October 02, 2014     Philippines
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February 8, 2013
Release sick, elderly political prisoners, Aquino urged

“We welcome the release of Acosta, finally, after two years of detention. What remains true is that no person should be held in detention, charged with trumped-up cases, and stripped of his rights because of his political beliefs. We demand the release of all sick and elderly political prisoners.” – Selda

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA –Moreta Alegre, 65, longs for the sea and the food it brings.

Moreta, a native of Old Sagay village, Sagay, Negros Occidental, has been imprisoned at the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) more than two years and before that, was detained at the detention facility in Sagay for five years.

In an interview with Bulatlat.com sometime in 2011, Moreta said she, her husband, Jesus, and their son, Selman, were convicted of murder in 2007 for the death of someone they did not know.

Moreta’s family relied mainly on fishing for livelihood. To augment their income, they also planted palay and coconut. When a rich family wanted to convert the coastal area into a beach resort, they protested. Six members of the family had been charged with murder, four of them were convicted. One of her sons has evaded arrest.

Moreta suffers from arthritis, hypertension and a heart ailment. Jesus, 67, who is detained at the National Bilibid Prison, also has hypertension. The two are among the 45 political prisoners who are sick and also among the 12 elderly political prisoners, according to Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto(Selda).

Following the release of poet Ericson Acosta, Selda called on the Aquino administration to free elderly and sick political prisoners. Acosta was detained for two years for charges of illegal possession of explosives. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently ordered the dismissal of the case, finding no probable cause.

There are 430 political prisoners in different jails nationwide, according to Selda. Of this figure, 148 of them were arrested and detained under the Aquino administration.

“We welcome the release of Acosta, finally, after two years of detention. What remains true is that no person should be held in detention, charged with trumped-up cases, and stripped of his rights because of his political beliefs. We demand the release of all sick and elderly political prisoners,” Angie Ipong, Selda secretary general, said.

Ipong said they should be released on humanitarian grounds.

Ipong, a former political prisoner herself, was arrested at the age of 60. She was released six years after criminal charges filed against her were dismissed for lack of evidence.

“Most of the time, sick political prisoners are not given proper medical attention because of the lack of facilities in prison hospitals and lack of budget to provide health services to prisoners. To a certain extent, their being political prisoners is even used as flimsy excuse to be deprived of medical treatment,” Ipong said.

“Cramped and poorly ventilated prison cells, poor water supply and inadequate food and nutrition worsen the state of health of political prisoners who suffer from various ailments,” Ipong said.

Ipong cited the case of Rolando Pañamogan, 47, who suffers from diabetes, hyperthyroidism and asthma. Pañamogan has been admitted to the NBP Hospital a number of times.

Detained at the New Bilibid Prisons Maximum Security Compound, Pañamogan was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army and was convicted of murder and frustrated murder.

“We call on all those who supported the campaign to release Acosta to support the campaign to free all political prisoners. More political prisoners are detained for crimes they did not commit. We should make the Aquino government accountable for allowing such rights violations to continue,” Ipong said. (http://bulatlat.com)

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