Political prisoners will still spend Christmas in jails

“After all what has been said and done, political prisoners (PPs) will still spend Christmas inside cramped jails,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said. “Since Pres. Duterte first talked about releasing political prisoners, a political prisoner has already died, several have been rushed to hospitals and PPs already went into fasting and hunger strike, and additional fifteen (15) have been illegally arrested and are still detained,” Palabay said. 
“The December 3 to 10 hunger strike and fasting will not be the last action we will do. There will be more forms of protest in the coming days because we refuse to be taken hostage by the Duterte government to force the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to sign into a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” said political prisoners of Special Intensive Care Area - 1, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. 

To date, Karapatan has monitored the release of only one political prisoner in line with the GRP-NDFP peacetalks, since September 2016. Martin Villanueva, a political prisoner granted pardon, was released on December 9, 2016. 

Pedro Lumantas, wrongly convicted and jailed for eight years, was released on conditional parole last December 13, due to previous efforts of his relatives and Karapatan to have him released when he served his minimum sentence. “However, instead of an unconditional release, Lumantas has to report to Bohol Provincial jail every two weeks. He is not allowed to travel far which is almost same as not being free,” Palabay said. Lumantas is just one of the 130 PPs considered sickly.   

Nineteen NDFP consultants and staff have been temporarily released on bail in August 2016. 
From July to December 2016, at least 21 political prisoners, including Lumantas, have been released on the merits of their legal defense and other remedies availed by human rights lawyers, families and human rights workers, independent of the peace process. 
Several peace and rights advocates still demand for the immediate and unconditional release of at least 400 political, “all of which are still incarcerated for trumped up charges,” Camp Bagong Diwa political prisoners said. 

“Peace negotiations aren’t betting games where one holds cards for a bluff, just like what is happening right now. We are being held as trump cards for the NDFP to lay down its arms. It’s not about who will call the bluff but doing what is just and fulfilling commitments. Tao kami, hindi kami alas! (We are persons, not aces),” Camp Bagong Diwa political prisoners said. ###