Aquino govt’s “righteous road to peace” bodes ill for peace

Bounty and pop stars, instead of releasing political detainees

Karapatan said that, “While the Aquino government plays dead on the call to release political prisoners, it offered bounty for so-called communist leaders and got pop stars to endorse Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program that has caused lives of 114 people. The act is both desperate and preposterous.” 

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said that Aquino’s offer for bounty could mean more arbitrary arrests and detention and, further abuses and rights violations. “It is unacceptable that Aquino and the AFP chose to just sing their way out of their accountability to their crimes against the people and say it’s for peace in the country,” she added.

From July 2010 to September 2012, Karapatan documented almost 447 victims of illegal arrests under the Aquino government, victimizing especially farmers and indigenous peoples they meet in the fields and forests during military operations and presenting them as NPA members or supporters. In the said period, there are 401 political prisoners in the country, with 123 persons arrested and detained under the Aquino government. 

There can never be a meaningful and lasting peace in the country if the government thinks this way, Palabay said. “But, it is beyond the comprehension of an haciendero, who expects subservience from his serf, that peace does not mean keeping mum to abuses and injustices committed against the people; that arrests and detention, torture and death could not silence the people and surrender their basic rights to land, to decent wages, to housing, livelihood opportunities, to education and health services.”

The Aquino government continues to take a tough stance on releasing political prisoners, especially the 14 consultants to the peace process of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) with the government. The call for the release of political prisoners has been treated by the government as an obstacle in the peace talks with the NDFP, instead of a measure to hasten the talks and tackle the agenda of social and economic reforms. The NDFP peace consultants are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which the GPH and the NDFP signed in 1995.

Karapatan and the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) today conducted a picket rally at Camp Crame in Quezon City to call for the immediate release of all political prisoners, while political detainees from Southern Tagalog are slated to conduct a simultaneous poetry reading in their cells of “Awit ng Bilanggong Pulitikal,” a poem of former political prisoner Axel Pinpin.