By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — Human rights group Karapatan urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to look into the cases of two women political prisoners charged with violation of the Anti-Terror Act.
In her letter addressed to CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay appealed on behalf of Elizabeth Estilon, 41, and Enriqueta Guelas, 62, who were arrested on Dec. 24, 2020 following a raid in barangay Lalod, Bulusan, Sorsogon by members from 31st and 22nd Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army. Both were charged with violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Estilon is on her ninth month of pregnancy. Both are now detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Sorsogon City District Jail.
Karapatan maintained that the evidence against the two were planted.
“We believe that the rights of Estilon and Guelas to presumption of innocence must be upheld with their right to health and their right as women and mothers, recognized under the Constitution, international human rights instruments, and domestic legislations,” Palabay said.
The group urged the CHR to monitor the judicial proceedings on the case filed against Estilon and Guelas.
Karapatan also asked the CHR, as Gender Ombud, closely monitor the situation of Elizabeth Estilon, who is about to give birth this March.
“This is a serious matter that needs attention to avoid the incidents involving the deaths of infants like that of women political prisoners Reina Mae Nasino, Nona Espinosa and Andrea Rosal,” Palabay said.
Palabay cited the Magna Carta of Women, which expressly provides for the protection of senior citizens and measures in aid of women in detention, and the Bangkok Rules adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, stating that the non-custodial sentences for pregnant women and women with dependent children shall be preferred. Bangkok Rules also states that women with care-taking responsibilities for children shall be permitted to make arrangements for those children, including the possibility of a reasonable suspension of detention, taking into account the best interests of the children.
“The history of women’s plight and oppression has been largely recognized and experienced to this day. The commemoration of the National Women’s Month should not only pertain to this recognition but also to taking actions needed to further uphold women’s rights. Elizabeth Estilon and Enriqueta Guelas, both women political prisoners, need such actions now,” Palabay said.
The case of Estilon and Guelas is the second known case of individuals charged under the ATA, after that of the two Aeta farmers in Zambales.