Ailing, elderly political prisoner died while under hospital arrest

Press Statement | September 13, 2017
Marcos Aggalao, a 74-year-old political prisoner in Cordillera, died on the evening of September 12, 2017, while on hospital arrest. Aggalao was arrested on September 10, 2016 by combined elements of the police and the military in Gawaan, Balbalan, Kalinga. He was already suffering from pneumonia, dementia and hypertension during the time of his arrest. The 74-year-old suffered a stroke while in detention on July 2017 which paralyzed half of his body. Through the efforts of his lawyers, family, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel, he was placed under hospital arrest.
Marcos Aggalao 

Aggalao is the second political prisoner who died in detention under the Duterte regime. On November 2016, Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a peasant organizer detained in Metro Manila City Jail also died after being in a coma for three days and subsequently suffering a heart attack. He had already been suffering from hypertension and rheumatic heart disease. Ocasla’s name was placed in the list of political prisoners prioritized for humanitarian release in line with the GRP-NDFP peace talks. 

"Your so-called ‘bargaining chips’ are dying, Mr. Presidents. Your cheap tricks to turn political prisoners into trump cards and deny them the freedom they deserve have cost them their lives. Two political prisoners have already died. It is not only their illness that have caused their deaths, but this government’s injustice and inaction. For every political prisoner who dies, ultimately, the GRP is accountable," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the death of Aggalao.

Aggalao, detained at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Tabuk, Kalinga before being transferred to the hospital, had eight trumped-up charges filed against him. Two of his cases in Kalinga had already been dismissed and his lawyer and paralegals were working to seek his release on bail. Aggalao died at 8:30 last night, September 12.

Palabay said that "this situation is enraging. It was the Duterte administration who floated the idea of providing amnesty for political prisoners; It was the GRP who signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which puts them under obligation to release political prisoners; It is them who is under obligation and yet it is also the GRP who continues with false promises and loose change. For the millionth time, we say that the release of political prisoners is an issue of justice."

As of August 31, 2017, Karapatan has recorded the number of political prisoners at 430, 85 of them arrested during the Duterte administration. "Duterte has been giving piecemeal responses to the clamor to release political prisoners. With martial law in Mindanao and the continuing implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, the Duterte regime has steadily been adding to the number of political prisoners in the country, perpetrating the same injustice mastered by his predecessors to suppress genuine opposition," Palabay further said. 

"Before this administration indirectly kills all 430 political prisoners by way of inhuman prison conditions and deteriorating health, we demand the release of all political prisoners, especially the sick and elderly. Likewise, the political repression of individuals and activists, heightened alongside the implementation of martial rule and Oplan Kapayapaan, should immediately stop. How many more political prisoners will have to die before the GRP acts? With every day of inaction, the Duterte regime is affirming that we cannot expect any form of justice from such a system," concluded Palabay.

Reference:  Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831 
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

*Photos of Marcos Aggalao by Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan