MANILA — Groups from Southern Tagalog trooped in front of the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City today, Dec. 3 in time for the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.
Political prisoners nationwide also started their fasting today, to protest their continuing detention. In Mendiola, kin of detainees and other supporters also started a solidarity fasting to support the call. The detainees will skip their day meals and snacks until Dec. 7,
when some of them will go on hunger strike.
The progressives led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog (Bayan-ST) pressed President Rodrigo Duterte to follow through on his promise to free all political prisoners, made more urgent after the recent death of Bernabe Ocasla, who was falsely accused of murder and languished in jail for nine years. Ocasla died of heart attack on Nov. 28.
Personnel from the Bureau of Correction prevented the groups from holding program in front of the NBP main gate, and from using a loudspeaker for their program. The NBP officers said Director Benjamin Delos Santos said they needed a permit to hold their program. They were allowed to hold short program at the gate where visitors enter, but without a loudspeaker.
“We are here to today to honor the 48 political prisoners here in Bilibid. They are workers, women, farmers who stand up to fight for their rights yet they are languishing in prison with trumped-up charges,” said Betty Bautista, Bayan-ST spokesperson.
Fr. Edwin Egar, Karapatan-Southern Tagalog spokesperson meanwhile said, “Pronouncements and reasons have been made, but not yet releases of political prisoners. Ocasla’s death now puts more weight on the government’s true sincerity to the fulfillment of its promises after two rounds of peace negotiations.”
From Muntinlupa, the groups proceeded to Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge) where Metro Manila-based human groups rights groups have set up a “peace tent” for the solidarity fasting.
Karapatan national secretary general Cristina Palabay took the President to task for the plight of political detainees.
“The Duterte administration should be held accountable for the continuing incarceration and sufferings of political prisoners, as well as the threats to kill human rights activists and criminalization of the work of those engaged in the struggle for people’s rights,” she said.
Text and pictures by ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL