“How many more political prisoners have to die before the Duterte administration release all political prisoners? While tyrants like Marcos are being treated like heroes to their grave, real heroes like Ocasla who organized peasants and actively defended the rights of the Filipino people are being left to die in jail.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — A farmer who had been wrongly accused and had been in jail for nine years died in prison this afternoon.
Bernabe Ocasla, 66, died at 5: 30 p.m. today from his third cardiac arrest since Friday, according to human rights alliance Karapatan.
Ocasla was brought to the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital in Manila after a heart attack, Nov. 25. He was in coma for three days.
Ocasla is one of the 130 political prisoners who should have been released on humanitarian grounds as agreed during the peace talks, said Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
“But sorry for him, he is obscure, faceless and powerless unlike other high and mighty prisoners who walk free with no sweat to play candycrush, have staycations in hospitals, watch boxing matches, attend children’s graduations, celebrate birthdays, have dental check ups or treat LBMs,” Olalia said in his Facebook post.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, held the Duterte administration accountable for Oscala’s death.
“Instead of immediately fulfilling its commitment to release all political prisoners, especially the ailing and elderly political prisoners, the Duterte administration, through its GRP peace panel, has spewed mere rhetorics instead of actually releasing them,” Palabay said.
Palabay lamented that for months, the government peace panel has been announcing the release of political prisoners but so far only 19 have been released in line with the peace talks. Palabay added that President Duterte himself said that political prisoners will be released through general amnesty.
Palabay said the harsh jail conditions at the Manila City Jail where Ocasla was detained, contributed to the deterioration of his health.
Ocasla is one of the co-accused of NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva on the multiple murder case filed by the military in connection with the alleged mass graves in Hilongos, Leyte.
Palabay said that “despite overwhelming evidence on the absurdity of the multiple murder charges against him and his other co-accused, trial is ongoing at the Manila Regional Trial Court.”
The NDFP consultants have been released on bail for the peace talks. Other co-accused have remained in detention despite calls for their immediate release.
“How many more political prisoners have to die before the Duterte administration release all political prisoners? While tyrants like Marcos are being treated like heroes to their grave, real heroes like Ocasla who organized peasants and actively defended the rights of the Filipino people are being left to die in jail,” Palabay said.
Ocasla left behind his wife and eight children.
Ocasla is the first political prisoner who died while in detention under the Duterte administration. There are 12 other political prisoners who suffered the same fate during the Benigno Aquino III administration.