By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A support group of friends and family of political prisoners commended the recent decision of the court to free the longest held political prisoner who was wrongfully convicted.
On Nov. 8, 2021, the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 granted the petition for habeas corpus filed by the daughter of 57-year old Juanito Itaas.
In his decision, Judge Gener Gito ordered the release of Itaas saying he already completed the service of his sentence through the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law or Republic Act 10592.
Gito also said that Itaas was “entitled to be credited the equivalent days of the GCTA credits earned by him.” He also declared that Section 2, Rule IV of 2019 Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law which excluded heinous crime convicts from the GCTA, is invalid because it is contrary to the law it seeks to implement.
“We commend the decision of the court and we hope this will presage more releases of political prisoners who are foisted with trumped-up charges in retaliation for their activism or to make them the fall guy to take the blame for NPA operations,” said Fides Lim, spokesperson of the Kapatid.
Lim asked the government to “let Itaas live a peaceful life without threats to his security as he deserves to make the most out of every second of his life with his family. This will be the first instance they can begin a normal life together outside prison bars.”
Itaas was released from the New Bilibid Prison last Friday, Jan. 7.
Itaas is a farmer and a resident of Davao. It was his first in Manila when he was arrested on Aug. 27, 1989 and was presented as the one who killed U.S. Army Col. James Rowe in Quezon City. He was 25 years old then and was sentenced to 39 years and 6 months of imprisonment.
Itaas has served 32 years, 1 month and 12 days in prison. The court also said that with the GCTA, Itaas is eligible to be credited with 10,698 days or 29.31 years since his arrest in August 1989.
In a statement, Itaas said that he cannot believe the news when he was told to ready his things.
“Nagulat ako nung masabihan ako na ayusin ko na ang gamit ko. Di pa rin ako makapaniwala. At nangangamba pa rin ako,” (I was shocked when I was told to prepare my things. I still cannot believe it. I still fear for my safety.) he said.
He also said that he will also rest and spend his time with his whole family.
According to Kapatid, Itaas got married in prison. In 1992, he was recommended for release but the U.S. government protested against it.
“With this clear service of sentence, there is no reason to further prolong Juanito Itaas’s imprisonment or harass him through motions by the Office of the Solicitor General. He has already suffered so much and even the US government should realize that in a country where trumped-up political cases are routine, they have the wrong man who was tortured to admit to the killing,” said Lim.