Starting yesterday, December 3, 2016, political prisoners, their relatives and inmates from different jails across the country have started fasting and other forms of appeals and protests to call for the release of all political prisoners in the country. Relatives of political prisoners, along with human rights advocates and people’s organizations, also set up a sympathy fast center in “Peace Tents” in Mendiola, Manila, where supporters are conducting various activities to support the political prisoners.
“Ito ay pakikiisa natin para mapalaya na ang mga bilanggong pulitikal na pawang walang mga sala. Sila ay nahaharap sa mga kondisyon sa loob ng kulungan na magdudulot ng higit na paghina ng kanilang katawan,’ (This is part of our unity to free all political prisoners who are all innocent. They are faced with difficult conditions in jail that will inevitably weaken their health) said Gloria Almonte, wife of ailing political prisoner Dionisio Almonte.
As of December 4, 2016, at least 150 political prisoners in thirteen (13) jails across the country started to fast and conduct various forms of protests inside jails, along with 524 common offenders who are also supporting the calls to release all political prisoners. Inmates who have declared their participation include those from the Special Intensive Care Unit 1 – Camp Bagong Diwa; Taguig City Jail, Female Dormitory, Camp Bagong Diwa; New Bilibid Prison-Maximum Security Compound; New Bilibid Prison-Medium Security Compound; Compostela Valley Provincial Rehabilitation Center (ComVal – PRC); Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Lupon, Davao Oriental; BJMP-Digos City, Davao del Sur; Davao Penal Colony; Kidapawan Provincial Jail; Samar Provincial Jail; Rizal Provincial Jail; Batangas Provincial Jail; and BJMP, Kiangan, Ifugao.
Wrongly convicted political prisoners at the the Davao Penal Colony (DAPECOL) and the New Bilibid Prison, many of them incarcerated for ten (10) to thirty (30) years expressed their frustrations over the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ (GRP) commitment to release political prisoners. They sent their handwritten statements to Karapatan.
“Nararamdaman naming ginagamit kaming pang-‘bargain’ ng GRP para lamang papirmahin sa isang bilateral ceasefire ang NDFP. Ito ay taliwas sa kanilang obligasyon. Mas nararapat na palayain na ang mga bilanggong pulitikal para hindi na maulit ang nangyari kay kasamang Bernabe Ocasla na isang balitang nakadagdag ng pasakit sa amin,’ (We feel that we are being used by the GRP to bargain a bilateral ceasefire agreement that they want the NDFP to sign. This is contrary to their obligation. The right thing to do is to release all political prisoners so that no more incidents like what happened to Bernabe Ocasla will occur again. The news of his death was an additional pain on our part), DAPECOL political prisoners said.
On the death of Bernabe Ocasla, political prisoners said “Hindi pa man natatapos ang gawa-gawang kaso na isinampa laban kay Bernabe Ocasla, tila nahatulan na rin siya ng sentensyang kamatayan sa isang mabagal at di patas na sistema ng hustisya ng reaksyunaryong estado’ (The trumped-up case against Ka Oca is still not over, but it is as if he has already been sentenced to death by a slow and unfair justice system perpetrated by this reactionary state).”
Political prisoners also expressed support for the continuation of the GRP-NDFP peace talks but reminded the Duterte government that “peace should be on the basis of justice and freedom.”
As of October 31, 2016, there are 401 political prisoners in the country. The number has gone down to 400 after the death of Bernabe Ocasla, a sickly political prisoner who succumbed to cardiac arrest last November 28, 2016 after three days in coma. The fasting of political prisoners and their relatives will culminate on International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2016.