Aquino gov’t muffles voices of political prisoners, hunger strike still on

Karapatan welcomed and fully appreciated the speech of Pope Francis as an expression of his solidarity with the real and concrete issues of the poor and oppressed in Philippine society. 

“His call on Philippine government officials to ‘ensure social justice and respect human dignity’ is a clear commentary on the state of injustice and oppression in the country. Only the heartless and calloused, especially the Aquino administration, cannot and will not be able to live by these words of His Holiness, because of its anti-people character,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

Karapatan pointed out, “While Pope Francis is visiting the country, the voices of the oppressed are being suppressed further by government authorities.” Palabay cited the continued refusal of jail authorities at Camp Bagong Diwa to recognize the rights of the political prisoners to have access to medical attention by a doctor of their choice, their right to be visited by their relatives, and the right to peacefully and symbolically express their call to release all political prisoners in the Philippines.  

All 491 political prisoners in the Philippines are on hungers strike and fast to dramatize their call for the release of all political prisoners. “The political prisoners are treated like criminals because of their political beliefs—beliefs that are similar to Pope Francis’ exhortations on the faithful to ‘break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities,” Palabay stated. 

“Church workers like Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio and Dutch missionary Willem Geertman, who lived by these words, were killed by state security forces because they were seen as enemies of the State,” she added.

On the other hand, Palabay said the speech of Pres. BS Aquino is in stark contrast to the message conveyed by the Pope. “Aquino’s speech is a potpourri that stinks of hypocrisy. It was a blatant disregard of the plight of the farm workers who were displaced in Hacienda Luisita; the continuing killings, disappearances, arrests and other rights violations; and its criminal negligence on the situation of typhoon Yolanda victims,” she commented. 

Karapatan warned they would hold the government accountable for the reprisal of political prisoners on hunger strike. “Nagpapaka-banal na mga aso ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno habang nandito si Pope Francis. Hindi nito maitatago ang tunay na kalagayan sa ating bansa,” Palabay concluded.