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Indignation rally, isinagawa matapos ang pagpanaw ni Baby River

Pumanaw noong gabi ng Biyernes, Oktubre 9, ang tatlong buwang gulang na anak ng bilanggong pulitikal na si Reina Mae Nasino dahil sa matinding kumplikasyon sa baga. Wala pang dalawang buwan nang inilayo ang sanggol na si River sa kanyang ina dahil sa gawa-gawang kaso.

Tinanggihan ng Korte Suprema ang petisyon ni Nasino na hayaang siyang alagaan ang anak sa piitan kahit isang taon lamang. Makailang-ulit na nag-apila ang mga abogado ni Nasino upang pansamantalang makalaya hanggang pumanaw na ang sanggol. Ang pagkakasakit ng sanggol ay dahil sa hindi ito napasuso ng ina na nagdulot ng mahinang pangangatawan nito.

Nagsagawa ang mga progresibong grupo, sa pangunguna ng BAYAN-Metro Manila ng indignation rally noong Sabado, Oktubre 10, sa Maynila. Ipinanawagan ng mga grupo ang hustisya para kay Baby River at pansamantalang pagpapalaya kay Reina bago ilibing ang anak. Kasama rin sa kanilang panawagan ang pagpapalaya sa mga bilanggong pulitikal at pagpapanagot sa gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte sa kaliwa’t kanang mga gawa-gawang kaso at paghuli sa mga aktibista nito.

KAPATID calls on Supreme Court for the immediate release of vulnerable political detainees

KAPATID, the families of political detainees, calls on the Supreme Court to “vote for life” and release all the vulnerable political prisoners amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fides Lim, Spokesperson of KAPATID, said that they are hoping that the High Court would heed their call especially after Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta’s statement last week that the families’ petition can be decided yesterday, June 16.

The Supreme Court has to decide on the petition, however.

Philippine prisons are more than 500% overcrowded, giving fears of the spread of the coronavirus among inmates. # (Video by Jek Alcaraz)

‘Magpalaya na ng mga nakakulong’

“Nanawagan na ang United Nations na upang maiwasan ang higit pang delubyo na maaring idulot ng COVID-19, magpalaya na ng mga nakakulong. Palayain na yung matatanda, may sakit, low-risk offenders, kabilang dito ang mga bilanggong politikal sa bansa. Ayon sa BJMP, noong October 2019, umabot na ng 450% yung congestion rate o 380 out of 467 jails ay congested o siksikan. Sa kasalukuyan, merong 609 na bilanggong pulitikal sa bansa. 63 dyan may sakit, 47 mga matatanda na, 100 ay mga kababaihan. Huwag na nating hintayin pa na madagdagan ang bilang nila.”

Roneo “Jigs” Clamor
Deputy Secretary General, KARAPATAN

Carlo Francisco

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)

Political detainees, families ask SC to have prisoners freed as Covid-19 precaution

Political detainees and their families filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to have vulnerable prison populations released on humanitarian grounds amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a petition filed Wednesday morning, April 8, the group Kapatid seeks the High Tribunal’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.

Kapatid said the petitioners are all vulnerable to the highly infectious virus.

“They are held in prison facilities in Metro Manila where it is practically impossible to practice self-isolation, physical distancing, and other Covid-19 precautions,” Kapatid said in a statement.

The group said they are also calling for the release of all other sick and elderly prisoners on humanitarian grounds, including those who are about to finish their prison terms or are about to be paroled or pardoned.

Kapatid cited United Nations High Commisioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s appeal to have vulnerable prisoners released in order to decongest prisons that might serve as Covid-19 incubators.

Iran, Egypt, and most recently Morocco have released tens of thousands of prisoners in an effort to prevent the spread of disease in the mostly congested penal institutions.

Earlier, human rights group Karapatan, citing official reports, said that Philippine prisons are bursting with 450% overcapacity, making the prison populations vulnerable to Covid-19.

In its petition, Kapatid recommends the creation of a prisoner release committee, similar to those set up in other countries, “to urgently study and implement the release of all other prisoners in various congested prisons throughout the country who are similarly vulnerable but cannot be included in this Petition due to the difficult circumstances.”

