Ailing political prisoner Benny Barid dies; rights groups demand justice

Rights groups SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) and Hustisya condemned the death of Benny Barid, political prisoner at the New Bilibid Prisons Maximum Security Compound, Muntinlupa City, who died at 11:00 AM yesterday, September 18, at the NBP Hospital.
 
 
 “We hold the Aquino government accountable for the death of Benny Barid. His death is the face of martial law in our country today. He suffered and died because of the cruelty and injustice of this government that speaks of “democracy" but denies the right of political prisoners to be free,” said Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general.
 
For three years, Barid had stayed as a patient at the NBP Hospital. He suffered from chronic asthmatic bronchitis with emphysema. He cannot stand up alone, and needs to be put in a wheelchair to move from one place to another. Fellow political prisoners are the ones who look for means to acquire his needed medicines. His further stay at the NBP Hospital has made him more vulnerable to various diseases.
 
Fellow political prisoners at the NBP mourned at the death of their kosa and kasama, but likewise demanded justice.
 
Halos tatlong taon siyang nakaratay sa NBP Hospital sa labis na panghihina dahil sa kanyang karamdaman na kanyang ikinamatay. Nagpapaabot po kaming mga bilanggong pulitikal sa pamilya at kaanak ni Barid ng aming lubos na pakikiramay. Salik ang malaking kakulangan sa sapat at maayos na serbisyong pang-piitan sa mahirap na pinagdaanan ni Barid. Gayundin, nawalan na ng pag-asa si Barid dahil sa kawalan ng kongkretong hakbang ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas upang tugunan ang makatarungang pagpapalaya sa lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal. Tuloy ang laban para sa kalayaan!” said the NBP political prisoners in a statement.
 
Exactly a year ago, Alison Alcantara, 55 years old and also a political prisoner at NBP, died of pneumonia, sepsis and fatal arrhythmia.  He was only brought to the Philippine General Hospital after he fell into a coma at the NBP Hospital.
 
“How many more ailing political prisoners will suffer from the dire and subhuman conditions inside different detention centers in the country? How many more after Alison Alcantara and Benny Barid?” said Guevarra.Arrested in July 2006, Barid was accused of involvement in a massacre which happened in 2004. His child was allegedly hostaged by the military to force him to surrender. He was a victim of trumped-up charges four times, the last of which he was sentenced to three counts of lifetime imprisonment in the NBP Maximum Security Compound.
 
He was a political detainee of the Marcos dictatorship, but was granted amnesty under the Cory Aquino government. He was again arrested sometime in 2004 for subversion and illegal possession of firearms. The case was dismissed, but his lawyer was killed after handling his case. In 2005, the military detained him for almost two months, when they searched his house and allegedly found firearms in his possession. In all incidents, the military and police consistenly pinned him down as a member of the New People’s Army. 
 
SELDA to BS Aquino: Free ailing political prisoners now!
 
SELDA, meanwhile challenged the Aquino government to immediately release ailing political prisoners on September 21, the 42nd year commemoration of martial law.
 
The group said decades after the martial law years, the Philippines continues to face the bleak reality of the existence of political prisoners. Rights of political prisoners are repeatedly violated as they are slapped with trumped-up criminal charges , arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained. Many of them are tortured and denied their right to counsel and due process. They suffer inhumane prison conditions and prolonged imprisonment, and snail-paced judicial process.

Of the 504 political prisoners in the country under the Aquino government, 53 are ailing political prisoners. ###