“Political prisoners are a symbol of unpeace and injustice. They must be freed.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Families and friends of political prisoners gathered and re-launched Kapatid, today, June 15 at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Fides Lim, wife of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, said Kapatid aims to work for the release of all political prisoners, fight for their welfare and gather the broadest support for political prisoners.
Kapatid was originally formed in 1978 as a response to the crackdown of political activists during Martial Law. Today, the organization is revived with more than 500 political prisoners under the Duterte administration.
“We smile in front of you but our hearts are in anguish,” Lim said.
Her husband was arrested along with elderly couple Alberto and Virginia Villamor on Nov. 7, 2018 in barangay San Bartolome, Novaliches, Quezon City. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and are now detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Speaking for other relatives of political prisoners, Lim said, “Because we love, we know how to fight.”
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Former Senator Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada, in his speech, said, “Political prisoners are a symbol of unpeace and injustice. They must be freed.”
Kapatid is calling on the government to release immediately those who are sick and those who have been in prison for so long on humanitarian grounds.
Lim cited Ge-Ann Perez, who suffers from leprosy, and Juanito Itaas, the longest detained political prisoner who has been falsely convicted of common crimes.
She said that under the Duterte administration, four political prisoners have already died.
Kapatid also said that there are a number of activist couples who have been arrested and detained. The group is calling for the release of one of each couple to be able to attend to the needs of their families.
One such couple is Oliver and Rowena Rosales. Their daughter, Kala, 26 and Kai, 15, have been left to fend for themselves.
Carryover from Martial Law
Tañada noted that the policy of criminalizing political dissent is a carryover from the Marcos dictatorship.
Political prisoners are charged with common crimes in an attempt to hide the political nature of their cases, according to Edre Olalia, chairperson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). Such practice, Olalia said, violates the Hernandez political doctrine, which prohibits the criminalization of political dissent.
CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon also lamented that even after the fall of dictatorship, the phenomenon of political prisoners has continued.
“This is not appropriate for any society that claims to be free and democratic,” Gascon said in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, who also handles cases of political prisoners, pointed out that the arrest and detention of political dissenters forms part of the “waves of repression under the Duterte administration.”
Diokno said, “The law itself is being used as an instrument of repression.”
Broadest alliance needed
Diokno said that the situation calls for the broadest possible unity.
“Now is the time to unite and take a stand together,” he said.
For her part, Carol Araullo, chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), welcomed the re-launch of Kapatid. She said that relatives, friends and allies should be tapped to support the campaign for the release of political prisoners.
Lim said Kapatid is preparing for many activities in the coming months.
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