Rights group raps court refusal to release terminally ill political prisoner

A court in Palawan denied the motion for the “compassionate release” of a political prisoner terminally ill with stomach cancer, a human rights group reported.

Branch 51 of the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Palawan denied last October 15 the omnibus motion for the release of Antonio Molina who was diagnosed with abdominal sarcoma, political detainees support group Kapatid said.

Kapatid added that Molina’s doctors said he may only have six months to live because of “poor prognosis due to extreme disease based on CT (computer tomography) scan.”

A jailed member of the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), Molina was arrested with six others at a police checkpoint in Puerto Princesa City on October 4, 2019.

The seven are accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a standard non-bailable charge against arrested activists and suspected New People’s Army supporters.

Kapatid reported the court also denied Molina’s appeal to release the 30,000 pesos taken from him when he was arrested, which his counsels from the Public Interest Law Center said could be used for mounting medical expenses.

The RTC only granted Molina’s motion to be treated by an herbalist to help ease his severe pain, Kapatid added.

In December 2020, Karapatan Southern Tagalog said Molina’s family has appealed for medical help as his lymph nodes have also swollen as large as melons.

“He is already old and sick. Even before his illegal arrest with his co-accused, collectively known as Palawan7, Antonio has been suffering from swollen lymph nodes and severe pain when urinating due to hypertension and kidney problems,” Karapatan said.

In an interview with Palawan News, Puerto Princesa City Jail Senior Insp. Irene Gaspar denied claims that Molina had been bed ridden.

Gaspar said Molina is “regularly permitted by the court” to undergo checkups and to walk around the jail facility.

Gaspar added that Molina had been taken to doctors whenever there are court orders.

Molina however was diagnosed with stomach cancer on March 24.

Kapatid said the Court’s denial of Molina’s release bid on humanitarian grounds is “judicial pandemic of double standard and selective justice against the poor” while the rich and powerful are treated with compassion and allowed bail.

“It should bother everyone but it doesn’t bother the court 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 non-bailable high crimes,” said Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim.

“Do (former First Lady) Imelda (Marcos), (former Senate President Juan Ponce) Enrile, former President Gloria (Macapagal-Arroyo), (former Senator) Jinggoy Estrada, (Senator) Bong Revilla have more rights and are more equal than others?” Lim asked.

Kapatid added that during his hospitalization last July, the government refused to pay for the recommended CT scan of Molina’s leg and treatment of possible blood clot “because of lack of funds.” Lim said.

“We hope this is not a repeat of how the Supreme Court failed thousands of elderly and sick prisoners in 2020 who asked for temporary liberty because of the threats of the deadly COVID-19. If the Supreme Court and the Sandiganbayan were able to consider the age and health condition of Enrile and Imelda as a reason to grant bail, the RTC should likewise grant Molina the chance to spend the last days of his life outside prison in the care of his family,” Lim said.

“As the law does not provide an explicit recourse, the RTC should exercise compassionate intervention and equity jurisdiction. We appeal to the court’s better judgment to review its decision,” Lim appealed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)