Rights group demands explanation on solitary confinement of political prisoner

Human rights groups and families of political prisoners call for release of political prisoners and resumption of peace talks. (File photo by Arneth Asiddao/Bulatlat)

Karapatan-Southern Tagalog is asking the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Mimaropa and the Regional Trial Court Branch 81 for an explanation to the allegations that Maria Teresa Dioquino is being held in solitary confinement and harassed by military intelligence officials.

By JUSTIN UMALI
Bulatlat.com

SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – Human rights watchdog Karapatan Southern Tagalog filed a complaint against jail officials following reports that a political prisoner in the Romblon Provincial Jail is experiencing “isolation, intimidation, and harassment.”

The group is asking the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Mimaropa and the Regional Trial Court Branch 81 for an explanation to the allegations that Maria Teresa Dioquino is being held in solitary confinement and harassed by military intelligence officials.

“This is outside the regular and proper process of hearing somebody in court,” Karapatan ST said in a statement. Dioquino is one of the four fisherfolk arrested on June 2, 2021 while seeking refuge in the town of Concepcion, Romblon.

Karapatan ST was able to gather these reports through letters given by Dioquino to her common-law husband and co-accused Marlon Torres. Dioquino is detained at the Romblon Provincial Jail while Torres and his two other companions, Nolan Ramos and Benny Hilamon, are in the BJMP District Jail.

The letters stated that Dioquino was interrogated by intelligence officers no less than twice during her stay in solitary confinement. She is also being barred from participating in prison activities such as sports and exercise; activities which the group pointed out could help her “earn privileges like the Good Conduct Time Allowance.”

The four fisherfolk were arrested under highly suspicious circumstances. They were caught in a storm caused by Typhoon Dante while out fishing and were forced to seek shelter in Sibale Island. Concepcion police soon rescued the four and brought them to a nearby evacuation center where they could stay the night.

However, they were soon arrested without warrant. The next day, they were charged with “illegal fishing” and “violation of health protocols.”

Agents from the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) then interrogated the four and tried to coerce them into surrendering as members of the New People’s Army. They refused.

On June 5, Romblon police charged them with illegal possession of firearms and explosives – despite having already confiscated all of their belongings and an inquest already made. Authorities also claimed that the four were carrying “patches and other paraphernalia” proving their membership to the NPA.

On June 7, the four were transported from Sibale Island to the provincial capital of Romblon, Romblon. They were escorted by no less than 80 combined police and military officers.

That same day, Torres’s sister sought the help of her local church to go to Romblon and visit. Although initially welcomed by the local government and church partners, they were then asked to leave on a vague technicality, before they were informed that they were in violation of municipal health protocols.

The group was eventually able to speak with Torres and his three companions. About 20 police officers then escorted them to the next ferry out of Romblon.

According to Karapatan, police and military have made it a point to “make a show of force” whenever the four are involved. Hearings for the Romblong 4 are “swarmed inside and out” by police and military. Jail guard presence in both the district and provincial jails was also augmented by “no less than two platoon-sized police and military personnel.”

Karapatan ST is reiterating that the charges against the four are fabricated and illegal, and that they should be released immediately. They group also noted that treating civilians as “members” of the NPA is in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). (RVO)(https://www.bulatlat.com)

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