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KAPATID: ‘Jun Lozada should be regarded as a political prisoner’

Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr should be regarded as a political prisoner, human rights group Kapatid said, adding the whistleblower has done great service to the people and does not deserve to be in jail.

Kapatid said the Supreme Court’s decision finding Rodolfo and brother Orlando guilty of graft is a “travesty of justice” that sends the wrong signal to whistleblowers.

The High Court upheld Rodolfo’s graft conviction last week for leasing 6.6 hectares of idle public land to his brother Orlando and sentenced the siblings to six to 10 years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.

Kapatid, the support group of families and friends of political prisoners, however said the Supreme Court should reverse its decision as Rodolfo deserves the protection of the law for reporting evidence of wrongdoing.

“Thanks to Jun Lozada’s courage [a] scandalous megadeal was cancelled. But because of the rotten double standard of justice in the Philippines, he is the one who will go to prison while the biggest masterminds of graft and corruption are exculpated and allowed to perpetuate themselves in public office,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

Lim added that Rodolfo has become a victim of retaliation and persecution by powerful enemies who have in effect made him a political prisoner for speaking truth to power.

Rodolfo was former head of the Philippine Forest Corporation and a government information technology consultant when he revealed alleged anomalies in the establishment of a National Broadband Network (NBN) by the Chinese corporation ZTE in 2007 during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government.

Lozada said President Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel were “masterminds behind the NBN-ZTE crime” worth P17 billion of pesos. He also said former Commission on Election chairperson Benjamin Abalos stood to gain from kickbacks.

The Lozadas turned themselves in at the National Bureau of Investigation last Thursday after hearing the Sandiganbayan reportedly issued a warrant of arrest against them following Supreme Court’s affirmation of their conviction.

In a statement, Rodolfo said his enemies made good with their threats they will make him regret for his revelations.

“Yes, they succeeded in sending me to prison. But they will not succeed in making me regret my decision to side with the truth and the people. I do not regret my decision to side with the truth,” Rodolfo said.

“Our hearts go out to truth-tellers like Jun Lozada. Kapatid stands by him and with him in his statement that embodies the plight of the political prisoners in this country,” Kapatid said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Stone-throwing from inside Camp Aguinaldo mars EDSA uprising commemoration

Has Camp Aguinaldo become ungrateful of People Power? Do its current occupants, once desperate for the people’s protection, think nothing of injuring those who once protected them from a dictator’s tanks and guns?

As hundreds of people commemorated the 36th anniversary of the People Power uprising with a rally at the monument at the corner of EDSA and White Plains Avenue on Friday morning, they were pelted with stones and plastic bottles from inside the military camp.

“Mga kababayan, bago po ako magsimula, nais ko pong ibalita sa inyo na kanina pa hong may lumilipad ng bato at mga bote mula sa loob ng Camp Aguinaldo papunta po rito sa ating hanay,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. announced at the start of his speech towards the end of the rally. (Compatriots, before I start, let me announce that stones and bottles flew towards us from inside Camp Aguinaldo.)

Reyes said that the police failed to let the pelting stop, adding that a Polytechnic University of the Philippines employee was hit on the head by a stone.

“Nasan po yung mga pulis? Nasan yung mga pulis? Bakit hindi nyo po maprotektahan yung mga tao laban doon sa mga nambabato [mula] sa loob ng Camp Aguinaldo?” Reyes asked. (Where is the police? Where is the police? Why can’t you protect the people from those throwing from inside Camp Aguinaldo?”

Victim Vilma S. Tuno being attended by a paramedic after being hit by a stone from inside Camp Aguinaldo. (Kapatid photo)

The victim, Vilma S. Tuno said she was seated near the camp’s wall along White Plains Avenue and intently listening to the program when hit by a stone.

“Tumama sa ulo ko. Ang laki ng maga at sobrang sakit kaya na-obliga ako pumunta sa emergency room,” she told Kodao. (The stone hit my head. The swelling was huge and it was very painful. I was forced to go to the emergency room.)

Tuno was rushed to the V.R. Potenciano Hospital at EDSA-Mandaluyong where she was advised to undergo a CT Scan to check for possible effects to her previous brain surgery for epilepsy,” human rights group Kapatid said.

“This is to strongly inform the Camp Aguinaldo officials that the stone-throwing incident from inside your wall has caused physical injury. Several other rally participants were also directly hit by stones, sticks and plastic bottles,” Kapatid added in its statement.

“This kind of incident must not go unpunished. Kapatid condemns this despicable act against us who are marking #EDSA36 near the People Power Monument. We call on Camp Aguinaldo officials to investigate this incident and put a stop to all such acts.

This reporter was also hit on his torso while another stone bounced off the pavement and hit his thigh.

Journalist Lito Ocampo also complained that he was almost hit by an empty soda bottle thrown from inside the camp.

