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Start inoculating prisoners, rights group presses gov’t

A support group for political detainees pressed the government to start inoculating prisoners, citing the higher possibility of coronavirus outbreaks inside the country’s overcrowded and poorly-ventilated jail facilities.

“Kapatid presses the national government to release a clear schedule for the vaccination of all prisoners, including the 704 political prisoners, in the national deployment plan for COVID-19 vaccines because the congested prison system places them at significant higher risk for the disease,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

The group Kapatid made the call after justice secretary Menardo Guevarra said that ordinary prisoners are not yet part of the priority list for the government’s vaccination activities against the increasingly contagious and deadly COVID-19.

Guevarra said that only elderly prisoners are eligible for early vaccination.

“[W]hile waiting for their turn to get vaccinated like the rest of the population, these [non-elderly] PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) will just have to follow minimum health protocols to reduce the risk of viral transmission,” Guevarra, Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Against COVID-19 member, said.

‘Mixed messaging’

Lim said Guevarra’s statement however contradicts an earlier assurance by the Department of Health (DOH) that “all persons deprived of liberty as determined by Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) are included under the Priority Eligible Group B-9.”

Kapatid asked DOH secretary and IATF Against COVID-19 chairperson Francisco Duque last March 2 to included all prisoners among the first to be vaccinated as part of the most “at-risk populations.”

DOH undersecretary and National Vaccine Operations Center chairperson Dr. Myrna Cabotaje told the rights group that prisoners are already identified for inclusion in the priority eligible population on the basis of stratifying the risks for contracting COVID-19 infection.

“So we quote to Secretary Guevarra the very words of the DOH in their reply to us: ‘Health is an absolute human right. No Filipino will be denied their right to get vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine. The national government assures you that every consenting Filipino will receive the appropriate COVID-19 vaccine, to protect the life and health of every citizen, including all Political Prisoners,’” she added

“Shouldn’t the DOJ and the whole national government be saying the same thing to everyone?” Lim asked.

Lim said it is ironic that the DOJ whose mandate includes the supervision of the BuCor should contradict the DOH statement and ignore the plight of over 215,000 prisoners compelled to live in subhuman conditions.

“This apparently may be yet another case of mismanagement from the top that results in mixed messaging,” Lim said.

 ‘Death traps’

Kapatid said extreme congestion inside the country’s prisons makes them “death traps” during the pandemic.

In November 2019, the BJMP reported that its 467 jails nationwide were at 534 percent of capacity as of March of that year while the BuCor said that the congestion rate in its 125 prisons was at 310 percent as of January 2019.

In October 2018, the Commission on Human Rights said “deplorable jail conditions” in the country are aggravated by the failure of the government, including police officers, to faithfully comply with even the minimum human rights standards and laws, such as the Anti-Torture Act (RA 9745). # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

“Go home and tell them what you did today and why.”

“a) grotesque; b) merciless; c) heartless; d) callous; e) inhuman; f) shocking; g) unbelievable; h) overkill; i) all of the above & more.

Go home to your spouses, children, parents, friends, neighbors and classmates and tell them what you did today and why. Then pause and tell yourself in silence if they deserve to be proud of you.”Atty. Edre U. Olalia, President, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

Hustisya, ipinanawagan para sa yumaong sanggol ng isang detenidong pulitikal

Hustisya ang panawagan ng iba’t ibang progresibong grupo para sa tatlong-buwang sanggol na si Baby River Emmanuelle na namatay dahil sa sakit na pnuemonia noong October 9. Ang sanggol ay inihiwalay sa kanyang ina na si Reina Mae Nasino , isang detenidong pulitikal, isang buwan pa lamang ng ito ay ipanganak.

Matatandaan na Abril pa lamang ay hinihiling na ng grupong Kapatid na palayain na si Nasino dahil ito ay nagdadalan-tao. Subalit hindi ito pinaboran ng korte. At nang ipanganak ang sanggol ay humiling naman sila ng isang taong pagsasama ng mag ina upang maalagaan ng husto at mapa-suso ito dahil sa mahinang pangangatawan ng bata.

