The family of a political detainee has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta for his immediate release along with other sickly, elderly and pregnant prisoners of conscience.
In a letter to Peralta Monday, April 13, the family of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre asked the country’s chief magistrate for his temporary release amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.
“My father’s freedom will remove him from otherwise high vulnerability to the coronavirus while in prison, and enable us, his family, to better care for him as he struggles through illnesses,” Casambre’s daughter Xandra Biseño said.
Casambre, supposedly immune from arrest as a consultant to the peace talks between the government and the NDFP, was arrested along with his wife Cora on December 7, 2018. Cora was later freed due to a lack of evidence.
Biseño said their family fears for the life and safety of Casambre who is of advanced age and suffering from type 2 diabetes and a heart condition.
Casambre has an enlarged ventricle, mitral valve prolapse, and aortic valve prolapse with mild regurgitation, his daughter said.
Biseño’s letter, also sent in behalf of by her mother Cora, Casambre’s sister Sr. Mary Aida Casambre, RGS, and other family members and friends, is in support of the petition filed by Kapatid on April 8 seeking the Supreme Court’s “compassionate intervention” and “exercise of equity jurisdiction” for the release of select prisoners, including political detainees.
The lead petitioners are 22 political prisoners who are mostly elderly and sick, including six women, one of whom has leprosy while another is five-months pregnant.
Biseño said that despite assurances by penal authorities that the country’s jails are “100% safe” during the Covid-19 crisis, they are highly concerned that Casambre and others like him are put at an even greater risk.
“There is a general lack of jail space and facilities for social distancing, proper nutrition to put up resistance against the virus, prompt testing of prisoners and jail employees with Covid symptoms to enable ample isolation, quarantine, and treatment for the infected and the safety of those who are not,” Biseño’s letter reads.
Prison authorities have admitted that Philippine jails are over 500% congested, and tally about 4-5,000 deaths every year notably at a higher rate among the detained elderly.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology earlier announced the death of an inmate on March 25 at a Quezon City jail prison.
Prisoners’ families deliver nutritious food and supplements regularly to the detainees because prison rations are insufficient to keep the detainees nutritionally fed, Biseño said.
Water supply is irregular due to rationing by the concessionaires, she added.
“The helplessness and anxiety that the fatal microbe could hit our imprisoned relatives – who have no reason to be in prison at all because they are but falsely charged – is becoming unspeakable, Biseño wrote.
Her letter said the release of elderly, sickly and pregnant prisoners will also aid government’s objective to arrest the spread of the coronavirus by decongesting prisons and removing highly vulnerable individuals detainees as had been done in Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, United States of America and Morocco.
Biseño’s letter was also sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights Chair Richard Gordon, House of Representatives Committee on Justice Chair Vicente Veloso, and Makati District 2 Representative Luis Campos.
The Department of Social Work and Development, Department of Justice and the BJMP said they support the decongestion of prisons by giving elderly and vulnerable inmates temporary freedom. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)