Camp Aguinaldo is the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and where the Department of National Defense is located.

It was where then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and his cohorts holed up when they turned against then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Reyes bewailed that during the uprising, the people went to EDSA to protect the people from inside the camp from an impending full-scale military attack ordered by Marcos.

“Noong EDSA, iyong mga tao, pumunta rito sa EDSA para po protektahan yung mga nasa loob ng Camp Aguinaldo. Ngayon po, yung mga tao, nagtitipon dito sa EDSA, binabato ng mga naroroon sa loob ng Camp Aguinaldo,” Reyes complained. (During the uprising, the people went to EDSA to protect those inside Camp Aguinaldo. Now that the people commemorate the uprising, stones are being thrown at us from inside the camp.)

The police, hundreds of them, did not stir from under their tents and under the trees, even after hearing the complaint. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Love means fighting back’

Despite another fabricated case of terrorist financing charged against her and her co-accused, community journalist and political prisoner Frenchie Mae Cumpio remains steadfast and fearless behind bars.

In celebration of the month of love, KAPATID, a support organization of political prisoners in the Philippines, posted an open letter by Cumpio that she wrote after her unjust arrest two years ago. Cumpio wrote, “love means fighting back.”

“Yes, we could have had a better life like what people would say but remembering the demolition threats among several barangays in Tacloban, the land grabbing cases in Tacloban and Leyte, the illegal arrests of farmers and other activists, the strong Junk STS (socialized tuition scheme) and free education campaign, WE’D STILL MAKE THE CHOICE WE MADE YEARS AGO. Life behind bars is still better than not showing our love for this country,” Cumpio declared.

“Love means fighting back. Life behind bars is still better than not showing our love for this country.”Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Journalist & Political Prisoner

Morita Alegre walks free, appeals for the release of son Selman

Morita Alegre, 75-year old political prisoner and widow of political prisoner Jesus Alegre, is free.

Political prisoner support group Kapatid announced on Saturday that Alegre walked out of the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City on Friday, January 28, after 16 years in prison.

“Through combined lobby efforts by Kapatid, Karapatan and church groups led by Negros Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, she was granted commutation of sentence on December 24, 2021,” Kapatid said in a statement.

Alegre’s release came a few days after Alminaza’s public petition last January 22 for her release.

READ: Bishop renews call for release of elderly prisoner and son

“Deo gratias!” (Thanks be to God!) was the prelate’s reaction to the announcement on his Facebook wall.

Kapatid said Alegre’s release papers show she had already served her maximum sentence with 3,676 days – more than 10 years – for “Good Conduct Time Allowance.”

“Today, there is nothing more Nanay (Mother) Morita wants to do than to return home. And home is their coastal barangay (of Taba-ao) in Sagay, Negros Occidental,” Kapatid said.

The group added that Alegre first intends to visit the grave of Jesus when she arrives in Sagay.

The widow last saw her husband at his wake at the Iglesia Filipina Indipendiente National Cathedral on Taft Avenue, Manila in June 2021 when she was given a furlough to see him before his body was flown to their hometown for burial.

Jesus died on June 13 from renal failure and multiple complications despite repeated appeals for his humanitarian release.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

The Alegres, fisher folk and farmers, were arrested on April 14, 2005 and ended up convicted for the killing of one Rogelio Tipon, bodyguard of local landlord and alleged land-grabber Avelino Gaspar.

Tipon’s widow Helena has executed an Affidavit of Desistance, but Karapatan said Gaspar has instigated the trial’s continuation that convicted the Alegres.

The Alegres’ refusal to give up their land has also caused the death of a son, Romeo, Karapatan said.

Kapatid said Morita seeks support for Selman, 47, who remains jailed at the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City.

The group also appeals for assistance to fly Morita home to Negros Island.

Donations may be coursed through Kapatid’s  GCash number 0929 612 3517 (Roni), Kapatid said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Itaas walks free after 32 years

PH’s longest held political prisoner asks government to leave him in peace

Human rights group Kapatid announced the release of the country’s longest held political detainee at 32 years, urging the government to now “let him live a peaceful life with his family.”

Juanito Itaas, convicted of killing United States Colonel James Rowe in Quezon City on April 1989, was finally released from the New Bilibid Prison on Friday night, January 8, the group said.

Kapatid said Branch 204 of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court granted the petition for habeas corpus filed by Itaas’ daughter Jarel and ordered his release, saying he already completed the service of his sentence through the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law.

Itaas was “entitled to be credited the equivalent days of the GCTA credits earned by him,” Kapatid quoted the Court as having ordered.

He was sentenced in 1991 to 39 years and 6 months of imprisonment.

Itaas was convicted as the principal in Rowe’s ambush along with University of the Philippines worker Donato Continente who was convicted as his accomplice.

Itaas and Continente were among the most celebrated political detainees under the Corazon Aquino government.

