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Gov’t ignores appeal for Ladlad’s hospitalization; Alcantara’s son arrested to force father to surrender

The wife of jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Vicente Ladlad appealed to authorities to bring him to the hospital due to “repeated chest tightness.”

Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson said Ladlad had been suffering the recurring condition since the morning of Wednesday, December 30, even as he underwent a medical check-up at the Makati Medical Center (MMC) last Monday, December 28.

“I am appealing to Manila RTC (Regional Trial Court) Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi Medina for prompt action now on our motion to bring my husband, political prisoner Vicente Ladlad, to MMC for immediate treatment for repeated chest tightness since 11 AM today,” Lim said on a Facebook post yesterday.

Lim reported that Ladlad’s doctors said the elderly peace consultant may be suffering from “unstable angina” and needs to be hospitalized before a heart attack or stroke occurs.

Ladlad had been a chronic asthmatic since childhood that has degenerated into emphysema in his later years.

Lim said human rights lawyers handling Ladlad’s current illegal possession of firearms case already included a motion for hospitalization but which the court ignored.

“Please. To the government prosecutors in particular. Act on our appeal now and allow Vic to be brought to the MMC hospital before his condition gets worse,” Lim implored.

Pinapayagan niyo yang mga corrupt na politiko, bakit political prisoners tulad ni Vic di pwede? Gawa-gawa lang ang kaso niya!” she added.

(You allow corrupt politicians [to be hospitalized], why not political prisoners like Vic? The charges against him are trumped-up!)

Ladlad was re-arrested midnight of November 8, 2018, a year after the Rodrigo Duterte government walked away from its peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The NDFP maintains its peace consultants should be immune from arrest and persecution as the NDFP-Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees remains in effect even in the absence of formal negotiations between the parties.

Phillip Alcantara (Image by Karapatan-Central Luzon)

Tirso Alcantara’s son arrested

Meanwhile, the son of another NDFP peace consultant was arrested by Malolos police in Guiguinto, Bulacan province Wednesday morning, December 30.

Philip Alcantara, son of Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, was driving his van at around 8:30 AM when three men in civilian clothes flagged him down along a national road in Guiguinto town.

The men then introduced themselves as Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives and told Philip he was being arrested for charges of multiple murder.

According to human rights group Karapatan-Central Luzon, the police officers forcibly boarded Philip’s van and placed a bag beside him containing a gun, grenade, and a PhilHealth ID.

He was brought to the CIDG headquarters in Malolos.

Karapatan-CL said Philip was only shown a photocopy of the first page of the warrant issued by a a court in faraway Infanta, Quezon.

The police said Philip is the “Ka Joshua” named in the warrant.

The human rights group however said Philip is a glass and aluminum works entrepreneur and not a combatant.

Karapatan-CL said Philip was arrested to force his father to surrender to the military.

The elder Alcantara had gone into hiding after his fellow peace consultants had either been assassinated by suspected government agents or were arrested on similar charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Karapatan-CL noted that Philip’s sister was imprisoned for eight years over trumped-up charges while Ka Bart’s two brothers were killed by state security forces. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Church leaders express alarm at ‘reign of unpeace’ during Advent

Church leaders expressed alarm and concern at the deteriorating prospects for peace as shown by the Rodrigo Duterte government’s demonization of human rights.

In a pastoral statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that while the Advent season has arrived, “unpeace” reigns as the Rodrigo Duterte government continues to consider human rights as a barrier to peace and order.

“This is evident in the arrests of a journalist and six union organizers on the day when the whole world was commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the church leaders said.

Several activists have also been arrested or killed in the past few months while numerous lives continue to be claimed under the campaign against illegal drugs, they added.

The statement was signed by Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro Bishop Emeritus and PEPP co-chairperson Antonio Ledesma; Bishop and PEPP co-chairperson Rex B. Reye; Bishop and National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary Reuel Norman Marigza; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines; Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission executive director Reverend Dr. Aldrin Penamora; and PEPP head of secretariat Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr.

The church leaders pointed out that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had been relentless in its malicious red-tagging of organizations and individuals critical of the government, including churches and church personalities, by falsely accusing them of being linked to terrorism.

