Relatives, rights groups ask Pope Francis to see political prisoners on hunger strike

Karapatan today asked Pope Francis to see the political prisoners, especially those at the Special Intensive Care Area 1-Camp Bagong Diwa who are on their eighth day of hunger strike-fasting. Karapatan made the request after the jail warden rejected twice the entry of the political prisoners’ physician to check on their condition.  
Dr. Julie Caguiat, a regular visitor, and physician of a number of political detainees, at SICA-1 was barred two days in a row, on January 13 and 14, “using various excuses that were brazen acts that violated the rights of detained persons.” As of this writing, anothe lawyer from the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers and a doctor from the Center for Health and Development are still negotiating for their entry.   

Nimfa Lanzanas, mother of political prisoner Edward Lanzanas, expressed fears on her son’s medical condition. “I have been worried since the time jail authorities prevented the prisoners’ doctor to check-up on them. Di na ako mapalagay. Syempre, nanay ako. Pero naiintindihan ko kung bakit kailangan nila itong gawin, (I have been restless. Who would not be? I am his mother. But I understand why they have to go on hunger strike),” she said in tears.  

The political prisoners at Camp Bagong Diwa started their hunger strike on January 10, five days before the arrival of the Pope. On January 15, almost all of the 491 political prisoners in 50 jails nationwide started theirs. 

SICA-1 Jail warden Michelle Ng Bonto also denied the political detainees’ request to donate the savings from the food ration to the victims of typhoons Yolanda and Senyang. At least Ph10,000 will be saved from the food ration that the political prisoners won’t be taking during the hunger strike-fasting.  

“There is a deliberate cover-up of the political prisoners’ hunger strike by the Aquino government, in the same way that it tried to keep away the people’s issues from the Pope through massive deployment of troops and concrete barricades,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

“We seek the help of those who may go near Pope Francis to tell him the plight of the political prisoners, especially those who are on hunger strike,” Palabay added. 

The hunger strike is meant to highlight the inhuman condition of political prisoners in the jails, their illegal arrests and detention and the trumped-up criminal charges lodged against them. “We want to send the message to the Pope to intercede for the release of political prisoners. The political prisoners are not criminals, all they wanted was for us to have a better world to live in,” ended Palabay. ###