Karapatan to Duterte: Free all political prisoners, stop continuing human rights violations

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay today pressed for the release of all political prisoners, in the light of the recent death of political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla, a 66-year old peasant organizer from Western Samar, due to cardiac arrest last November 28, 2016. 

Ocasla was among the 401 political prisoners listed as among the priorities and submitted by Karapatan to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. He is the first political prisoner who died in detention under the Duterte administration. At least twelve (12) others died during the BS Aquino regime.

“How many more political prisoners should die before the Duterte administration and the GRP act on their commitments in the peace negotiations with the NDFP? While tyrants and plunderers like Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Arroyo are absolved of their crimes and treated as heroes, peasant organizers and freedom fighters like Ocasla are left to die in handcuffs and imprisoned,” Palabay said. 

She added that “social activists and political dissenters are being persecuted and put in jail because of their active roles in communities for the defense of people’s rights and for genuine social change.”

“The Duterte administration should be held accountable for the continuing incarceration and sufferings of political prisoners, as well as the threats to kill human rights activists and criminalization of the work of those engaged in the struggle for people’s rights. We likewise condemn the non-stop military operations and encampment in civilian communities through Oplan Bayanihan, despite a unilateral ceasefire declaration with the NDFP,” Palabay said.

The Karapatan leader also said that, “Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is treading on dangerous ground with his declarations to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”

“Such suspension, along with alleged bomb threats to justify the imposition of heightened alert levels of State security forces, can be conveniently used by the military and police as premise for more abuses. With the conduct of police operations in Duterte’s war against drugs, whereby the people’s right to due process are grossly violated, the climate of impunity prevails,” Palabay stated.

Karapatan announced its plans to link up with various people’s organizations and lead national and international protest actions on December 10, International Human Rights Day, “to call for justice for all victims of the US-Marcos dictatorship and expose the continuing state fascism."