Karapatan to GRP on the release of all political prisoners: “Just do it”

“While it is good to hear that the GRP remains committed to release all political prisoners, this remains an unfulfilled promise,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said as a response to the statement of GRP peace panel chair, Silvestre Bello III. 

Labor secretary Bello was quoted last Wednesday, October 19, that the GRP will release political prisoners in batches starting with the women, sick and elderly. 

“The GRP should start the releases of political prisoners NOW – not tomorrow, or next month. In fact, release of all political prisoners should have started yesterday,” Palabay said. “There should be no excuses for the delay because the GRP has the authority to expedite all legal processes to free political prisoners especially those for humanitarian releases,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan reiterates their call for a general amnesty for all political prisoners in the country. “Political prisoners should not be held hostage by the GRP. The release of all political prisoners is an obligation of the GRP, as stated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” Palabay stated. 

“Amnesty for all political prisoners is a rectification of the injustice made against them – the illegal arrest and detention based on criminal trumped up charges. Their continuing incarceration is a continuing violation of the Hernandez doctrine, whereby all crimes in pursuit or related to so-called political offenses should not be treated as common crimes,” Palabay added.  

“We are reminding the GRP panel that President Rodrigo Duterte himself said, immediately after he won the elections, that he will release all political prisoners via general amnesty,” she added.  

In a news report on October 19, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was quoted saying “no amnesty before ceasefire,” and “(if) the peace talks collapse, then we have 500 probable adversaries later on.” 

“If some sections of the Duterte administration still think that political prisoners are criminals and not victims of the government’s legal offensives, then there’s the rub,” Palabay said. “It is thus no wonder that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police continue to perpetuate illegal arrests under the counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan,” Palabay concluded.