Such mechanism shall be in charge of issuing “ground rules relevant to the release of eligible prisoners.”

Eligible prisoners should include low-level offenders as well as those eligible for parole, including 44 political prisoners in Bureau of Correction (BuCor) facilities, the group recommends.

“[We] pray for the Honorable Court’s compassion and protection of their right to life and health amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (We) pray that they be released on humanitarian considerations through bail, recognizance or other non-custodial measures. The continued incarceration of the sick and elderly would be a virtual death sentence,” the petition reads.

The Office of the Solicitor General, Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año, Department of Justice secretary Menardo Guevarra, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology director Allan Iral, BuCor director Gerald Bantag, and six wardens are the named respondents of the petition. The petitioners are Dionisio Almonte, Ireneo Atadero Jr., Emmanuel Bacarra, Oscar Belleza, spouses Alexander and Winona Birondo, Lilia Bucatcat, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, spouses Francisco Fernandez Jr. and Cleofe Lagtapon, Renante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Ediesel Legaspi, Norberto Murillo, Reina Nasino (pregnant), Ge-Ann Perez (leprosy), Oliver Rosales, Adelberto Silva, Dario Tomada, and spouses Alberto and Virginia Villamor.

Kapatid was assisted by the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of People’s Lawyers in drafting and filing the petition. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)


BAYAN demands freedom of all political prisoners

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) joined UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s call for the freedom of all political prisoners in the time of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic to save them from possibly contracting the virus in the often crowded and inhumane conditions of jails worldwide, especially in the Philippines. The action was also in response to the online campaign of human rights group Karapatan this 7-8 pm ofTuesday, March 31.

Amid the intensifying dangers presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, Karapatan and other human rights groups as well as religious leaders called on the Rodrigo Duterte the government to free the more than 500 political prisoners in the Philippines. They also called for the release of other prisoners, especially the elderly, pregnant, women and nursing mothers and those who are due for parole or pardon. # (Jek Alcaraz)

Groups urge Covid-19 testing in prisons, release of political detainees

Families of political detainees urged the government to follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and start mass testing in prisons after receiving reports that some prisoners are showing symptoms of the corona virus disease (Covid-19).

The group KAPATID said that mass testing should start immediately as it has received reports that more inmates are getting sick despite denials by prison agencies and the Department of Interior and Local Government of confirmed cases.

Marami nagkakasakit, inuubo at nilalagnat,” KAPATID said, citing a report from relatives of political prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the national penitentiary at Muntinlupa City. (Many are getting sick, coughing and getting fevers.)

The group said three political prisoners are now reportedly ill with fever at the political prisoners’ wing at the Metro Manila District Jail-Annex 4 (MMDJ-4) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

KAPATID said the three unnamed political detainees are showing common Covid-19 symptoms like fever, headaches, cold, cough and body weakness—the same symptoms for the respiratory disease which has already killed 45 people in the country as of March 25, including nine doctors.

“KAPATID cannot emphasize enough why mass testing is imperative and why it must include the whole prison population comprising both inmates and prison personnel. Reports by other countries such as China and the US indicate that prison guards brought the sickness into prison facilities even with lockdowns in place and stricter health measures, including a forehead thermal scan of persons entering jail premises,” KAPATID spokesperson Fides Lim said in a statement

Lim cited scientific researches that early action through widespread testing has proven effective in controlling the rapid spread of the disease in South Korea and Germany which have managed to keep the Covid-19 death rate relatively low through extensive testing.

“Mass testing of both symptomatic individuals and all those who came into contact with them was crucial in catching the disease, isolating the carriers before they could pass it on, and providing more accurate figures of how many are really affected and how and where to limit contamination,” Lim said.

Free political detainees

Earlier, KAPATID called for the release of political detainees in line with reports that backchannel meetings between Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representatives and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in The Netherlands have been discussing the matter.

The NDFP urged the GRP to release all political prisoners and a general amnesty be issued “as a matter of justice and necessity.”

