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74-year political prisoner dies while in hospital detention

BANGKOK, Thailand–A 74-year old political detainee arrested under President Rodrigo Duterte died in a Philippine hospital Tuesday.

Marcos Aggalao, a veteran of the struggle against Ferdinand Marcos’ Chico Dam project, died while on hospital arrest at the Kalinga Provincial Hospital in Tabuk September 12 from complications arising from multiple strokes he suffered in detention.

The victim suffered his third stroke in prison last August 29. He also suffered dementia.

Aggalao is the second political prisoner who had died in detention under the Duterte regime. Both were elderly and sickly.

On November 2016, Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a peasant organizer detained in Metro Manila City Jail also died after being in a coma for three days and subsequently suffered a heart attack.

Aggalao was arrested September 10, 2016 by the Kalinga Philippine National Police on charges of frustrated murder and murder, among others.

Aggalao hailed from Balbalan, Kalinga province, one of the many communities in the Cordilleras that fought the Marcos dictatorship.

“Sandugo holds the Duterte regime accountable for the death of 74-year old political prisoner because he failed to fullfill his commitment to release all political prisoners, especially the elderly and the ailing,” national minorities group Sandugo in a statement said.

“To him [Duterte], political prisoners are simply trump cards he can use to force the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) into a bilateral and permanent ceasefire agreement ahead of the agreement on social and economic reforms that includes guarantees on the rights of the national minorities to their ancestral lands and territories,” Sandugo added.

The group said Aggalao is another addition to a long list of those who have given their lives and prime years “to fight tyranny.”

“But Duterte, in complete disregard [of history], acts to reverse this…He has consistently moved towards the political rehabilitation of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was responsible for the multiple crimes of genocide against the Bangsamoro and the widespread dispossession of the national minorities of their ancestral lands,” Sandugo said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said Aggalao’s death is “enraging.”

Karapatan said Duterte’s “cheap tricks” to turn political prisoners into trump cards and deny them freedom have cost them their lives.

“It is not only their illness that have caused their deaths, but this government’s injustice and inaction. For every political prisoner who dies, ultimately, the GRP is accountable,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay in a statement said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)