Nagtipon at nagsagawa ng indignation rally ang iba’t ibang progresibong grupo sa Commission of Human Rights ngayong araw, Oktubre 14, upang ipanawagan ang hustisya para kay Baby River at upang kundenahin ang naging hakbang ng BJMP-Manila sa pagpapaikli ng oras ng dalaw ni Reina Mae Nasino sa lamay ng kanyang anak.

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.

Singil

(Alay kay Zara Alvarez)

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

Basa pa sa dugo

ni Ka Randall

ang iyong

mga kamay

labi niyay kamakailan lang hinimlay.

ngunit hayan!

Si Ka Zara naman

ang iyong pinaslang!

Oo nga’t muling magluluksa’t

hihibik ang Inang Bayan

at sa luhang

kanyang ipapatak

sa bawat buhay

na marahas mong

ibinaon sa hukay

ng pagkaganid mo’t

pagkagahaman

sa kapangyarihan

buntis na magluluwal

ang kanilang mga burol

sa daang libong mga kawal…

hustisya ay buong giting kakamitin!

At mula sa trono ng diktadurya mong

nanlilimahid sa dahas ng pagkapasista

paghahari mo ay mabubuwal!

Laya ng Bayan ay lubos nang itatanghal!

‘Mabigat sa dibdib ko’

“Mabigat sa dibdib ko, nakita ko kasi ang anak ko. Kaya nananawagan po ako sa Supreme Court. Ibaba niyo po ang desisyon para makasama na niya ang anak niya.”Marites Asis, Ina ng bilanggong pulitikal na si Reina Mae Nasino

Mother appeals to SC to act on petition to free at-risk political prisoner and baby

Political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino’s mother Marites De Asis appealed to the Supreme Court to act on the petition to release the at-risk prisoner and her newly-born baby during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nasino delivered her first born baby last July 1 in a hospital and was sent back to jail the following day.

De Asis reminded the High Court that it has been three months since she filed the petition for the liberty of her daughter.

The group Families and Friends of Political Prisoners (KAPATID) tied blue ribbons in front of the Supreme Court along Padre Faura Street in Manila last July 7 to demand for Nacino’s and her baby as well as 22 others political prisoners they said are vulnerable to infection with the virus.

‘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

Group fears mass contagion in prisons, slams OSG’s dismissal of temporary liberty petition

By Joseph Cuevas

Families of political prisoners expressed fear their loved ones may contract the coronavirus after different jails across the country reported detainees getting sick from the disease.

The Bureau of Corrections reported an additional 27 new cases of Covid-19 from the Correctional Institute for Women bringing the total case to 50. A 56 year-old inmate from Medium Security Compound of New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa died last April 23 at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Cebu City jails recorded the highest number of cases at 207 while the Quezon City Jail reported nine positive cases last week.

According to Kapatid, the group of families and friends of political prisoners, no lockdown or even quarantine measures at this stage can contain the outbreak of the disease in the country’s prisons the Philippine Red Cross said is 500% over-congested.

The group earlier warned the government that jails are safe against the virus and urged immediate and extensive testing of both inmates and personnel to stop contagion in prisons/

Kapatid, counsel slams OSG comment

Meanwhile, Kapatid lamented the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) comment to dismiss the petition filed by the group last April 8 asking the Supreme Court (SC) to free low-risk offenders from prisons on humanitarian grounds, including old and the sick prisoners.

In a statement, Kapatid said that OSG’s summary dismissal of their petition is “the height of callousness and disregard for human life.”

The group added that the OSG’s reply to the SC’s order to comment on the petition became a platform for attacking the Left instead of addressing the plight of the elderly and the sick, including a 21-year old prisoner afflicted with leprosy and a six-month pregnant woman.

This petition, while initiated by families of political prisoners, is meant to help all prisoners at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic they say is now invading prison facilities.

Atty. Maria Kristina Conti of the Public Interest Law Center told Kodao that the OSG’s comment to the petition maligned and red-tagged political prisoners.

Conti added that it’s because the OSG cannot deny that the petitioners are indeed vulnerable to the deadly virus and cannot promise detainees are safe, it resorted to attacking character and motives.

“Legally, the OSG failed to refute the application for equity relief in these extraordinary times. We hope that the Supreme Court sees through the government’s rhetoric and gas-lighting tactics, The virus is the enemy, not the people,” Conti said.

The PILC and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers are set to file a reply on Monday, April 27, to the comment filed by the OSG. #

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)