‘Release of political prisoners, a matter of justice’ – peace advocate

(Photo by M.Ramirez/Arkibong Bayan)
(Photo by M.Ramirez/Arkibong Bayan)

Gloria Almonte, wife of a political prisoner, and the other families of political prisoners and human rights advocates will launch a hunger strike starting tomorrow until Dec. 10 to demand the release of all political prisoners.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — With the death of Bernabe Ocasla in jail, families of political prisoners and human rights advocates called on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the injustice and release all political prisoners.

Ocasla, 66, died after his third cardiac arrest, Nov. 28. He spent nine years in prison on trumped-up murder charges.

In a press conference this morning, Dec. 2, Rey Claro Casambre, executive director of the Philippine Peace Center (PPC) and one of the political consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the release of political prisoners is “a matter of justice.” “In fact, in the case of ailing political prisoners, it’s a matter of life and death.”

There are over 400 political prisoners and at least 130 are suffering from various illnesses, according to human rights alliance Karapatan.

Casambre said the release of political prisoners is not a precondition to the continuation of peace talks between the government and the NDFP or to the forging of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. “It is an issue of compliance with previous agreements,” Casambre said.

Casambre was pertaining to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed in 1998 and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed in 1995. CARHRIHL upholds the Hernandez political doctrine which prohibits criminalisation of political dissent. Jasig, on the other hand, provides immunity and safety guarantees to all those involved in the peace talks.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, maintained that the government has time and again violated the CARHRIHL and the Hernandez political doctrine with the filing of common crimes against political dissenters. “The fabricated charges are often non-bailable, with the aim of making it impossible for the political prisoners to be released through the snail-paced justice system,” Palabay said.

Duterte’s promise

Besides his public pronouncements, Casambre said Duterte told the NDFP delegation in an Aug. 15 dialogue in Malacanang that he wanted to release more political prisoners.

“I told him that there are three NDFP consultants who were convicted on absolutely false charges and no evidence. And he agreed, saying, ‘I had been a prosecutor for many years and I know that these things happen. I will stop that policy and practice.’”

Casambre said that until now, NDFP consultants Eduardo Sarmiento and Leopoldo Caloza are still languishing at the National Bilibid Prison. http://bulatlat.com/main/2016/08/22/formal-talks-begin-500-political-prisoners-still-detained/

So far, only 19 political prisoners have been released in line with the peace talks, Palabay said. Most of the NDFP consultants were released on bail; their cases remain active in courts.

Gloria Almonte, wife of political prisoner Joel Almonte, called on Duterte to release immediately all political prisoners. “We do not want another political prisoner to die in jail,” she said. Joel has diabetes.

Almonte and the other families of political prisoners and human rights advocates will launch a hunger strike starting tomorrow until Dec. 10 to demand the release of all political prisoners.

Palabay said political prisoners in various jails will also stage different forms of protest. She called on jail authorities to respect the rights of political prisoners. (http://bulatlat.com)

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