She was grinning from ear-to-ear, her presence brightening up the usually busy atmosphere of Karapatan national office. On July 18, 2016, 37-year-old farm worker Evelyn Flauta was the face of freedom and hope.
That day, Evelyn just ended a 14-month ordeal as a political prisoner, arrested with a questionable warrant, deprived of her right to call a family member or a lawyer.
“Wala doon [sa warrant] yung pangalan ko,” she said, laughing. Anyone who saw her from a distance wouldn’t have guessed that she was reliving her and her partner Norberto Burrico’s arrest at 6 a.m., on April 23, 2015, in Barangay Niogan, Lemery, Batangas. Perhaps the absurdity of the circumstances then—combined with the relief that came with the dismissal of their charges—was enough reason to laugh and smile, after all.
For ailing 59-year-old political prisoner Dionisio Almonte, a chance at freedom means getting his life back, in more ways than one.
Imagine feeling constant pain and numbness on one side of your body, extending to your arms and legs. Even walking short distances or prolonged sitting or standing is an ordeal in itself. The pain can get even worse at night. Now, imagine enduring these while detained in a cramped prison cell for crimes you didn’t commit, with limited access to medical treatment.
Such is the ordeal of Dionisio Almonte, who suffers from a herniated (slipped) disc, a spinal condition that causes chronic pain. He has been in detention since January 9, 2014 and is one of the Philippines’ 519 political prisoners awaiting release, as promised by newly-elected president Rodrigo Duterte.
Political prisoners are citizens who are arrested and detained for their political beliefs and actions. These arrests are based on trumped-up charges, usually with arbitrarily issued warrants. Kidnapping, multiples counts of murder, arson and rebellion are just a few of the cases filed against Dionisio, a peasant organizer who is allegedly a New People’s Army (NPA) commander.
"#BoySisi, with all his fault-finding against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, failed to convict her. BS Aquino only used Arroyo as an excuse for his inefficiency and ineptitude in governance, and pursued charges against Arroyo only for show,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said, in reaction to the Supreme Court decision acquitting Arroyo from plunder charges.
"Political killings continue as three Lumad farmers were massacred, Bagobo leaders ambushed, and an Igorot hunter shot,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general reported the first cases of political killings documented under the Duterte administration.
On July 9, 2016, Joaquin Cadacgan, a native of the Mabaka and Mangali tribes in Tanugan, Kalinga, was on his way back to his village at 3:00AM to 4:00AM after he was on watch for wild pigs that frequently destroys their crops.
"We are calling on the Duterte government to immediately release Renato Baleros Sr. on just and humanitarian grounds. We fear that bringing him back to prison will eventually cost his life,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said referring to political prisoner Baleros Sr. as an individual protected by JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees). Baleros arrived today in Manila from Tacloban City, with two armed personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Baleros's son Ramel and a Karapatan Eastern Visayas staff to seek medical attention.
Baleros was rushed to the hospital night of July 2. Doctors diagnosed Baleros of having acute renal failure, severe sepsis and acute inflammation of kidney tissues, calysys and renal pelvis and community acquired pneumonia which he got from Samar Provincial Jail. He needs to undergo further medical investigation, facilities for such are only accessible in Manila and Cebu.
Baleros is detained for trumped up charges of murder and frustrated murder, robbery in band and multiple homicide, and arson filed against him. Almost all of his cases have already been dismissed, except for one murder charge.
Baleros and his wife Lonie Colinaio-Baleros were heading the New People’s Army’s relief operations in Western Samar during the devastation of the typhoon Yolanda when they were arrested on December 2013.