On the Int'l Day of Imprisoned Writers: Free the artist! Free all political prisoners!

Free the artist! Free all political prisoners! - Karapatan

As PEN International, a worldwide association of writers, commemorate the 35th year of the Day of Imprisoned Writers today, Karapatan reiterated its call to the Duterte administration to release all political prisoners, including writers and artists among them.

“Political prisoners are those persecuted for expressing their views on the ills of society and for their work in upholding and defending people’s rights. The writers and artists among them offer their talent and skills in reflecting the woes of the Filipino people and encouraging the public, especially the poor majority, to stand for truth and justice. They deserve freedom and justice,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.  

In 2015, PEN Philippines submitted a list of poets, fictionists, visual artists and photographers as among the political prisoners in the Philippines who may be included in the International PEN list of persecuted writers and artists. Among those in the 2015 PEN Philippines list who remain incarcerated to this day are Eduardo Sarmiento (visual arts and children’s stories), Ruben Rupido (poetry, music, visual arts and fiction), Juan Paulo Verzosa (photography and visual arts), and Maricon Montajes (photography and film). 

“NDFP peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento, wrongly convicted in 2013 for trumped up charges of illegal possession of explosives, was illegally arrested and tortured by the Arroyo administration and has been incarcerated all throughout the term of BS Aquino. His arrest is unjust, not only because the evidence against him was planted by the police and military, but because he should be immune from arrest as a consultant in the peace process under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees of the GRP and the NDFP,” Palabay said. 

While detained at Camp Crame and New Bilibid Prisons, Sarmiento has written, illustrated and designed a book for children entitled “Susmatanon: Mga Kwento ni Lolo Edong,” a collection of six children’s stories on a sketch pad. Together with recently released political prisoner and NDFP consultant Alan Jazmines, he had an exhibit of his paintings in 2011 in Sining Kamalig. Sarmiento also writes poems and composes progressive songs.

Rupido, a labor leader and a cultural worker from Davao City, has Type 2 diabetes and is among the sick political prisoners who should be released on humanitarian grounds. Rupido wrote and arranged Maria, one of the well-known protest songs of women’s rights activists in the Philippines. 

Juan Paolo Versoza and Maricon Montajes both hail from the University of the Philippines Diliman, from the College of Fine Arts and College of Mass Communications, respectively. Illegally arrested separately in Samar and in Batangas, Versoza and Montajes were conducting research and immersing among farmers in the province, at the time of their arrests. 

Also among the imprisoned writers are Joseph Cuevas, 34, former editor in chief of The Catalyst, the official student publication of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). 

Palabay said Karapatan will continue to support the political prisoners, by highlighting their calls and appeals for immediate release in the activities leading to the commemoration of International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2016. 

“We challenge the Duterte administration to make good its commitment to release all political prisoners via general amnesty, as a test of its sincerity in fulfilling its obligations under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” Palabay concluded.