“It is only now that the NTF’s top brass is pressing to disperse and isolate individuals and to expose them to harsher and less secure conditions.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Eight political prisoners detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig denounced plans by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to transfer them to local jails, mostly outside Metro Manila.
Based on the detainees’ statement, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) National Directorate requested the courts for the transfer of National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Frank Fernandez, Cleofe Lagtapon, COURAGE member Oliver Rosales, peace consultant Adelberto Silva, Edisel Legaspi, Ireneo Atadero, Julio Lusania and Maximo Reduta, a farmer from Quezon.
A letter by the BJMP to the courts handling the cases of the political prisoners states that on Sept. 18, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) forwarded a letter from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana dated July 25 requesting for the transfer of the eight political prisoners. The transfer is in line to the whole-of-government approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict under Executive Order No. 70, series of 2018, “that includes efforts to prevent opportunities for Communist Terrorist Groups to conduct paganized activities while under detention and the timely resolution of criminal cases against CPP-NPA personalities pending before the regular court…”
For the political prisoners, the objective of the proposed transfer to the local jails is to restrict their movement and access to the much-needed medical attention, legal services, visits and support from relatives and friends.
“Under current conditions here in the Bicutan detention center where our movements are naturally limited and our activities are closely controlled, monitored and observed, whatever ‘organized activities’ we may and could conduct cannot be anything but legitimate and justified,” they said in a statement.
They added that the ”organized activities” they are conducting inside prison include political discussions among themselves and with visitors, social gatherings and celebrations, handicraft and other livelihood projects, sports, and health and wellness activities.
Most of the eight political prisoners are old and have ailments. Fernandez who is in his 70s was recently brought to the Philippine Heart Center for medical check-up. He is suffering from heart ailments, spinal column problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis and hypertension.
According to them, political prisoners have been usually detained in common facilities to separate them from common criminals, for easier monitoring and control by state authorities.
“It is only now that the NTF’s top brass are pressing to disperse and isolate individuals and to expose them to harsher and less secure conditions. Indeed, even without a formal declaration of martial law nationwide, this regime has surpassed the cruelty and brutality of the Marcos dictatorship in many ways and within a shorter period of time.”
Meanwhile, in a press conference last week, the Makabayan bloc condemned this move of the BJMP. They said that political prisoners are mostly at risk with the proposed transfer of facility. “We need to look into this if there is indeed a policy,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
House Deputy Minority Leader and 6th District Quezon City Congressman Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte also questioned the supposed policy to transfer political prisoners to the local jails. He said the DND should release such policy if there is any. He said that in other countries, political prisoners are also detained in common facilities. He also pointed out that dissent is not a criminal act.
Fides Lim of Kapatid Families and Friends of Political Prisoners said that political prisoners were victims twice over with the proposed transfer of facilities.
“My husband Vic Ladlad was a victim of warrantless arrest with no basis, now he along with other political prisoners are again victimized and persecuted for just being what they are – political prisoners. It has got to stop. There has to be something done.”