They blamed the harmful rhetoric coming from President Duterte himself.

“This is in sharp contrast with the advent period a year ago when back channel negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in a Christmas ceasefire which redounded to a hopeful atmosphere for peace,” the pastoral statement said.

No ceasefire

President Duterte announced last December 7 that there will no longer be ceasefire declarations nor peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army and the NDFP as long as he is president.

His announcement followed the repeated and public announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it will never recommend the declaration of ceasefire with the Communist groups.

The CPP in turn announced Wednesday, December 16, it is impossible for them to issue the traditional  ceasefire declaration over Christmas and New Year while government troops terrorize civilian communities and conduct intense military operations against their revolutionary forces.

The CPP ordered the NPA to actively defend civilians and their ranks from AFP military operations throughout the holiday season as well as urge its members to secretly observe its 52nd founding anniversary on December 26.

‘Silence guns during season of hope’

While calling on both parties to “silence the guns during this season of hope,” the PEPP pointed out that the Duterte government’s rejection of the results of the back channel talks during this COVID-19 pandemic is what brought about the state of unpeace.

“[It] unilaterally stopped the peace negotiations, and proceeded to heighten its war against the NDFP, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its so-called ‘legal fronts’, the group said.

“Since then, three NDFP consultants – Randal Echanis and Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio — were killed, while many others like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center remain in jail. Even former NDFP Consultant Alfredo Mapano, who was already working for the government, was re-arrested,” it added.

The PEPP pointed out that the government is set for an all-out war in 2021 with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act while substantial funds were also designated for its counter-insurgency program with P19-billion set aside for the NTF-ELCAC.

The PEPP however said such policies will only further fan the flames of the armed conflict.

“This drive to annihilate the CPP-NPA-NDF without seriously addressing the long-standing issues of poverty, landlessness and inequality in the country, will not bring about a just and enduring peace,” the church leaders said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2 more NDFP peace consultants killed; CPP condemns ‘mafia-style executions’ by police

Two more National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants died in a pre-dawn police raid last Wednesday, November 25, in Angono, Rizal.

In what the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said was a “mafia-style execution,” a composite police team killed elderly couple Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, former members of its Central Committee.

Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) director, Major Gen. Joel Napoleon M. Coronel, said a raiding team composed of CIDG Regional Field Unit 4-A, Rizal Provincial Police Office and the Angono Municipal Police Station personnel was about to serve search and arrest warrants against the victims when fired upon.

The police said the 3:30 am incident became an “encounter” that resulted in the death of the 69-year old victims.

The PNP also said a Colt M-16 automatic rifle, a caliber .45 Rock Island pistol, a caliber .45 Federal pistol, two MK2 grenades, various gun magazines and several bullets were “recovered” from the sexagenarian couple.

The CPP however said the incident was simply a “cold-blooded murder” similar to the treacherous early morning killings of NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron in Baguio City and Randall Echanis in Quezon City earlier this year as well as Randy Malayao’s execution in Nueva Vizcaya province last year.

“We reject the claims of the police that the couple resisted arrest and were killed in a firefight. In their physical state, the couple would not have been able to manage the sheer number of weapons said to be found in the scene, much less put up a rigorous gun battle,” CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena said in a statement.

Valbuena said Magpantay suffered from diabetes and severe arthritis and have in fact “recently retired from active service in the revolutionary movement due to infirmities of old age.”

The CPP spokesperson said the raid was carried out when the elderly couple were “surely fast asleep.”

Valbuena said the “police liquidation” of the couple is the most recent in the string of killings and legal persecution against peace consultants of the NDFP in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“We hold Duterte, his National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and PNP Chief Debold Sinas as the masterminds behind the killing of Magpantay and Topacio,” Valbuena said.

‘Decades of service’

Valbuena said the CPP pays tribute to Magpantay and Topacio “for their decades of service to the revolutionary cause and service to the oppressed and exploited masses.”

Aside from their stint as CPP Central Committee members, Magpantay was also a former member of the CPP Political Bureau, Valbuena said.

