“Sinsero ba ang GRP sa pagtupad sa kanilang komitment na palayain ang aming mga mahal sa buhay? (Is the GRP sincere in fulfilling its commitment to release our loved ones from prison?),” Amado “Tatay Boy” Cadano, father of political prisoner (PP) Guiller Cadano and a spokesperson of the relatives of PPs, said in relation to their perceived “snail-paced action” of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace panel on their commitment to release all political prisoners, in line with its peacetalks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“This delay, which is tantamount to neglect, has unfortunately resulted to the death of ailing and elderly political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla,” explained Cadano.
On November 28, 2016, Ocasla, 66, succumbed to his death after he had his third cardiac arrest while in the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC). He was brought in the JRMMC after suffering a stroke on Friday, November 25, and went into coma. The ventilator was mostly keeping him alive, said Cadano. Ocasla, listed among the 130 sickly political prisoners among the 401 political prisoners, has already secured his jail requirements in anticipation of the GRP’s commitments.
“Napakasakit sa aming mga kaanak ng mga bilanggong pulitikal na makitang nasa loob ng kulungan ang aming mga anak, asawa, o kapatid dahil sa kanilang pakikipaglaban para sa karapatan ng mamamayan at para sa tunay na pagbabago sa lipunan. Walang kapantay ang sakit na nararamdaman ng pamilya ni Bernabe Ocasla sa pagkamatay niya nang nakakulong. (We are pained by the continuing incarceration of our children, partners, or sisters and brothers because of their defense of people’s rights and their work for genuine social change. There is no pain greater than that felt by the family of Bernabe Ocasla upon his death while imprisoned.),” added Cadano.
Representatives from the GRP panel and Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza made pronouncements, albeit varying in content stating the release of political prisoners. Cadano said “We have yet to see any concrete action of the GRP towards this end.”
“Seryoso ba talaga sila? Sinsero ba talaga sila? Kasi ang mga kamag-anak naming nakulong at nagdurusa sa kulungan ay seryosong nagtaguyod ng pagbabago. Ang natatanging paraan para maitama ang inhustisyang ginawa sa kanila ay ang palayain na sila (Are they really serious? Are they really sincere? Because our imprisoned and suffering relatives are serious in their advocacies for reform. The only remedy to correct the injustice done to them is to immediately release them),” said Gloria Almonte, wife of ailing political prisoner Dionisio Almonte.
Dionisio is considered as one of the seriously ill prisoners. He is detained at the Special Intensive Care Area-1 and is currently awaiting the court’s permission to be confined at a hospital for his severe diabetes and slip disc to be given proper medical attention.
As of October 31, 2016, there are 401 political prisoners awaiting releases. With the untimely death of Bernabe Ocasla, the number comes down to 400. ‘There is no absolving of the GRP in Ocasla’s death, no excusing them for the delays which have indirectly caused his death,’ said Cadano after the announcement of Ocasla’s death.
Relatives of political prisoners reminded the government that “the releases are primarily their obligation and secondly, their own commitment.”
“One death is one too many, yet relatives who fear for the health and lives of their imprisoned loved ones are forced to ask: how many more?” Cadano concluded.###