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    Bishops urge Aquino to release striking political prisoners

    By Philip C. Tubeza, Philippine Daily Inquirer

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Saturday urged President Benigno Aquino III to free political prisoners who have been on a hunger strike for the past three weeks in different prisons in the country.

    In a statement, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace, urged Mr. Aquino to grant executive clemency to the prisoners, who were linked to the communist insurgency.

    “We appeal to the President to grant executive clemency to political detainees who have already served long and completely unjust sentences. May he accede to the humanitarian character of this appeal and make progress toward the full respect for human rights in the Philippines,” Pabillo said.

    “The National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace expresses deep concern over the condition of the political detainees, especially those on hunger strike. Three weeks without food will have surely and rapidly deteriorated their condition. We wish to solicit the immediate action of the government to prevent unnecessary deaths,” he said.

    Synchronized hunger strike

    Pabillo said “hundreds” of political detainees around the country began a synchronized hunger strike on July 25 to protest the “government’s inadequate agenda on human rights protection and its seeming disregard of the conditions of political prisoners.”

    “President Aquino abstractedly speaks about improvements in the human rights situation in the country. The call for a clear human rights framework by the political detainees is a judicious opportunity for him to demonstrate his sincerity in upholding peace and national reconciliation,” Pabillo said.

    “Meanwhile, we express solidarity with the struggle of our political prisoners. We wish to assure them that the Church, as it has always done in the past, will always defend human rights and the sacredness of life as stated in the Gospel,” he added.

    “We call on the judiciary to expedite the process of review of the detainees’ cases and grant the immediate and unconditional release of those whose arrests are deemed to be politically motivated,” he added.

    Pabillo also denounced the “underhanded conduct of law enforcement agencies that oftentimes criminalize the legitimate struggle of some groups and individuals.”#

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