Rights group calls for release of 70-year-old ex-organizer, ailing NDFP consultant

Former peasant organizer Lilia Bucatcat (Contributed photo)
Former peasant organizer Lilia Bucatcat (Contributed photo)

A 70-year-old woman who was arrested in Marikina City is the latest political detainee.


MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan today condemned the recent arrest of an elderly woman, the latest to be detained and charged with a trumped-up case, amid continuing calls on the Duterte administration to release political prisoners.

Lilia Bucatcat, 70, a former peasant organizer in Samar, was arrested without being shown a warrant by a joint police and military team on March 9, as she was on her way to walk her dog to the Marikina River Park. Her captors brought Bucatcat and her dog to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capitol Region (CIDG-NCR) office inside the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City where she was interrogated.

It was only on March 10, after a whole day of search, that her family and friends found her in detention in Camp Crame.

Meanwhile, Karapatan also calls for the immediate release of Emeterio Antalan, 58, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant, who had a mild heart attack and has been hospitalized since March 5.

“While the Duterte administration still fails to release all political prisoners, including the sick and the elderly, arrests and illegal detention continue,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan in a statement.

Karapatan said that upon her arrest, Bucatcat asked her captors to allow her to first bring her dog home and inform her family of her arrest, but this was denied.

During her interrogation at the CIDG-NCR office, police asked Bucatcat about various names, including a certain “Baleros.” Referring to former political prisoner Renato Baleros, Bucatcat said she heard of the name but did not know him personally. It was only then that the police showed her a warrant for her arrest for arson.

Karapatan said Bucatcat has a benign cyst in her throat, and suffers from sciatica – body pains in the lower back and both legs – and other illnesses of the elderly.

“Bucatcat has long served the peasants and surely did not deserve to be illegally arrested and harassed, under trumped up charges. She must be immediately released to her family,” said Palabay.

NDFP peace consultant Emeterio Antalan at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa (Contributed photo)
NDFP peace consultant Emeterio Antalan at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa (Contributed photo)

Ailing peace consultant has been detained for 10 years

NDFP peace consultant Antalan was arrested in Nueva Ecija in late 2007, along with NDFP staff Edgardo Friginal. He has has been detained at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City since October 2015, after being convicted on a trumped-up murder case, along with another NDFP consultant, Leopoldo Caloza.

He was brought to the NBP Hospital at 1 p.m. on March 5 after complaining of chest pains. He was later brought to the emergency room of the Ospital ng Muntinlupa on March 6, at 6 p.m., where he stayed while undergoing laboratory tests. He was then admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on March 8, and on March 12, was transferred to a regular ward.

Today, March 14, Antalan is set to be transferred to the Philippine Heart Center for further tests.

“It is even more urgent now to release Antalan, with his current medical condition. We do not want another case of NDFP consultant Eduardo Serrano and Bernabe Ocasla, who were then sick and elderly, and had long suffered dismal prison conditions that eventually lead to their death due to heart ailments,” Palabay said.

Serrano had been detained for 11 years when he died in hospital in January 2016, three weeks after suffering from a heart attack. Later last year, Ocasla, who also had a heart ailment, died in November. He had been in jail for nine years.

“We also call on Duterte to release all political prisoners and stop the arrests, harassment and criminalization of the work of political activists,” she said.

In the agreement signed at the GRP-NDFP backchannel talks on March 12, the government gave commitment to release the four remaining detained NDFP consultants, including Antalan, to be able to participate in the next round of talks on April 2 to 7.

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