The two have maintained their innocence to this day. Continente was released in 2005.

A former Davao farmer, Kapatid said Itaas was wrongfully convicted.

The NPA took responsibility for the assassination and said those arrested and convicted were innocent, including Itaas and Continente.

Rowe was chief of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group working closely with the Central Intelligence Agency in helping the Philippine government in its counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army (NPA).

Kapatid commended Itaas’ release, adding it hopes it will presage more releases of political prisoners “who are foisted with trumped-up charges in retaliation for their activism or to make them the fall guy to take the blame for NPA operations.”

The group also said that Itaas hopes to be with his family he built while in jail.

“Pahinga muna ako. Gusto ko makapiling ang pamilya ko kasi ngayon lang kami mabubuo,” Kapatid quoting Itaas as saying. (I want to take a rest. I wish to spend time with my family as it will be the first time that we are together.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Terminally ill political detainee dies waiting for ‘compassionate release’

Antonio Molina, the terminally ill political prisoner who asked for “compassionate release” from a local court,  has died Thursday night, November 18 in a Puerto Princesa City hospital. He was 67.

Political prisoners support group Kapatid announced Molina was brought to the Ospital ng Palawan yesterday after suffering from cardiac arrest.  He died a few minutes after 10 pm, the group said.

Kapatid added Molina was the sixth political prisoner to die during the pandemic. There is no report if he was tested for COVID-19 despite the extreme congestion of the city jail, it said.

Human rights group Karapatan said Molina is the 11th political detainee to die under the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

Faith-based group Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) also announced Molina’s death in a separate statement.

“With deep sadness, we bid farewell to Antonio Molina who died this evening November 18, 2021 after suffering months of excruciating pain from terminal cancer while in prison,” the PCPR said.

Molina was arrested on Oct. 4, 2019 in Palawan together with six staffers of the human rights group Karapatan. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives the Philippine National Police usually files against activists and alleged communists.

Molina was diagnosed with malignant stomach cancer (abdominal sarcoma) last March 24.

This led his family, lawyers and human rights groups to petition the government to grant him a “compassionate release” to allow him continued hospitalization and medical care.

But the motions filed by human rights lawyers were first denied by the Regional Trial Court Branch 51 of Puerto Princesa in Palawan last October 15.

READ: Rights group raps court refusal to release terminally ill political prisoner

“We had been asking the government for his compassionate release since the day that doctors gave him six months to live because of poor prognosis due to extreme disease,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

“We also appealed to the court and prison officials to transfer Molina to a hospital where he could receive intensive care. This was blocked by the prison warden who even denied that he was bedridden. It was too late when the Jail Inspector reversed their position on November 15 and asked the court to act on Molina’s motion for release on recognizance on humanitarian grounds,” Lim added.

Atty Ma. Sol Taule, one of Molina’s lawyers said she received a call Thursday night from his doctors asking permission to intubate the political detainee.

“I informed them of his family’s wish for his life to be extended to allow them to travel to Puerto Princesa to say their final goodbyes,” the lawyer said in Filipino.

“Our sadness and regret are profound for the delayed Release on Recognizance motion we filed before the court that would have allowed his family to take care of him in his final days,” Taule said, adding Molina was yet another victim of the government’s trumped up charges against activists.

Kapatid for its part asked the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation into the responsibility and liability of prison officials as well as the accountability of a “callous” court in Molina’s death.

“[W]e ask the (CHR) to lead an independent investigation into his death, particularly the negligence of prison officials, even as we ask the court to reexamine itself and be held accountable for its callous decision-making that effectively served as his death warrant,” Lim said.

Last October, Kapatid asked why “a bedridden old man, completely disabled and incapable of any self-care, cannot benefit from the equity of the law that was used in principle to grant bail for jailed and convicted politicians accused of nonbailable high crimes.”

“The justice system failed Antonio Molina because of double standard and selective application. The penal system further punished him without mercy, deaf to his cries for help. We express our sincerest condolences to his bereaved family,” Lim said.

Taule said Molina was a gentle elderly person who always smiled and looked after his fellow prisoners even as he suffered excruciating pain because of illness.  

“His indigenous people colleagues and fellow political detainees Awing and Bener were proud that they learned to read and write because of Molina’s tutelage.

The PCPR also said Molina endured great injustice at the hands of his accusers.

“[B]ut he is victorious. He has finished the race. He has fought the good fight,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

River of Tears and Rage Documentary Film

Alternative media outfit Kodao Productions has extensively reported on many cases of activists arrested on trumped up charges of possessing illegal guns and explosives. Reina Mae Nasino was one such case. She was pregnant when arrested and was forced to continue her pregnancy inside the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons. She gave birth while in detention and was forcibly separated from her infant child very early. Due to lack of maternal care, the baby got sick and died at only three months old.

