“Our lawyers have provided and complied with all their supposed requirements.”
By TYRA AQUINO
MANILA – Progressive groups and kin of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Rafael Baylosis stormed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday, June 26, demanding for his immediate release.
Eleanor de Guzman, Baylosis’ daughter and convenor of Coalition for the Defense and Freedom of Rafael Baylosis condemned the criminalization of activism. There is also a standing court order to release Baylosis.
“The persecution of activists and political prisoners are means of the government to pressure its critics and those it considers as enemies of the state,” she said.
Baylosis was arrested last Jan. 31 after police purportedly received reports of “suspicious men with firearms.” The police said they recovered two caliber-45 pistols, with 14 ammunition and two magazines from Baylosis. His arrest came two months after President Rodrigo Duterte canceled the peace talks and branded the CPP-NPA members “terrorists.”
Read: ‘Illegal arrest of NDFP peace consultant follows an unbelievably bad script’
De Guzman slammed the government for the political persecution of activists, slapping them with false charges and imprisoning them due to their political beliefs.
“They are criminalizing activists by filing trumped up charges, common crime charges such as illegal possession of firearms,” she said.
Lawyer Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center, Baylosis’s legal counsel, said the arrest was illegal since it violated the agreement between the government and the NDFP under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
The JASIG, signed between the Philippine government and the NDFP in 1995, guarantees “free and unhindered passage” inside and outside the Philippines for persons involved in the peace talks. The agreement also provides that they are immune from “surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions.”
However, the Duterte administration terminated the JASIG on Feb. 7, a week after Baylosis’ arrest.
The Quezon City Trial Court Branch 100 released a court order last June 14, granting Baylosis bail. Despite a standing order for his release, he still remains in detention since BJMP-SICA 1 Warden Jojie Jonathan Pangan insists that the detainee should submit documentary requirements.
De Guzman said the court wants them to submit the clearances from his previous cases like in Pandacan, Manila, which dates way back from Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s regime. He also has a case before the Manila Regional Trial Court but he has been out on bail and was eventually cleared by the court, she said.
“Our lawyers have provided and complied with all their supposed requirements,” De Guzman said.
Warden Pangan and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Regional Director were asked by lawyers for explanations behind Baylosis’ prolonged detention. Both could not provide legal basis for keeping him in prison.
De Guzman said activists are not criminals. “They do not violate any law. They have wronged no one. It is only the government who are offended due to criticisms,” she said.
According to human rights group Karapatan, there are currently 503 political prisoners in the Philippines.
In a statement, Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general said President Duterte has legitimized illegal arrests and the filing of trumped up criminal charges against peace advocates, human rights defenders, and political dissenters.
“Despite their innocence on the charges lodged against them, they are being threatened to be killed, while in the custody of their captors and interrogators in uniform. They are subjected to worse conditions in jail,” Clamor said.
He added that Baylosis and all political prisoners suffered torture and remained in jail, “while those who violated their rights are scot-free.” The International Day or Torture was also commemorated on the same day.
“We demand the immediate release of Baylosis, considering that there are court orders for his release already, and of all political prisoners. We demand the end to the policy and practice of torture,” Clamor added. (With reports from Anne Marxze D. Umil)