Bishop renews call for release of elderly prisoner and son

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza appealed for pardon and parole for an elderly prisoner and her son who he describes as simple poor farmers from his diocese.

In a public petition, the prelate said 75-year old Moreta Alegre should be released due to her advanced age and physical ailments, including hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Moreta and her son Selman had been in his heart for quite some time, the prelate said, adding that after 16 years in prison, both mother and son can be offered pardon and parole

He recalled that Moreta’s husband and Selman’s father Jesus who had been arrested with them has died in prison on June 13, 2021 of cardiac arrest. Jesus was 75 years old.

The Alegres are active members of San Carlos Diocese’s basic ecclesial community called Gagmay’ng Kristohanong Katilingban, the prelate said.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

Bishop Alminaza said the Alegres were displacement victims from their 15-hectare farmland by a landlord.

“They were convicted of killing the bodyguard of a local landlord, who subsequently claimed the land that had been tilled by the Alegre family. The Alegre family led a simple life, fishing and selling copra and tuba (native wine) as the produce of their toil,” Alminaza said.

“[T]heir efforts to secure papers that the land was theirs turned futile, once they were accused of murder. Jesus, Moreta, and Salem have maintained that they did not kill the landlord’s bodyguard; the landlord testified against them, but even the wife of the bodyguard did not persist in pursuing their prosecution,” he added.

The Bishop cited Pope Francis’s plea on January 19 that prisoners should never be deprived of hope.

“We risk being imprisoned in a justice that doesn’t allow one to easily get back up again and confuses redemption with punishment,” Alminaza quoted the Pontiff as saying last Wednesday in his regular public address at the Vatican.

Alminaza said he prays that that like others with more means, Moreta and Selman would be expediently granted release in the hope that the country’s justice system works and cares for the poor.

In June 2021, Alminaza has asked President Rodrigo Duterte and justice secretary Menardo Guevarra to grant clemency to both mother and son or for the review of their conviction.

READ: Bishop seeks clemency for mother-son political prisoners

“Moreta should be allowed to spend her remaining days loving her grandchildren and reconnecting with her children. This poor family has been separated for so long, as Jesus, Moreta, and Salem were detained in Manila jails while the rest of the family remained in Negros,” the prelate said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Maaari na silang patayin?’

“Sabi ni DAR secretary Castriciones, ‘Sila pong namatay na siyam, hindi sila ang may-ari ng lupa at ng hacienda.’ Ang ibig sabihin ba nito ay maaari na silang patayin?”–Rita Baua, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

NDFP-Negros identifies Sagay massacre gunmen

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Negros Island identified four suspects in the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City last October 20.

In a statement, NDFP-Negros spokesperson Frank Fernandez said the killers behind the massacre were Vito Lotrago, Eduardo Linugon, Rexi Robles and a certain Rako, former members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) and active members of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA).

Fernandez said the Roselyn Pelle Command of the New People’s Army (NPA)-Northern Negros Front conducted an exhaustive investigation into the incident and identified the four as the perpetrators.

The NDFP official said the gunmen are under the employ of local politicians, such as the Marañons, specifically Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Jr. and Sagay City mayor Alfredo III.

“It is common knowledge that for decades the Marañon family and their kin (the Tolentinos, Sumbincos, Lumaynos, Zarosas, Javelosas, Jaojocos and Cuevas) have maintained and expanded their land holdings in Sagay City and neighboring towns and cities using violence and brutality by conniving with the AFP/PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines/Philippine National Police) and employing armed mercenaries like the RPA and SCAA,” Fernandez said.

“I know for a fact that, for the right price, P2,000 or thereabouts, SCAA elements are willing to kill anyone,” he added.

Fernandez, a former priest, is a long-time leader of the revolutionary groups in the island.

Fernandez said the elder Marañon is the “kingpin of big despotic landlords in the province” who colludes with the AFP [and] PNP and other government agencies to downplay the Sagay massacre.

“Marañon continues his vain attempts to divert the public from the real issues of land monopoly, tyranny and exploitation,” he said.

The Marañons and the PNP have yet to reply to Fernandez’s statement.

Earlier, the local police filed multiple murder charges against two National Federation of Sugar Workers officials, alleging Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo recruited the victims into their organization and later killed them as part of the destabilization plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Fernandez said the police “script” stinks of deceit and ill motives that is “evidently demented.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)