The NDFP made the appeal when the Communist Party of the Philippines declared a unilateral ceasefire last Tuesday, March 24, in response to the United Nations appeal for all warring parties to temporarily lay down arms to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.

Kapatid cited the move made by Iran and Egypt to release tens of thousands of prisoners, including political detainees, in a bid to decongest their prisons and prevent Covid-19’s spread through overpopulated jail facilities.

“KAPATID continues to press the humanitarian release of prisoners in line with the new UN (United Nations) call as the most expedient solution to protect and save lives. Tao rin sila,” Lim said. (They are also humans.)

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), the largest group of mainline Protestant churches in the country, also urged the government to release all political detainees following the appeal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 26.

“Let’s take it from the UN. There is an urgent need to address the catastrophic risks in prisons by releasing prisoners, especially now that the country is confronting numerous challenges due to this pandemic,” Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, NCCP General Secretary, said.

“As the number of positive COVID-19 cases spike up, the most Christian thing to do is to leave no one behind. Don’t forget those in prison, especially human rights defenders facing trumped charges, who have staunchly worked for social justice and human rights. They need compassion, they need justice and they need protection. They should be released under humanitarian grounds,” Marigza said in a statement.

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so. People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent. Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible,” Bachelet said in her appeal for political detainees’ release.

Karapatan poster.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan announced it will lead an online campaign on Facebook and Twitter  to urge the freedom of prisoners with light sentences as well as political detainees on March 31, Tuesday, at seven to eight o’clock in the evening.

Citing the congestion of Philippine jails at 450%, Karapatan said the government must free the elderly, sick, pregnant and nursing women, those who are due for parole or pardon, at least one spouse each of political prisoner-couples, and “accidental victims” of political arrests. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No more transfer of political detainees, BJMP assures families

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has agreed to stop the reported mass transfer of political prisoners from its Bicutan Taguig facility to various jails nationwide, a human rights group said.

In a statement, families of political prisoners under the group Kapatid said it met with BJMP deputy for operations Gen. Dennis Rocamora last Thursday morning, December 12, who assured them the detainees in Bicutan would spend the Christmas season together.

“We gave our letter to Gen. Rocamora appealing to stop the mass transfer of political prisoners out of Bicutan through the seemingly legal process of court motions this Christmas season,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

Earlier, government prosecutors have asked to transfer National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Frank Fernandez, Adelberto Silva and his companions, called the “Sta. Cruz 5”, to the Laguna Provincial Jail; Rey Casambre to Bacoor Jail; and government union organizer Oliver Rosales to Malolos City Jail.

Farmer Maximo Reduta from Southern Quezon was transferred to Gumaca District Jail last month.

“This transfer scheme would in effect result in the dissolution of the entire political prisoner’s wing in Bicutan,” Lim said.

During the dialogue, however, Rocamora reportedly assured Kapatid that the BJMP has ordered the warden of Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 to stop the transfer of all political prisoners out of Bicutan.
In addition, the BJMP will no longer file requests to the court for transfer of political prisoners and not oppose or counter the opposition filed in court by lawyers of affected political prisoners concerning existing motions for their transfer, Kapatid reported.
Also, the BJMP will no longer act on the old list of a previous warden for the transfer of some political prisoners, the group added.

Kapatid said that no political prisoner in Bicutan wants to be transferred because of concerns for their personal security.
“We hope and pray that the BJMP will fulfill its assurances to Kapatid,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Families decry move of political prisoners to local jails

by Joseph Cuevas

Families and supporters of political prisoners held a dialogue with Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) National Headquarters officials on the detainees’ forcible transfer from Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan to local jails, mostly outside Metro Manila, December 4.

According to Kapatid, the organization of families and friends of political prisoners, the transfer of political prisoners is part of a bigger scheme “to further restrict the movement and access to much needed medical attention, legal services, visits and support from relatives and friends.”

The group added the planned transfer all the more violates the detainees’ rights as political prisoners, “whose arrest and detention are unjust from the very beginning.”

Kapatid members were alarmed about the “dispersal” of political prisoners from the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 after consecutive court motions were filed to move political prisoners to local jails.

