“When she was in Gabriela, Sharon Cabusao led campaigns to free women political prisoners. Now, the campaign is for her release.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Family, friends, and co-workers of detained activist-writer, Rosanna “Sharon” Cabusao, 53, called her arrest “an injustice” and demand her immediate release on humanitarian grounds.
Cabusao was arrested by police at midnight on June 1 in their house in Bacoor, Cavite, along with her husband, Adelberto Silva, peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and their hired driver, Isidro de Lima. They are currently detained in the holding area of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Camp Crame.
Cabusao, a founding member of Gabriela, was charged with illegal possession of firearms and harbouring a criminal. Her husband, Silva, who holds a Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) document of identification, was charged with several murder and frustrated murder cases, the same cases filed against detained spouses and NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.
“When the father of President Benigno Aquino III, Ninoy was assassinated, Sharon was among those who called for justice. Now, Ninoy’s son had her illegally arrested and sent to jail without a basis,” said Gabriela chairperson and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus during the program.
Highlighting Cabusao’s case, Gabriela re-launched the campaign, “Free our Sisters, Free Ourselves,” which call for the release of women political prisoners. The launch was held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani on June 16, where Cabusao’s friends and families gathered along with women’s rights advocates.
They demand the immediate release of Cabusao on humanitarian grounds as she is suffering from chronic B12 ceficiency anemia. Dr. Sylvia Dela Paz of the Health Alliance for Human Rights (HAHR) said Cabusao needs to be urgently checked by a hematologist.
Dela Paz explained that Cabusao is a vegetarian, and her body lacks vitamin B12.
“The main source of vitamin B12 is meat. There is a supplement, however, due to her age, it could not be easily absorbed by her body. She is weak and the condition in detention can further aggravate her health,” Dela Paz said.
Early years in Gabriela
At the gathering, people from different sectors described Cabusao as an activist who has devoted half of her life in the mass movement, courageous and is always smiling.
Former Gabriela Women’s Party Representative and Gabriela president emerita Liza Maza, said that Cabusao played a key role in Gabriela’s advancement as the women’s organization of the national democratic movement.
During the early years of Gabriela, Cabusao was among those who developed the socio-economic programs for urban poor women together with Nelia Sancho.
Maza said Cabusao also has significant contributions in the health and reproductive rights work of Gabriela. She was also part of the editorial board of the Laya feminist quarterly.
She also led campaigns for justice for victims of violence against women. De Jesus said during Cabusao’s time as Public Information Department Director and later as International Relations Officer, she campaigned, nationally and internationally, for the release of women political prisoners.
“Sharon was well-known by the media when she was in Gabriela. She herself is a writer and this skill greatly contributed to Gabriela’s campaigns here and abroad,” De Jesus said.
Jailed for fighting for what is right
Angelina Bisuña Ipong, who languished in jail for six years, also shared how she overcame her ordeal behind bars. She said the whole world should know what state forces – those whose duty is to protect Filipinos – have done to people like her and Cabusao who aspire for genuine reform in society.
Ipong said that being in jail is lonely, as visits become less frequent. But, she said, the state wants loneliness to get to you “to break you and make you surrender.” Instead, she said, she organized other inmates and made herself busy with her organic garden.
Maza said political prisoners are increasing in the country because even after Edsa People Power 1 and 2, there has been no genuine change in the country.
“That is why people continue to make a stand, and fight for the nation, for the poor and oppressed,” said Maza.
Maza stressed that the arrest of Cabusao is illegal because the police had no warrant for her arrest.
“The warrant of arrest was only for Silva. A person could not be detained without a warrant. There is no basis why Sharon is still in detention up to now,” said Maza. She said the same goes for De Lima, the driver whom they hired.
There are 48 woman political prisoners among more than 500 political prisoners in the country.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, said the campaign will highlight the cases of women political prisoners who are also suffering from various life-threatening ailments. These include Wilma Tiamzon who is suffering from kidney disease, senior citizen Moreta Alegre who is in danger of losing her eyesight due to advanced cataract and Miradel Torres, who gave birth in detention, and was separated from her child.
Gabriela’s Free our Sisters, Free Ourselves campaign started in the 1980s when Luisa Posa Dominado and her daughter Maywan were detained. Dominado managed to escape prison three times, Salvador said. Dominado was disappeared under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.
Salvador said the campaign has gained success over the years, enjoining different progressive solidarity groups abroad. Some women political prisoners were also released, like Ipong.
Gabriela and Cabusao’s friends and colleagues vowed to strengthen and expand the campaign and to enjoin others, especially, writers.