Int’l solidarity groups call on the release of oldest political prisoner in PH

Two international solidarity organizations for the Philippines have signed on to the campaign to release political prisoner Gerardo dela Peña. At 85, Dela Peña is the oldest political prisoner in the Philippines.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) wrote letters to Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla and Commission on Human Rights chair Atty. Richard Palpal-latoc, urging Dela Peña’s release. Meanwhile, the Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Movement wrote Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. saying that Dela Peña’s release is consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and all major human rights instruments to which the Philippine government is a party and signatory to.

Dela Peña has long been the focus of a campaign by various human rights groups to have older persons, sickly and long detained political prisoners released on humanitarian grounds. Recently, he was included in a list of prisoners whose release was sought by the Department of Justice as part of efforts to decongest the country’s overcrowded prisons.

A political prisoner under martial law, Dela Peña chaired the Samahan ng mga Detenido Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA)’s chapter in Camarines Norte after his release and pursued his activism. He was almost 74 when he was falsely accused of murder, unjustly convicted and sentenced to 20 to 40 years imprisonment. He has been incarcerated at the New Bilibid Prison for 11 years.

Instead of releasing Dela Peña, however, Malacañang merely commuted his sentence to 15 years, meaning he could only taste freedom at the age of 89, which he may not even reach given the harsh conditions in prison.

Karapatan reiterates its call for Gerardo dela Peña’s release on humanitarian grounds. As in the case of other political prisoners, one more day he spends behind bars is one more day of rank injustice. Let him spend the remaining years of his life with his family.

*Attached are copies of the letters.