Young political prisoner regains freedom ‘with a smile’

Ge-Ann Perez, 24, was all smiles when she stepped out of a 4-year political imprisonment at the Female Dormitory of the Taguig City Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa last Friday night, June 30.

She was carrying all her jail-acquired possessions in two small shoulder bags, a small plastic box and a plastic bag containing what appears to be a basil plant that she must have taken care of in prison.

But getting out of jail was not as smooth for Ge-Ann. She was mistakenly given a dark red shirt to wear when she stepped out of the gate, a prohibited color if she is to be allowed exit through Camp Bagong Diwa’s many gates to her freedom. So she was asked to change into a stripped black and white before being handed her Certificate of Discharge by the jail guards.

Ge-Ann Perez (center, in striped shirt) holding her Certificate of Discharge with Kapatid well-wishers and a jail guard. [Kapatid photo]

Ge-Ann was just 20 when she was arrested together with National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Frank Fernandez and wife Cleofe Lagtapon on March 24, 2019 in Liliw, Laguna.

Ailing with Hansen’s disease, she was under medical treatment while staying with Fernandez and Lagtapon in the town’s famed cool springs and clean air. The elderly couple are themselves ailing with various grave lung and heart ailments and Ge-Ann was their caretaker.

When arrested, they were first taken to a hospital for a medical check-up and later taken back to the house where they were staying for photo documentation of their arrest. What greeted them were a cache of guns and explosives Ge-Ann said she knew nothing about.

Last Thursday, a Taguig court convicted Fernandez and Lagtapon of illegal possession of firearms while Ge-Ann was judged innocent, a victim of incidental arrest.

Perez (left) arriving at a court trial with Frank Fernandez (center) and Cleofe Lagtapon (right). [Kapatid photo]

Her mother Erlinda said in a 2020 video documentary that Ge-Ann suffered discrimination from her jail guards and fellow inmate because of her ailment. She was one of 22 petitioners in Kapatid’s April 2020 Supreme Court petition for the humanitarian releases of the medically vulnerable elderly and very sick prisoners.

The petition was remanded to the lower courts, effectively stonewalling its course. Ge-Ann had to suffer four long-years of trial to regain her freedom.

On Friday night, Ge-ann’s release was facilitated by her lawyer, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer’s Jun Oliva. Also there were members of political prisoner support group Kapatid who just came out of a meeting with the jail warden. Kapatid said Ge-Ann was greeted by applause and not a few tears.

Perez with Kapatid well-wishers [Kapatid photo]

According to Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim, Ge-ann plans to go for her long-delayed checkup at the Philippine General Hospital before going back home to her family in Cebu. She will be assisted by the International Committee of the Red Cross in her travel back to Visayas.

Kapatid said Ge-Ann hopes to resume her studies and go to college to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a teacher. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)