Police reports also identified Magpantay as a former Central Luzon Regional Party Group secretary.

Magpantay and Topacio were first arrested and detained at the Bicutan detention facility under President Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law between 1977 and 1979.

Since their release, the couple had been the subject of intense manhunt by the police who even mistakenly arrested one Lourdes Quioc and one Reynaldo Ingal in October 1, 2014.

Quioc and Ingal were released after spending 17 months in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Left to discuss peace talks resumption with Leni

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it plans to engage in discussions with Vice President Leni Robredo for the resumption of its peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Recently-appointed NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julie de Lima said the Left should “engage the (GRP’s) constitutional successor to press for the resumption of the peace negotiation as a rallying point in the effort to oust [GRP President Rodrigo] Duterte,” the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Ang Bayan reported.

“[T]he NDFP, including its panel, should hold discussions with opposition parties, in particular, the Liberal Party,” de Lima told the underground newsletter.

She added that prospects for resuming the peace negotiations after Duterte, whether he is ousted or he finishes his term, “are possible and desirable.”

De Lima pointed out the peace negotiations can immediately resume on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) once Duterte is out of office.  

Duterte cancelled the peace negotiations in July 2017 as both the GRP and NDFP were ready to finalize important agreements under the CASER.

Prior to her new appointment, de Lima is a long-time NDFP Negotiating Panel member and head of its Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.

CASER to combat COVID-19

The CASER, de Lima said, has relevant provisions on confronting the issue of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The draft agreement has a whole article consisting of seven sections which are devoted to the discussion of the people’s right to health. This includes the establishment of a universal public health system that provides free, comprehensive and quality health services for all,” de Lima explained.

The CASER provides immediate and adequate financial, material, moral and psychosocial support, ensuring disaster preparedness and respons, and holding criminally and civilly liable corrupt and grossly negligent officials, she added.

“The NDFP and GRP can elaborate on the issue based on a summing up of experience and learning lessons from both sides as well as from the positive and negative practices of foreign countries and international agencies in responding and confronting this particular pandemic as well as other pandemics.”

Robredo has yet to respond to Kodao’s request for a reply to de Lima’s statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pahayag ni former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista kay yumaong Fidel Agcaoili

Ginanap noong Agosto 8 ang isang birtwal na parangal para kay yumaong NDF Chief Negotiator Fidel Agcaoili. Pumanaw si Ka Fidel noong Hulyo 23 dahil sa sakit. Iba’t ibang personalidad na mga kaibigan at nakasama ni Ka Fidel ang nagpaabot ng pakikidalamhati at nagsalaysay ng kani-kanilang kwento sa kanya.

Isa sa mga nakiramay ay ang dating alkalde ng Quezon City na si Herbert Bautista. Nakasama niya si Ka Fidel sa ilang peace talks na naganap noong mga nakaraang taon.

NDFP condoles with Bello for the death of sister due to Covid

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel condoled with Department of Labor and Employment secretary Silvestre Bello III for the “untimely death” of his younger sister due to the coronavirus disease Saturday, April 18.

In a letter, the NDFP said it shares in the grief of Bello and urged him to stay strong in fulfilling his peace advocacy and mission to help Filipino workers, including overseas workers.

Bello was the chairperson of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel from 2016 to 2018. He had been a member of various government negotiating panels since the time of the Fidel Ramos government.

The labor secretary confirmed the death of his “favorite sister” he described as someone who heeds his advice.

“Catharine is my favorite. She listened to me. [She was] the first to die among 10 children,” he said.  

The victim was admitted to the hospital last March 25 and was diagnosed positive of Covid-19.

Bello said they thought Catharine was on her way to recovery and were surprised to learn of her death.

In their letter of condolence to their government counterpart, the NDFP said it is of urgent importance that all forces do their respective utmost to combat the spread of the virus, save lives and to safeguard the rights and welfare of the people as the pandemic runs loose throughout the country.

“The death of your sister shall not be in vain as we exert our common effort, as members of our respective negotiating panels, to help secure the release of all political prisoners from their vulnerable conditions in prison on humanitarian and medical grounds,” the letter reads.

