Ailing, elderly political prisoner should be immediately released - Karapatan

On the morning of September 10, 2016, Marcos Aggalao was arrested by combined elements of the police and the military in Gawaan, Balbalan, Kalinga. During the time of his arrest, the 74-year-old is already  suffering from pneumonia, dementia and hypertension. He was later brought to the Kalinga Police Provincial office before being committed at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Tabuk, Kalinga. Eight (8) trumped-up charges were filed against Aggalao.

 (Photo: Recent picture of Marcos Aggalao at BJMP-Tabuk from the Cordillera  Human Rights Alliance - Karapatan)

The first week of July 2017, Aggalao suffered from a stroke while in detention. The stroke paralyzed half of his body. He was briefly brought to the hospital for medical attention but was returned to BJMP Tabuk. Family and community members helped raise funds for Aggalao’s immediate release, seeing it is best for him to be under the care of his family. He was released after posting bail amounting to P100,000 but was again returned to detention because of other trumped-up cases filed against him in Baguio City; he would need another P300,000.

"There is no reason for Aggalao to remain in jail. This callousness of this government is infuriating, opting to release and hand out favors to the guilty and the rich, while condemning political prisoners to rot in detention. On July 26, 2017, the jail warden even took the initiative to write to Baguio City Judge Emmanuel Rasing to attest their lack of capacity to care for Aggalao. His condition is deteriorating and he should be released based on just and humanitarian considerations," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Currently, his lawyers are seeking remedies for him to be released on a lower bail and on recognizance.

Palabay added that "the Philippine government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and is under obligation to release political prisoners, especially those under humanitarian considerations. We will never tire to repeat that this is an issue of justice. Let Aggalao’s family care for him."

Karapatan’s Secretary General reiterated that jail conditions have been a major factor in the deterioration of the health of political prisoners. Just last November 2016, peasant organizer Bernabe Ocalsa died after suffering a coma and heart attack due to harsh jail conditions and persisting heart problems.

"It does not help that the Duterte administration keeps adding to the list of political prisoners. As of June 2017, 57 political prisoners were already arrested under the Duterte regime," Palabay said. Just last August 2, 2017, another community organizer was arrested in Quezon, Bukidnon. According to initial reports by Karapatan - Northern Mindanao, Ruel Cololot, an Anakpawis member in the area, and his companion were arrested. The two are currently in the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

"We continue the call for the immediate release of ALL political prisoners. Likewise, militarist and fascist policies that continue to target individuals and activists under the label of ‘enemies of the State’ should be scrapped. The US-Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and the continuing implementation of martial law has only aggravated the deteriorating rights situation in the country, further curtailing human rights and criminalizing dissent," concluded Palabay.