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Bishop renews call for release of elderly prisoner and son

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza appealed for pardon and parole for an elderly prisoner and her son who he describes as simple poor farmers from his diocese.

In a public petition, the prelate said 75-year old Moreta Alegre should be released due to her advanced age and physical ailments, including hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Moreta and her son Selman had been in his heart for quite some time, the prelate said, adding that after 16 years in prison, both mother and son can be offered pardon and parole

He recalled that Moreta’s husband and Selman’s father Jesus who had been arrested with them has died in prison on June 13, 2021 of cardiac arrest. Jesus was 75 years old.

The Alegres are active members of San Carlos Diocese’s basic ecclesial community called Gagmay’ng Kristohanong Katilingban, the prelate said.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

Bishop Alminaza said the Alegres were displacement victims from their 15-hectare farmland by a landlord.

“They were convicted of killing the bodyguard of a local landlord, who subsequently claimed the land that had been tilled by the Alegre family. The Alegre family led a simple life, fishing and selling copra and tuba (native wine) as the produce of their toil,” Alminaza said.

“[T]heir efforts to secure papers that the land was theirs turned futile, once they were accused of murder. Jesus, Moreta, and Salem have maintained that they did not kill the landlord’s bodyguard; the landlord testified against them, but even the wife of the bodyguard did not persist in pursuing their prosecution,” he added.

The Bishop cited Pope Francis’s plea on January 19 that prisoners should never be deprived of hope.

“We risk being imprisoned in a justice that doesn’t allow one to easily get back up again and confuses redemption with punishment,” Alminaza quoted the Pontiff as saying last Wednesday in his regular public address at the Vatican.

Alminaza said he prays that that like others with more means, Moreta and Selman would be expediently granted release in the hope that the country’s justice system works and cares for the poor.

In June 2021, Alminaza has asked President Rodrigo Duterte and justice secretary Menardo Guevarra to grant clemency to both mother and son or for the review of their conviction.

READ: Bishop seeks clemency for mother-son political prisoners

“Moreta should be allowed to spend her remaining days loving her grandchildren and reconnecting with her children. This poor family has been separated for so long, as Jesus, Moreta, and Salem were detained in Manila jails while the rest of the family remained in Negros,” the prelate said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)