They said inmates suffer from severe congestion and worse jail conditions in the local jails where 11 political prisoners are set to be transferred.

The dialogue, held during the 14th International Day of Solidarity for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War last December 3, was initiated by the office of Bayan Muna Rep. and deputy minority floor leader Carlos Isagani Zarate at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

Zarate along with Rep. Ferdinand Gaite and Rep. Eufemia Cullamat filed House Resolution 566 in the lower house to investigate the situation of political prisoners.

Government prosecutors have asked to transfer National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Frank Fernandez, Adelberto Silva and their companion, called the “Sta. Cruz 5”, to the Laguna Provincial Jail; Rey Casambre to Bacoor Jail; and government union organizer Oliver Rosales to Malolos City Jail.

Farmer Maximo Reduta from Southern Quezon was transferred to Gumaca District Jail last week.

Counterinsurgency move

BJMP Chief for Operations Jail Chief Supt. Dennis Rocamora said that the transfer of political prisoners is part of decongestion campaign of jails across the country and several concern of security escort during court hearings.

He said they received complaints from different courts about the delayed or postponement of PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty) trials because of distance and security measures set by the bureau.

But Rocamora also admitted that some re-commitment of political prisoners outside Metro Manila is due to the request of the Department of National Defense, invoking Executive Order No. 70.

EO 70 created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), also known as the government’s resurrected “Whole of Nation Approach” against insurgency.

Rocamora cited the case of Fernandez and his wife Cleofe Lagtapon whom the DND requested through BJMP Chief Supt. Allan Iral for their transfer to Sta. Cruz Jail since July 25, 2019.

A copy of court order transferring Maximo Reduta was also revealed in the dialogue as requested by the Defense Secretary.

Rights group opposes transfer

Human Rights group Karapatan asserted the transfer of political prisoners in jails, particularly in the same area where common offenders or criminals, are detained will endanger their lives.

“These individuals are being persecuted already by a government that brands them as enemies of the State. It is not far-fetched, as in the cases of former Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa and Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, who were both killed in separate incidents while under detention, that the Duterte administration is cooking up plans for assassinations of political prisoners while in detention,” Karapatan said in a statement.

Karapatan also emphasized that political prisoners were victims of trumped-up charges and arbitrary arrests.

“Many of them are in jail because operatives planted evidence in their belongings, are implicated by paid and expert witnesses, arrested by virtue of defective warrants, and were targeted because of their affiliation and vocal criticisms,” the group said.

As of November 2019, there are 629 political prisoners across the country, 382 of whom were arrested under the Duterte government, Karapatan said. #

Families, rights groups mark Political Prisoners Day

Relatives and human rights groups led by the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights marched to Mendiola in Manila, December 3, to commemorate International Solidarity Day for Political Prisoners and call for the release of all political detainees.

Karapatan said that political prisoners  are proof of an unjust system as well as double standards in which “rule of law” inevitably translates to the rule of rulers.

Recent cases of illegal arrests by the police and military’s continued use of planted evidence, twisted ploys, and ridiculous narratives to jail rights activists and progressive leaders of organizations and communities [are rampant},” Karapatan added.

Karapatan said that there are 540 political prisoners all over the country as of November 2018, 203 of whom were arrested under the Duterte regime.

One hundred forty of the detainees are sickly, 40 are elderly and 56 are women, Karapatan said.

Lengua De Guzman, daughter of National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and wife of union organizer Maoj Maga, said that since November 2017 when Duterte implemented a crackdown against activists and peace consultants, fabricated cases and planting of evidences became the usual pattern of the state forces in their operations.

Aside from cases involving her father and husband, similar incidents happened to government employees organizers like Bob Reyes, the couple Oliver and Rowena Rosales, trade union organizer Ireneo Atadero, women advocate Hedda Calderon and peace consultants Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad, de guzman said.

Karapatan reiterated that political prisoners should be immediately released on just and humanitarian grounds and as a matter of justice.

The Duterte government must also resume peace negotiations with the NDFP and stop the track of militarism against the people, the group said. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas)