Where is justice when a US soldier convicted of homicide over the killing of Jennifer Laude was granted absolute pardon while hundreds of incarcerated Filipinos languish in prisons because of fabricated and baseless charges meant to silence them from speaking against government injustices.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Families and supporters of political prisoners once again trooped in front of the Supreme Court on the day of the Feast Day of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sept. 8.
Holding black candles, the relatives and their supporters reminded the magistrates of their five-month old petition to release 22 political prisoners vulnerable to coronavirus disease 2019 on humanitarian grounds.
Kapatid said the black candles symbolize the agony of waiting and the miscarriage of justice. Blue ribbons tied on the candles on the other hand hearken to the Marian color of hope and compassion.
“We’d like to think, and hope, it’s no coincidence that the SC en banc session coincides with the birthday of Mama Mary today. We pray that she will be able to guide our magistrates to finally issue a decision marked by compassion, charity, humility and justness, her undying virtues that define humanity,” said Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid.
Kapatid’s petition includes nursing mother, Reina Mae Nasino whose newborn daughter was taken away from her.
Nasino’s mother Marites Asis also has pleaded to the SC to release her daughter and be reunited with her infant.
The group also condemned President Duterte’s granting of absolute pardon to convicted US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.
“Where is justice when a US soldier convicted of homicide over the killing of Jennifer Laude was granted absolute pardon while hundreds of incarcerated Filipinos languish in prisons because of fabricated and baseless charges meant to silence them from speaking against government injustices,” said Lim.
Lim’s husband, peace consultant Vic Ladlad, is also one of the 22 petitioners. Ladlad suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which makes him at risk from the dreaded virus.
Lim said that while prisoners at risk of contracting COVID-19 wait in fear due to the inaction of the SC, “Duterte overturns the justice system not only against the Laude family, but against the entire Filipino people.”
“It even deigns to grant good conduct time allowance when GCTA rules have not even been approved yet,” she added.
Support from other groups
Different groups have been calling SC to act on the petition of the families of political prisoners which was filed last April 8.
Read: SC urged to release sick, elderly political prisoners amid COVID-19
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta also announced in a virtual press conference that the decision on the said “might come out on June 16.” As of today, however, the high court has not issued its resolution.
Selda, a human rights group composed of former political prisoners, said that the SC inaction on the petition is like death penalty amid the health crisis.
“We can’t help but to see the High Court’s inaction as extremely inhumane and a palpable neglect of duty,” Danilo dela Fuente, Selda spokesperson said.
Kilusang Mayo Uno also assailed the SC’s inaction despite the reports of increasing cases of COVID-19 in prisons.
“Despite the lockdown of prisons, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) personnel and police have been reported to be transmitting infection inside the facilities. The most vulnerable prisoners must be released immediately, to avoid the further spread of the disease,” said Eleanor de Guzman, KMU secretary for human rights.
De Guzman’s husband and unionist Maoj Maga was also in prison for trumped-up charges.
Lim asked the justices to “look at prisoners as part of humanity who deserve a chance to survive.”
“We are well aware of the blinders that the Office of the Solicitor General seeks to impose to divert and negate the humanitarian basis of this petition. The fact that political prisoners initiated this petition does not detract from the greater purpose which seeks to benefit all other prisoners likewise medically vulnerable to the pandemic,” Lim added.