Compassion, justice urged for ailing, elderly political prisoners

Nineteen political prisoners, not 71, released in relation to peace talks

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay clarified that there have been only nineteen (19) political prisoners released in line with the GRP-NDFP peacetalks, and not 71 as stated by Peace adviser Jesus Dureza, in an article of Cebu Daily Inquirer on October 31, 2016. "Majority of those released are consultants to the peace process. NDFP consultant Jaime Soledad was acquitted from the fabricated charges against him, and political prisoners discharged from prison from July-October 2016 were released because of the merits of their counsels' defense and the campaign for their releases," Palabay explained. 

While Karapatan welcomed recent reports on the upcoming release of at least 50 political prisoners, Palabay reasserted that all the 400 political prisoners should be released at the soonest possible time. "We shouldn't wait for Christmas to do what is compassionate and just, especially for the elderly, sick, women and minors, and those languishing in jails for more than ten years," she stated.  

Free Miradel Torres 

Women's rights activist Miradel Torres, 27, gave birth to her son while in detention. She was arrested in 2014, while on her way to a hospital check-up. She was charged with trumped up cases of murder, even if the military-backed witnesses spun some wild tale of having heard her full name and supposed alias in an alleged encounter. Never mind if she showed proof that she was attending her child’s birthday party during the said incident. 

Moreta, 70, Jesus Alegre, 71, and their son Selman, were wrongly convicted on false charges of murder when a Cadiz City landlord bore a grudge against them for helping organize farmers in their community. Moreta has a hypertensive cardiovascular disease, while Jesus has bouts with hypertension, having spent eleven years in prison for a crime they did not do. 

Guiller Cadano and Gerald Salonga, both 25, were fresh graduates of UP Pampanga when they conducted a research study on the impact of so-called development projects on farmers in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija in 2014. They were abducted by the military, handcuffed, blindfolded and made to beg for their lives. Guns and explosives were planted in the house of a farmer where they were staying. Two years, and they are still in prison, for charges made up by the military against them. 

"They are among the political prisoners wrongly arrested by past regimes, waiting for the so-called promise of freedom under the Duterte administration. More than 400 more were illegally arrested, tortured and jailed because of previous administrations' counter-insurgency program against the Communist Party of the Philippines. They need compassion and justice, for they have suffered for too long," said Palabay. 

Karapatan reiterated its reminder for Pres. Duterte and Sec. Dureza that “the release of political prisoners should not merely be treated as a confidence-building measure in the formal peacetalks, but as an obligation and show of adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)."