Karapatan criticizes AFP’s role in non-release of political prisoners

“President Duterte’s statement on the non-release of political prisoners confirms the active role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in sabotaging all efforts to derail the peacetalks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panels. The warmonger AFP is blocking the release of the unjustly detained political prisoners and it has never ceased to deploy its forces to kill, threaten, and harass civilian communities, even during the so-called unilateral ceasefire of the GRP,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, on the remarks of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte yesterday in Davao City regarding the termination of the unilateral ceasefire by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).   

Karapatan said that the release of political prisoners is not an impossible demand or a coercive act, as Pres. Duterte has said in his speech. 

“Political prisoners were illegally arrested and detained for their beliefs and work in defense of human and people’s rights. Their unconditional release is a most legitimate demand of their families, human rights and church workers, lawyers, civil libertarians, international rights activists and poor communities where political prisoners served, and we appreciate the NDFP for its continuing support in raising this issue with the GRP,” Palabay asserted. 

“The plight of the political prisoners is a matter of human rights obligation and an issue of justice. What is coercive is the State security forces’ gross violation of rights to due process, criminalization of political beliefs and torture of those who are working for the defense of people’s rights,” she added. 

Karapatan said that through mass campaigns and people’s demands during the previous regimes, political prisoners were released. After People Power I, former Pres. Corazon Aquino granted amnesty to all political prisoners detained by the Marcos dictatorship. Some political prisoners were also released during Ramos, Macapagal-Arroyo and BS Aquino III administrations, because of the persistent campaigns of the political prisoners themselves and through national and international advocacy. “Those acts imply that the justice system has wrongly persecuted the political prisoners and they deserve to be released,” Palabay added. 

“The release of political prisoners is also an act of compassion, especially for nursing mothers, sick, elderly and detained for ten to thirty years. The PPs have been deprived of productive time with their families and communities. They are actually the most ardent supporters for a just and lasting peace,” she stated. 

Palabay said that “the release of political prisoners is a litmus test for Duterte, on his political will to uphold justice against threats and efforts by the AFP to sow unpeace.”

Karapatan reiterated its call for the release of all political prisoners, without conditions, and for the continuation of the GRP and NDFP peacetalks for the substantive agenda of social, economic and political reforms.