December 3: International Solidarity Day with Political Prisoners
On the International Solidarity Day with Political Prisoners, the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), and other human rights organizations under the umbrella of the KARAPATAN human rights alliance, held a protest march from the Department of Justice to the gates of Malacañang at Mendiola Bridge, Manila. They reiterated their call on the BS Aquino government to release political prisoners unconditionally.
This administration, like the martial law regime of former President Marcos, has been trying to hide the fact that it is committing political persecution against political dissenters. It said that there are no political prisoners in the country because all the political prisoners are charged with common crimes effectively hiding the political nature of the cases.
And even if there is an anti-torture law, majority, if not all, political prisoners have been tortured.
Political prisoners are now mixed with criminal elements in cramped, dingy detention cells, where congestion is horribly posing a great danger to the health of inmates in general. Medical facilities are sorely inadequate for sick patients, and some of the inmates, including political prisoners, just die. This is what happened to Mr. Alison Alcantara, a convicted political prisoner in the New Bilibid Prisons who died of acquired pneumonia in September of this year.
SELDA Chairperson Marie Hilao Enriquez also visited the Taculing BJMP District Jail in Bacolod City and found out that 626 inmates are being housed in a compound fit for only 200. In one room, 57 inmates are packed in a space good for only 20 people. Karapatan and SELDA service eight political prisoners in this jail.
Enriquez also denounces the security force’s penchant for filing fabricated charges against political prisoners so that these people vocal in their criticisms against government policies can be silenced and be prevented from doing his/her work as human rights defender. Also, the state security forces have been into the habit of transferring political prisoners from one detention place to another without properly informing the political prisoners and their lawyers; and the transfers are usually done after a hearing of the political prisoner’s case. We deplore this practice and request that concerned agencies investigate this practice.
Based on Karapatan’s documentation as of August 2013, there are at present, 449 political prisoners all over the country, 154 of whom were arrested under the BS Aquino government. 35 of them are women; there are 48 that are sickly and 28 are elderly.
“The BS Aquino government should release the sick and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds,” Enriquez said.
Meanwhile, convicted political prisoners who are serving their sentences and those who are still waiting for the resolution of their cases came out with messages of solidarity.
“Kaming mga kabataang bilanggong pulitikal sa Special Intensive Care Area (SICA), Camp Bagong Diwa, ay nakikiisa sa paggunita sa Pandaigdigang Araw ng mga Bilanggong Pulitikal ngayong 3 Disyembre,” (We, youth political prisoners of the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA), Camp Bagong Diwa, are one with peoples’ organizations in the commemoration of the International Solidarity Day with Political Prisoners this 3 December.) the youth political prisoners said in their statement.
“Kasabay nito, mariing kinokundena namin ang kasalukuyang naghaharing rehimen,” (At the same time, we vehemently condemn the current regime) they said further.
The political prisoners falsely convicted and serving their sentence at the Medium Security of the New Bilibid Prisons condemned BS Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan saying it is a, “tahasang pagsupil at pagkitil sa mga karapatan ng mga mamamayan, at malinaw lamang ito ay malaking paglabag.” (outright repression and curtailment of people’s rights, and it is a gross violation)
Almost all of the political prisoners’ statements expressed their dismay on the BS Aquino government’s inutility in responding to the destruction wrought by super typhoon Yolanda on our kababayans in Eastern Visayas. “Malaki ang naging pinsala at marami ang mga namamatay subalit walang kagyat na plano at aksyon at mga alternatibong paraan ang gobyerno para maagapan ang mga nasalantahan ng bagyong Yolanda,” (there were huge damages, many died while [the government] does not have any immediate plan nor alternative ways to salvage those victims of Yolanda) the political prisoners of NBP-Medium said.
Meanwhile, the women political prisoners of Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City said, “Sa gitna ng kagipitan at matinding pangangailangan ng mamamayan, pinanatili nito ang kabagalan at patumpik- tumpik na pagresponde at nagawa pangunahin ang pamumulitika para sa pansariling kapakinabangan.” (In the middle of this crisis and dire needs of the people, [the government] remained slow and undecisive in responding while it prioritized his politicking for their own benefit).
“While these political prisoners are so concerned about their kababayans outside the premises of the prison walls, they are suffering from inhumane prison conditions. They are in congested cells and are given barely edible, if not enough food rations,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Selda said.
“Many are also suffering from sickness and are already in their senior years,” Enriquez continued.
Thus, the public must know that there are still political prisoners under this administration who has been deceiving the public that it is not committing political persecution. We call on the public, thus, to remeber the political prisoners and join the call for their immediate, unconditional release NOW!
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) is an organization of former political prisoners in the Philippines. Founded on December 4, 1984, SELDA was initiated by newly-released political prisoners of the martial law period. SELDA’s primary task is to work for the release of all political prisoners and to see to it that humane treatment of those who are still in detention are complied with by the Philippine authorities. SELDA advocates justice for current and former political prisoners. It calls for the mobilisation of resources in support of political prisoners, former detainees and their families. It carries out legislative advocacy for the indemnification and rehabilitation of political prisoners. SELDA goes into partnership and builds solidarity with concerned individuals and groups for the freedom and welfare of political prisoners and all victims of tyranny.
National Coordinator, SELDA
SELDA National Office:
2/F, Erythrina Building,
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Barangay Central District, Diliman
Quezon City 1101, Philippines
Email: [email protected], [email protected]