“This is the cry of the times as more and more countries respond to the call of the UN Secretary General and the World Health Organization for the release of prisoners,” it adds.

The letter was signed in behalf of the NDFP Negotiating Panel by its chairperson Fidel Agcaoili, chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP extends truce order despite complaints of GRP ceasefire violations

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month to concentrate on its efforts to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, April 16, the CPP said its Central Committee has ordered the extension for 15 more days starting April 15 “prioritize the fight against the pandemic and ensure the safety, health and well-being of everyone.”

The extended ceasefire order is effective until 11:59 p.m. of April 30

“The CPP ordered the units of the NPA (New People’s Army) and the people’s militias to continue to desist and cease from carrying out offensive military actions against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” its information office said in a statement.

The group said the aim of the ceasefire extension is to ensure quick and unimpeded support to all people requiring urgent medical, health and socioeconomic assistance in the face of the public emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Party said all its revolutionary forces are ever ready to cooperate with all other forces and elements to achieve this objective.

Meanwhile, the CPP leadership commended all units of the NPA and people’s militias for their discipline in observing the ceasefire order and shifting priority to the anti-Covid-19 campaign.

It said that the Party’s ceasefire order has been observed “despite the difficulties and dangers brought about by the continuing occupation of AFP combat troops of guerrilla zones and base areas, the widespread and intense intelligence and psywar (psychological warfare) operations, and the attacks mounted by the AFP’s strike forces against detected NPA units.”

The CPP Central Committee reminded all NPA units to “maintain strictest secrecy” and not allow themselves to be exposed to AFP attacks.

The recent armed encounters which the AFP misreport as NPA ceasefire violations are all a result of the offensive actions of the AFP, it alleged.

The ceasefire extension order came after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres complaining of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15.

The AFP conducted military operations in 196 villages and 96 towns throughout the Philippines, the NDFP said quoting CPP reports.

In its statement, the CPP also reiterated the call for the “urgent release” and for declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

It also expressed desire for the resumption of the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations.

“During the ceasefire period, all NPA units must strictly limit themselves to active defense operations which shall be carried out only in the face of imminent danger and actual armed attacks by the enemy forces,” the CPP reiterated.

The GRP has yet to comment on whether it would extend its own ceasefire declaration which has expired before midnight Wednesday, April 15. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds report to UN on GRP truce violations

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has reported to the United Nations (UN) the Philippine government’s alleged violations to its unilateral ceasefire declaration committed while much of the country is under a coronavirus lockdown.

As the Duterte government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) respective unilateral ceasefire declarations expired Wednesday night, April 15, the NDFP said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the government’s violations are in defiance of the global body’s request for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic.

NDFP Executive Committee and National Council member Luis Jalandoni told Guterres in a letter that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have mounted 13 attacks or assaults against the New People’s Army (NPA) and conducted at least five aerial bombardments and artillery shelling throughout the country between March 19 to April 15.

The attacks happened in 196 villages in 96 towns nationwide, he said.

Jalandoni’s letter quoted a report from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau, alleging that the Duterte government conducted so-called security patrols that targeted “resting units of the NPA in their areas.”

“Despite claims by the AFP of NPA violations of its ceasefire, it is clear from all reports of the AFP that it was their combat units which were on attack mode,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said in his report.

The AFP also conducted at least five aerial bombing and artillery shelling operations on March 17, March 24 and March 27-29 in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon provinces, all in the southern island of Mindanao, Valbuena added.

“Purportedly conducting Covid-19 related activities, GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) armed troops roam around civilian communities, set up checkpoints, prohibit people from buying food and other necessities, prevent peasants from tending to their crops, enter people’s homes, accuse them of being armed fighters or NPA supporters, and compel them to ‘surrender’ lest they remain in the military’s ‘list,’” Valbuena reported.

There are several incidents of arrests of peasants, including the detention of 11 indigenous farmers in Pantukan town (Davao de Oro province in Mindanao), as well as the arrest of a 71-year old peasant leader Proceso Torralba in Butuan City, accused of being an NPA member, he added.

