Press Release: Families, Supporters Seek Unconditional Release of Political Prisoners
KARAPATAN – Southern Tagalog
Press Release | December 2, 2011
Reference: Glen Malabanan | Secretary General, KARAPATAN-ST
Jail Arroyo, Free the People!
Families, Supporters Seek Unconditional Release of Political Prisoners
Today, families of political prisoners from Southern Tagalog with the support of KARAPATAN-ST and the UCCP-Southern Luzon Jurisdiction sought the unconditional and immediate release of their relatives who are currently detained in different jails due to their political beliefs and activities. With the support of human rights and other progressive organizations in the region, the families of political prisoners, comprised mostly of leader activists converged in Manila to “demand an omnibus amnesty for all PPs across the country”. “We collectively assert to the current administration to once and for all free our relatives and loved ones who are accused of trumped up charges and have been languishing in jail for a long time now, some even years” the group said in a statement.
Among those present was the sister of high profile National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara who was illegally arrested despite the immunity accorded to him by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).“The case of Ka Bart attests to the insincerity and the lack of word of honor on the part of the government of PNoy for ignoring the JASIG,” she said.
Karapatan-ST meanwhile joined the families in their call saying that, this ploy of government of criminalizing political struggle is a continuation of the counter-insurgency measure of the Arroyo regime, now embodied in the Oplan Bayanihan to quell the discontent of the masses. “Southern Tagalog has been a hotbed for political attacks and fascism of the government since the Arroyo regime, with over hundreds of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and innumerable cases of hamletting and torture. Currently, out of the 356 political prisoners in the country, 51 were from the region,” noted Glen Malabanan, Secretary General of KARAPATAN-ST.
The families also cried foul and asserted for better prison condition in the wake of the special treatment to former President Arroyo’s who’s facing multiple criminal charges. “When you’re fighting for your right and the right of ordinary people, you are persecuted by the government. But if you are powerful and corrupt like Gloria, you avail of hospital arrest and other accommodations,” said by Bishop Arthur Asi, Bishop for Southern Luzon Jurisdiction of the UCCP . They cited the case of Ka Nestor San Jose, a political prisoner who died due to an illness while detained at the Quezon Provincial Jail last November 9 due to lack of health assistance by government. Some of the detainees’ family members also present were Lino Baez, father of Noel Baez who was beaten and harassed by the military in Batangas after declining to be a CAFGU recruit; and the mothers of Billy Betrina and Maricon Montajes who were illegally arrested, along with four others from Batangas along with the families of PPs from Laguna and Quezon Province.
Meanwhile, political prisoners at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig parallel air their protests through fasting which will lead to a hunger strike this weekend. Similar protests are also being done by political prisoners in Compostela Valley and Cagayan Valley.
The families ceremonially affixed their signature in a symbolic giant appeal letter which was submitted to the Department of Justice and Malacañang later in the afternoon, before culminating a protest at the historic Mendiola Bridge. The commemoration of the International Solidarity for the Release of Political Prisoners on December 3 was in line with Human Rights Week Celebration in Southern Tagalog to mark the 63nd Anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights on December 10. ###