Let them go

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

AS FORMER Batangas governor Antonio Leviste walks out of prison, 449 political prisoners, who were wrongfully accused of criminal offenses because of their political beliefs, will have to spend Christmas again in jail. Some 28 of them are elderly like Leviste.

They, too, deserve to be out of prison. After all, they are not criminals.

Political prisoners, including the 13 peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, are now on their second week of fasting/hunger strike, precisely to call attention to the demand to immediately release all political prisoners. These people shouldn’t be in jail in the first place, but that’s what we get under an oppressive system—those who uphold the rights and interests of the poor majority of our people are jailed.

In September, Alison Alcantara, 55 died of fatal arrhythmia, sepsis and health-care associated pneumonia. The BS Aquino government ignored repeated pleas for his release on humanitarian grounds and was only taken to the Philippine General Hospital after he fell into a coma a few days before he died. There are at least 48 others who are similarly suffering from various ailments without proper medication.

“These ailing and elderly political prisoners need to be released from prison, where conditions are poor, and may likely prove fatal to their already delicate health,” said political prisoner and NDF consultant Ramon Patriarca. Patriarca is detained at the AFP Central Command Headquarters in Cebu City. 

Other detainees cited by Patriarca were Intong Amirol, 70, who also died this year following  a stroke and other medical complications; Mariano Umbrero and Crisanto Fat, who died in 2011 of cancer and heart attack, respectively, while in prison.

“The overwhelming show of people’s goodwill and humanitarianism in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda should prod the BS Aquino government to extend compassion to ailing and elderly political prisoners who continue to suffer systemic and systematic injustice,” he said.

Patriarca also criticized the government’s misuse and plunder of public funds which he said “makes the immediate release of ailing and elderly political prisoners necessary as widespread corruption effectively prevented, among others, resources and reforms for the justice system and prison network.”

The political prisoners’ fast/hunger strike will continue up to Dec. 10 to mark the International Human Rights Day. A multi-sectoral protest rally is set in the morning of Dec. 10 at Mendiola where BS Aquino’s effigy named P-Noy the Destroyer will be burned. --Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Selda and Karapatan

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 08, 2013.


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