment, Karapatan-Negros had called for Crisanto’s release on humanitarian grounds. Fred Cana, secretary general of the group’s regional chapter, told Bulatlat.com that they had also filed a petition for bail. Crisanto died before his freedom.
In a phone interview, Crisanto’s son Axel, 18, said his father was innocent. Axel, only 16 years old at the time of his father’s arrest, saw how the soldiers had planted evidence in their house, a .38 caliber pistol wrapped in a newspaper.
Based on reports by Karapatan-Negros, the soldiers ordered Crisanto to hold the gun, they placed a grenade on the floor before they took photographs.
“He committed no crime. He was only fighting for our land. He was only serving the interest of his fellow farmers,” Axel said in Filipino.
Before the incident, as early as March 2008, Crisanto had been required by the military, under the command of a certain Lt. Fabro of the 11th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, to report his activities. Crisanto was told that his name was in the military’s order of battle (OB).
“What crime did Crisanto Fat commit? Is defending the land they are tilling a crime? No. His death is a crime committed by the one sitting in Malacanang,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, said in her speech at a rally on Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge, Sept. 21.
In an interview through email, Julius Mariveles, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros from 1997 to 2001, described Crisanto as a soft-spoken peasant leader. “Did you not run out of breath in getting here?” was his greeting when we first met. Their place is quite far,” Mariveles recalled.
Mariveles said he met Crisanto during an anti-militarization campaign sometime in the 90s when the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army was planning to put up a detachment in their area.
“We also worked together in subsequent fact finding missions regarding human rights violations and the expansion of Danding Cojuangco in Central Negros. He also took part in the anti-Erap campaign. He was also active in campaigning for Bayan Muna during its first foray into politics,” Mariveles said.
“The fact that he was peasant leader for quite so long is a testament, I think, to his staunchness. He had the staunchness of a Chinese peasant if Mao were to say it,” Mariveles said of Crisanto.
Now a radio broadcaster, Mariveles commented: “Lolong the crocodile gets more special attention than peasant leader Crisanto Fat. While government officials worry over the beast, Crisanto died yesterday of an enlarged heart. Calls have repeatedly been made to release him but government refused. He was jailed two years ago for illegal possession of firearms. Now he’s dead. Surely the Army is truly happy.”
“This is an indictment of the Aquino administration. This shows the bias of the ruling class that Aquino represents. This clearly shows that Aquino has no sense of history. If he had an acute sense of history, he would truly sympathize with political detainees who, like his father, suffered at the hands of tyrants,” Mariveles said.
“What more proof is there than the fact that while the Ampatuans and the Arroyos who are accused of murder and plunder are easily let off when they claim that they are sick, Crisanto was not released despite the fact that he was suffering from an enlarged heart?” Mariveles added.
According to Karapatan, there are 360 political prisoners nationwide and 28 are sick and 11 are elderly.
Since his father’s incarceration, Axel said life has been difficult. In order to surive, Axel and his siblings, together with their mother, have continued to till the piece of land Crisanto cultivated.
“We want justice for our father. We hope those responsible would be punished,” he said.
Axel said their youngest sister Maricris, four years old, had been asking them when their Papa (father) would be released from prison. He said he could not find the words to say that their Papa is now out of jail but already dead.