Kodao produced the most comprehensive multi-media reports on the drama that transpired during the baby’s wake and chaotic burial. Its live report generated the most number of views and reactions from a shocked nation as fully-armed police and jail guards went against deeply-held Filipino values of respect for the dead and burial traditions.

This film puts together the most dramatic events during a three-month old baby’s wake and burial, using smart phones, consumer cameras and Facebook Live footages. It also includes real time comments from viewers, a great majority of whom expressed outrage at the government’s merciless show of might against its people. This film also aims to showcase how social media continue to redefine as content-sharing platforms but as generator of many things besides and beyond, including cinema and justice.

View production notes at bit.ly/KodaoRiverProductionNotes.

River of Tears and Rage Full Trailer

River of Tears and Rage is film culled from Kodao Productions’ Facebook Live coverage of Baby River’s wake and burial. Amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, a dead three month-old infant became a symbol of political repression by a regime denounced worldwide for its crimes against the people.

In partnership with human rights groups Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners, Kodao Productions will premiere the documentary film on October 16, 2021, Saturday at four o’clock in the afternoon.

Prisoners’ support group asks poll body to extend voters’ registration

A prisoners’ support group asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the deadline to the ongoing voters’ registration to allow persons denied of liberty (PDL) to vote in next year’s national and local elections.

With just two weeks before the September 30 deadline, the group Kapatid said an extension shall allow prisoners’ to still “make a difference” through their votes

Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said, “It is important for PDLs, especially those wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit – the Philippines’ political prisoners – to register and have their votes counted in the 2022 elections.”

“Imprisonment does not disenfranchise them of their right to vote and to have a say in the outcome of the upcoming crucial presidential elections,” Lim explained.

Kapatid’s request is the latest in the growing clamor for the Comelec to extend the deadline after a series of recent pandemic lockdowns severely limited the number of registrations the poll body could accept.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez however said the election commissioners are firm in sticking to the deadline as a strict preparation schedule has already been set for next year’s polls.

But Lim said the big number of eligible voters among PDLs may run of time to register or reactivate their registration within the remaining two weeks.

She said their group received reports that voters’ registration forms were being distributed in some jails.

“But as prisons remain in continuing lockdown, the Comelec has to move the deadline of registration and also push voter education to draw in more detainees eligible to vote,” Lim said.

Kapatid said about 74% of the country’s over 200,000 PDLs are still qualified to vote as they are still under trial while an undetermined number of those convicted have their cases under appeal.

“There are over 148,000 votes out there in jail facilities, and count in the votes too of their eligible family members. If they can all cast their ballots in May 2022 and vote for ‘worthy’ candidates, along with their relatives, they can make a difference,” Lim said.

Lim, wife of political prisoner and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, said next year’s election is crucial as voters, including PDLs, can hold politicians responsible for illegal arrests and murder, accountable for their “crimes against humanity.”

“The elections in 2022 could be a make or break as our country’s fragile institutions take a beating as never before in the hands of a President who pretends to shun the onus of accountability and culpability for his manifold human rights violations,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bishop seeks clemency for mother-son political prisoners

A bishop asked for executive clemency for two political detainees, mother and son Morita and Selman Alegre, after the death of their patriarch and fellow prisoner of conscience Jesus who died last June 13.

In a public appeal, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza asked President Rodrigo Duterte and justice secretary Menardo Guevarra to grant clemency to both mother and son or for the review of their conviction.

“As the shepherd of the Diocese of San Carlos, which counts the late Jesus Alegre and his family among its members, I appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to allow the widowed Morita and her son Selman to attend the wake and the June 30 funeral of their beloved Jesus, who had been separated from them by prison for the last 16 years,” the bishop also said.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

The prelate announced that the remains of Jesus would be flown to Bacolod city in accordance with his wife Morita’s wishes for a full body burial for him in their home town of Sagay City.

“Morita is now 74 years old, and she and her son Selman have earned, through more than 16 years of pain and suffering, the right to be set free and live their remaining years with their loved ones,” Alminaza said.

The bishop said he is convinced the Alegres were victims of injustice.

“Kapatid, a support organization of political prisoners in the country, has documented the Alegres’ case extensively and came up with the conclusion that the case against them was clearly false and fabricated,” he said.

“With his death, Jesus Alegre is now free at last from worldly greed, oppression and injustice. But his widow and son, both unjustly convicted and imprisoned for the last 16 years, continue to languish and suffer in separate jails,” he added.

READ: ‘MAGSASAKA, BUTIHING AMA’: Who was Jesus Alegre and why he did not deserve a single day in prison

Alminaza also appealed for the freedom of the many poor who are similarly situated as the Alegres.

“Land grabbing is an old and persistent problem in Negros where the wealthy and powerful families have used both private and government instrumentalities to defeat the poor’s rights over their small parcels of land,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)