Two ailing, elderly political prisoners currently in hospitals

Yesterday, December 4, 2016, at 8 a.m., another elderly and ailing political prisoner, Apolonio Barado, was admitted to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) hospital in Muntinlupa City due to chest pains. 
Barado, 62, has coronary artery disease, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus. He had previously suffered a heart attack. He is supposed to be transferred to the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City this morning; the NBP hospital does not have the basic cardiac and blood sugar monitoring equipment to keep up with his condition. 

Barado, a peasant organizer in Bicol, was arrested on August 9, 2001 and has spent fifteen (15) years in prison after being wrongly convicted for trumped up charges of multiple murder and frustrated murder.  

Barado’s situation has alarmed rights groups, especially after the death of political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla, detained at the Manila City Jail, on November 28, when he suffered his third cardiac arrest and died at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital in Manila. Ocasla and his family was expecting his release this year, after several pronouncements by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and officials of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace panel on the release of all political prisoners. 

Another political prisoner, Amelia “Amy” Pond, is currently at the Southern Philippines Medical Hospital recuperating, after she was admitted in the said facility on November 11, 2016 for an operation on her lumbar spine. Pond also has chronic renal infection (non-obstructive chronic pyelonephritis), osteoporosis L3-L4, and hyperlipidemia. 

Pond, 64, is a volunteer teacher, researcher and curriculum developer for the Salugpongan Igkanugon Community Learning Center. She was the coordinator for the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in the Southern Mindanao Region (RMP-SMR) when she was arrested on August 19, 2016 and charged with trumped-up cases of murder and frustrated murder.

In a statement, Pond said “Perhaps the Duterte government would recognize that I am elderly with poor health and that I am just a simple educator. What happened to me is a big disregard to the efforts to alleviate the conditions of one of the poorest, backward and oppressed sectors among the Filipinos, which are the Lumad.”

“Political prisoners are compassionate individuals who go out of their way to render service to the marginalized sectors of society. I appeal for the many political prisoners in the Compostela Valley Provincial Rehabilitation Center, and those detained in different parts of the country, especially those who are sickly, elderly and those detained for a long time, that they may be granted their freedoms,’ urged Pond. 

Both Pond and Barado are among the 130 sickly political prisoners recommended for immediate release on humanitarian grounds. The hospitalization of Pond and Barado and the death of Bernabe Ocasla last November 28, 2016 prove the urgency of the releases, especially those political detainees with humanitarian considerations.

The release of political prisoners is a priority agenda in both the first and second peace negotiations, with the Government of the Philippines (GRP) continuously reaffirming its commitment towards this end. However, apart from the 19 National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants, none have been released in line with the peace talks.  

Karapatan, along with relatives, people’s organizations, as well as political prisoners all over the country, have initiated a solidarity fasting campaign, along with other forms of appeals and protests, to demand for the immediate release of all political prisoners. A sympathy fast center in Mendiola Bridge in Manila called ‘Peace Tents’ has been set up for all who will be participating in the solidarity fast. The seven-day fasting will culminate on the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2016.