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.
“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)