Jalandoni’s letter to Guterres was dated April 13 and was also furnished to UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

‘NPA compliant with UN’

In his letter, Jalandoni also said that the NPA has complied fully with the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP in response to the humanitarian appeal of Guterres for parties involved in armed conflicts to declare a global ceasefire in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

The health committees and the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army, the CPP and the entire NDFP continue to carry out programs in all 73 provinces where the NDFP forces operate, Jalandoni said. 

“The NPA refrains from undertaking attacks against the GRP’s armed forces. The NPA is observing an active defense policy to protect the community from the serious violations of the GRP’s armed forces,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP National Council has deeply valued the UN’s appreciation of the unilateral ceasefire issued by the CPP on March 24 in response to Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire among warring parties to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP is committed to continuing its programs throughout the country to protect the people against the pandemic as well as the Philippine government’s violations of its unilateral ceasefire in defense of the Filipino people’s fundamental human rights.

He said the NDFP National Council, the CPP and the NPA shall decide on whether to issue another truce order as both the CPP and the GRP’s respective ceasefire declarations simultaneously ended before midnight Thursday, April 16. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP and CPP ceasefire orders unlikely to be extended

The ceasefire orders of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are set to expire before midnight tonight, Wednesday, April 15, but both camps are silent on whether to extend the truce orders or not.

After each declaring unilateral ceasefire orders to focus on their respective anti-coronavirus disease (Covid-19) campaigns, the government and the revolutionary forces are unlikely to extend their separate truce declarations due to reports of violations mainly by GRP forces.

President Rodrigo Duterte has not revealed his plans on the whether to extend his truce order or not during  his third Bayanihan To Heal As One weekly report late Monday evening, April 13.

Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also failed to reply to queries from reporters on whether he would recommend extending the government’s ceasefire order.

The GRP declared the suspension of military and police operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) last March 19 after Duterte said he wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to concentrate in helping the government contain Covid-19’s spread throughout the country.

Heeding the request of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic, the CPP issued its own truce order last March 23.

CPP’s move won praises from both the GRP and the UN.

The CPP information office said it is still awaiting official word from the party’s Central Committee on whether it would extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration or not.

Both ceasefire orders end at 11:59 tonight.

Ceasefire violations in 25 provinces

Both the AFP and the CPP accused each other of violating their own truce orders.

The AFP was first to accuse the NPA of violating the CPP’s ceasefire declaration after an encounter in  Barangay Puray in Rodriguez, Rizal last March 28.

A military spot report however revealed it was the Philippine Army, “acting on the information from concerned citizens,” that initiated the 40-minute clash that resulted in the death of one NPA fighter and a government trooper. Two more Philippine Army soldiers were wounded.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th Infantry Battalion (IB). Another Philippine Army spot report said the unit acted on tips from concerned citizens in launching the operation.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

On April 2, another NPA encampment in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

The AFP has launched military operations in 25 provinces covering nearly 90 municipalities and more than 150 villages nationwide throughout the duration of the ceasefire declarations, the CPP reported.

The incidents range from attacks on NPA encampments, aerial bombings, shelling, and militarization of civilian communities, the CPP said.

The group said the AFP was in direct contempt of the UN’s request as well as the orders of their commander in chief Rodrigo Duterte.

‘Continuous violations and offensives without let-up’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the AFP’s and the GRP’s “ceaseless offensives” are making useless and unnecessary the extension by the CPP and the NPA of their ceasefire declaration.

Instead, Sison said the NPA units all over the country need to stay alert “to have freedom of action to counter in every necessary way the offensives being conducted by their merciless enemy.”

Sison added that the NPA may refrain from attacking AFP soldiers only in areas under their full control and where their enemy is not taking any offensive action even without a generalized ceasefire declaration.

“At any rate, it is up to the CPP to decide whether the ceasefire is to be extended, upon the recommendation of the NDFP if any,” Sison said.

He added that the NDFP has already informed the UN secretary general of the Duterte government’s violation of their own ceasefire declaration.

CPP information officer Marco Valbuena for his part told Kodao that all units of the NPA remain on alert and await orders and instructions from the CPP high leadership. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Family asks chief justice to free political detainee and other elderly and sickly prisoners

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)