“As one of the around 500 political prisoners under the Aquino government, I couldn’t help but sympathise with my fellow political prisoners who have to deal with poor prison conditions, some considered inhuman. In comparison, those charged with plunder cases are being given much leeway.” – Kim Gargar
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Nearly all-night partying with guests despite being in detention, having an apartment-like ambiance instead of cramped jail cells for detention facilities, enjoying generous leeway for all sort of medical check-ups and blow-by-blow report on every minute moves in their legal cases – these, so far, are the news headlines from the recently arrested three opposition senators implicated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in her P10-billion pork scam. Sometime, some of their children became target of bashers in social networking sites because of their incredibly luxurious lifestyles.
While all these are happening, Kim Gargar, a scientist and member of Agham Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, currently and strictly in jail for what his supporters assert are trumped up charges, continue to be denied the chance to prove his innocence in a hearing, his colleagues in Agham said. He has been in jail now for nine months, and until today, the actual hearing for his petition for bail has not yet pushed through. At least twice or thrice now since February 26, it had been postponed.
From his prison cell at the Bangangga provincial jail, Gargar slammed “the unfair justice system under the BS Aquino regime,” as he pointed to the special treatment of those involved in the pork barrel scam compared to the lousy treatment of those charged with petty or political and baseless crimes.
“As one of the around 500 political prisoners under the Aquino government, I couldn’t help but sympathise with my fellow political prisoners who have to deal with poor prison conditions, some considered inhuman. In comparison, those charged with plunder cases are being given much leeway,” said Kim Gargar in a statement emailed by his supporters to the media.
Gargar was doing research on an environmental rehabilitation project for Typhoon Pablo victims when soldiers arrested him nine months ago in Cateel, Davao, October 1 last year. The military then immediately held a press conference and presented Gargar as a “captured” member of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the revolutionary Communist Party of the Philippines. It turned out that the military and the NPA had a gunfight earlier that day miles away from where they chanced upon Gargar doing his research.
Gargar’s said he could not have been an NPA since 2012 as the military alleged. Gargar has lived in Groningen, the Netherlands from 2009 to 2013, pursuing his doctoral degree in chronobiology at the University of Groningen.
Gargar’s detention has been prolonged through the postponement of hearings for his bail petition. Gargar is facing criminal charges that include “Attempted Murder, Illegal Possesion of Explosives and violation of the COMELEC Gun Ban” at the Baganga Regional Trial Court.
The first hearing for Gargar’s petition for bail was supposed to have been held on Feb 26, but it was postponed because the presiding judge inhibited from the case because he used to be the prosecutor. After that, he died. The hearing was then scheduled for May 28, but it, too, was postponed for June 25, which also was postponed. Given the length of time that has passed, the scientists’ group had expected the Bagangga regional court would already issue a decision on Gargar’s petition for bail, said Noel Jalamasco, member of the Free Kim Gargar Alliance.
Sorry plight of poor inmates, amid special treatment of accused senators
Like other Filipinos, Gargar said he is infuriated by the widespread corruption, which involved billions of pesos of PDAF, Malampaya Fund, Motor Vehicle User’s Charge Fund, and others. But what angers him more, he said, is how the Aquino administration has been allowing those accused in the pork scam to get special treatment.
“I have a fellow inmate here who has been detained for seven years and he still hasn’t been charged for a single crime,” Gargar said.
In their jail in Bangangga in Davao Oriental, six hours away from Davao City, they have no television set, but at least they can listen to the radio for some news and music. They are strictly confined inside their jail; they can go out only when they have visitors, Feny Cosiso of Agham shared.
Gargar’s ageing parents who live in Iligan have to travel 10 hours just to visit him, said Cosico. As such, given also the cost of traveling, the parents could visit Gargar only when there are scheduled hearings. Gargar’s former wife and a daughter live in Manila.
Gargar gets visitors from science teachers in the area to government employees interested in enlisting his help in, for example, resource mapping of their area.
As a teacher, Gargar is also helping his inmates to learn to read and study. He has also been swapping life stories with them.
“Because he listens to inmates’ cases, he has requested a copy of Philippine laws, and other law books, and science books for his science school project with the inmates,” Cosico told Bulatlat.com. (Agham is conducting a book drive, calling on people to donate science books for Kim Gargar’s budding science school programs while in jail.)
In a statement, Gargar noted how “Plunderers of people’s money complain of weight gain or insufficient medical care, when most prisoners from the poor cannot even afford toiletries and other requirements for good health and proper hygiene.”
“Some have to rent clothes from other inmates as they have no means of getting their own shirts. If they’re lucky, some charitable groups visit prisons to deliver such things, but if not, then they make to do with nothing,” Gargar said of his inmates.
Even among detainees, the cruelty of treatment varies between those charged with common crimes and those accused of politically-charged ‘crimes.’
Gargar noted that “poor people charged with common crimes are being treated badly; political prisoners, meanwhile, are being maligned, vilified and demonized by government forces, on top of being treated badly.” Is it a crime to have convictions and choose to serve in far-flung and marginalized communities? asked Gargar.
Agham is calling on the public to help in urging the authorities to free Kim Gargar, starting with calling on the court to finally push through with the hearing and decision on Gargar’s bail petition. The Free Kim Gargar Alliance is also raising funds for his bail.