Elderly political prisoner now in coma

“How many more ailing political prisoners will end up in life threatening conditions before GPH fulfils its commitment to release all political prisoners?” Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said.  

Bernabe Ocasla, political prisoner 

Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a political prisoner since 2007, slipped into a coma after a heart attack last Friday. Ocasla is currently confined at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC). “Ocasla is one of the listed ailing and elderly political prisoners submitted by Karapatan to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), who should have been released as part of the commitment of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” Clamor said. 

As of October 31, 2016, Karapatan documented 401 political prisoners, at least 130 of them have illnesses. 

“For months, the GRP, through Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza and GRP panel chairman Secretary Silvestre Bello III have been announcing the release of political prisoners but so far only 19 has been released in line with the peacetalks. More than 400 are still in jail. Ocasla’s condition is more than enough reason to release all political prisoners,” Clamor said. 

Ocasla is one of the co-accused of NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva on the multiple murder case filed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines pending before Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32. 

“The AFP spun wild tales based on questionable evidence and testimonies on bones of alleged NPA victims of purge were ‘found’ in a mass grave in Inopacan town, Leyte - the same bones were found earlier in another ‘mass grave’ in Baybay town in 2000,” Clamor said. 

The alleged mass grave in Baybay, which was already used in court against alleged NPA leaders, was dismissed after witness Zacharias Piedad Sr. admitted he was under military custody upon executing his complaint affidavit. 

“Ocasla is already partially blind and has been suffering from hypertension,” Clamor said. “Release based on just and humanitarian grounds should have enabled him to walk out free and seek appropriate medical assistance. Now, he is in coma, lying at a hospital bed, and still detained,” Clamor said.  

“Many ailing and elderly political prisoners are already racing against time, waiting for the GRP’s actions on their release. The GRP is accountable, if any of these political prisoners lose that race,” Clamor said.