AN AILING political prisoner recuperating in a care facility had been taken back to jail last February 4 after President Rodrigo Duterte lifted his government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Amelia Pond, teacher and curriculum developer of the Lumad school Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Learning Center (STTICLC), was brought back to Tagum District Jail by her police guards reportedly on “orders from the top.”
Sr. Francis Añover, RSM of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) said she was told by the guards when she rushed to assist Pond that the sudden transfer was due to Duterte’s lifting of the ceasefire and that they were ordered by the Tagum jail warden that all political prisoners be brought back to detention.
Pond, also the regional coordinator of RMP-Southern Mindanao Region was arrested by the Philippine National Police when she stepped out of their group’s national assembly in Cebu City last August 19.
The PNP said Pond was “Adelfa Toledo” but witnesses said the arresting officers put a fake identification card in her bag. She faces murder and attempted murder charges.
Pond reportedly presented to the guards a certification from the warden that she is allowed to stay at the Capernaum care facility for a month to recuperate but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Pond was taken to the Southern Philippines Medical last November 11, 2016 for a lumbar spine operation. She was also diagnosed to be suffering from chronic renal infection, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia or abnormally high concentration of fats or lipids in the blood.
Añover said they also sought the hospital director’s help to stop the transfer but he was out.
Añover said Pond suffered during the transfer from Davao City to Tagum jail, repeatedly crying out in pain and asking the driver to slow down and stop for rest.
At the jail facility, Pond was taken back to her old cell beside the toilet, the nun said.
“She cannot bend due to her lumbar problem while the other prisoners sleep on the floor with only cardboards and mats,” Añover said.
The missionary nun said she also sought out the warden but the jail officer was out.
“I wanted to point out to him that he gave a certification allowing Amy (Pond) to be transferred to Capernaum from the hospital ward while undergoing PT (physical therapy) but it was clear that they made sure the transfer from the hospital to the jail happened on a Saturday as the important people with whom we can talk to and complain were not around,” Añover said.
Human rights group Karapatan said Pond was among the 130 sickly political prisoners recommended for immediate release on humanitarian grounds under the NDFP-Duterte government peace talks.
“The release of political prisoners is a priority agenda in both the first and second peace negotiations, with the Government of the Philippines (GRP) continuously reaffirming its commitment towards this end,” Karapatan, in a December 5 statement, said.
Last December, Pond appealed to Duterte for her immediate release.
“Perhaps the Duterte government would recognize that I am elderly with poor health and that I am just a simple educator. What happened to me is a big disregard to the efforts to alleviate the conditions of one of the poorest, backward and oppressed sectors among the Filipinos, which are the Lumad,” she said.
Despite repeated promises by Duterte and the GRP Negotiating Panel in their peace negotiations with the NDFP, however, none of the 130 sickly political detainees has been released.
Añover also reported unusual activities around the RMP Davao headquarters after Pond’s sudden transfer to Tagum jail.
“Two nights ago, the dog we have at the office compound had been going around barking. And since yesterday, February 8, we noticed there are two burly persons with a motorcycle standing at both sides of the gate,” Añover said.
“We had a collective decision to be vigilant and not to go out alone,” she added.
Founded by the Association of Major Women Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMWRSP) of the Roman Catholic Church in 1969, RMP is national, inter-diocesan and inter-congregational organization of men and women religious, priests and lay people who live and work with peasants.
They establish and operate Lumad and peasant schools like STTICLC which the Armed Forces of the Philippines allege to be communist New People’s Army-influenced schools. (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photo by Karapatan)