Protestant bishops echo political detainees call for freedom

News Release, July 21, 2012 – Eight Bishops from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) expressed support to the ongoing hunger strike/fasting of political prisoners. In a statement, the Bishops urged Pres. Noynoy Aquino “to consider the plight of political detainees under his administration and their call for a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.”

The hunger strike/fasting which started last July 16 is on its fifth day. On July 19, some 18 political prisoners in Metro Manila, Agusan del Sur, Cebu and Tagum City heightened their action by going  on hunger strike to highlight the call for their release. Five hundred (500) inmates at the Compostela Valley Provincial Rehabilitation Center joined the political prisoners in sympathy. Political prisoners in 10 jails throughout the country have joined the hunger strike/fast.

The UCCP Bishops said they are “compelled to amplify” the on-going hunger strike of political prisoners in the “face of such callous dismissal by the Aquino Administration”, referring to the earlier pronouncement of Malacañang that “there are no political prisoners” in the country.

They also called for the release the 14 National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultants who are covered by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and NDF Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).   “As Church advocates committed to the peace process, we view such action as a significant step in bringing forward and revitalizing the GPH-NDFP peace talks.”

In a separate statement, NDF peace consultant Ramon Patriarca criticized the Aquino government because “it has not done enough to comply with its commitments in the many bilateral agreements it forged with the NDF.  One cannot but suspect that the June 15 Oslo initiative was meant only as another ‘pogi point’ for the president’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) or, as a mere posturing preparatory to ending altogether the GPH-NDF peace negotiations consistent with his Oplan Bayanihan counter-revolutionary program.” Patriarca is a political prisoner at the Camp Lapu-Lapu, AFP Central Command headquarters in Lahug, Cebu City. He is among the political prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The UCCP Bishops who signed the statement of support were: Bishops Reuel Norman O. Marigza, General Secretary of the UCCP, Elorde M. Sambat, North Luzon Jurisdictional Area, Roel P. Mendoza, Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area, Arturo R. Asi, South Luzon Jurisdictional Area, Jaime M. Moriles, West Visayas Juridictional Area, Dulce Pia-Rose, East Visayas Jurisdictional Area, Melzar D. Labuntog, Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area, Modesto D. Villasanta, Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area. ###

Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Spokesperson, 0917-5003879
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.

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