Peasant organizer and NDFP consultant Leopoldo Caloza, 60, has been imprisoned for almost 11 years.
By IAN IRVING BAZARTE
MANILA – Julieta Caloza, a peasant from Nueva Ecija, was so happy when she learned that 10 political detainees walked free out of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in the evening of July 6, by virtue of a presidential conditional pardon. She fervently wished that her husband, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Leopoldo Caloza, was among the 10.
He was not.
“Napaupo na lang ako (I fell flat on the floor),” she told Bulatlat she was so crestfallen when someone confirmed the news.
Leopoldo has been detained in the NBP in the past two years along with two other NDFP consultants, Emeterio Antalan, a fellow peasant organizer from Nueva Ecija, and Eduardo Sarmiento. Antalan was among the 10 who were released, while Leopoldo and Sarmiento were left behind, still awaiting the much-promised pardon by President Duterte.
Leopoldo has been detained in other jails since 2006, and in the past 11 years, Julieta has been seeking not only her husband’s freedom, but also justice for her son, Arturo, who was killed by suspected soldiers 11 years ago.
In a gathering of families of victims of human rights violations, Julieta reiterated what other kin of political rights violations have been saying for years: that justice remains ever-elusive in this country.
“Hanggang ngayon ay wala man lang kaming nakamit na hustisya,” she said at the gathering.
The event, dubbed “Remember. Resist,” was held today, July 8, at the Church of the Risen Lord in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. It was led by the groups Pagkakaisa ng mga Biktima para sa Hustisya or Hustisya!, Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights (Karapatan), and Rise Up for Life and for Rights.
On March 4, 2006, Caloza’s son Arturo, a local leader of Bayan Muna, was gunned down in their village by a suspected soldier. He was 28 years old. Arturo was among the documented 1,206 victims killed by suspected state security forces under President Gloria Arroyo. Then-Major General Jovito Palparan, Arroyo’s favored military official, was commanding the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division which operated in Central Luzon.
Julieta said her son acted as the man of the house as Leopoldo, a peasant organizer, was away most of the time. Arturo took care of his two siblings in the best way he could.
“Napakasakit po sa isang magulang,” she said of his death.
Seven months later, on October 9 of the same year, Julieta and her husband Leopoldo were arrested in Baguio City. Julieta was released, while her husband was charged with 22 criminal cases. All, but one, were later dismissed due to lack of merit.
In 2015, Leopoldo and fellow Novo Ecijano Antalan were convicted of the trumped-up charge of murder. Last year, when Duterte became president and promised to free all political prisoners, her hopes were raised that they will soon be released, particularly, when the peace talks resumed and 20 NDFP consultants were freed.
Julieta said that she is glad to see the other political prisoners free, but feels a tinge of sadness as her husband continues to languish in prison. “Ang malungkot po ay naiwan ang aking asawa,” she lamented.
Leopoldo, now 60, suffers from various illness.
Aside from Leopoldo and Sarmiento who are in NBP, three other NDFP consultants remain in detention: Ferdinand Castillo, Promencio Cortez and Rommel Salinas, who were all arrested under the Duterte administration. Karapatan said there are some 400 political prisoners all over the country.
Julieta thanked human rights groups and advocates, as she called for the immediate release of all political prisoners around different prisons in the country. With a report from Dee Ayroso