Detention of peace consultant at Camp Karingal reveals degrading prison conditions

Fides Lim, wife of detained National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultant continues to decry the illegal arrest and detention of her 69-year-old husband Vicente Ladlad at Camp Karingal, simultaneously disclosing the poor prison conditions that her husband and other detainees are made to endure. Ladlad was arrested on November 8, 2018, along with couple Alberto Villamor, 64, and Virginia Villamor, 67. The three were charged with trumped-up non-bailable cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. 
 
In an emergency bulletin posted by Fides Lim on her Facebook account, she relayed how 38 male detainees are cramped in a prison cell measuring around 4x5 meters. Given the number of people and the capacity of the prison cell, only around 20 prisoners can lie down at a time. 

“They have to sleep on their side to fit in more sleeping bodies into that cramped floor space. In between them, others have to stand up or sit down. To relieve the congestion during nighttime, sometimes ten prisoners are allowed to sleep at the office area outside the prison cell. Cramped as it is, the “main” floor area of the prison cell is reserved as sleeping space primarily for those who personally contribute for weekly food expenses since there are no food rations for the prisoners,” narrated Lim.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay mentioned how the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners have become mere ink on paper. “Many people are getting sick, and those already suffering with ailments have seen their health on a steep decline. Most especially for political prisoners, prison conditions in the country add to the injustice of being jailed for trumped-up charges,” Palabay said, adding that Vic Ladlad suffers from emphysema and has a heart condition, while Alberto Villamor is a diabetic who is recovering from a recent stroke last July 2018. Meanwhile, Virginia Villamor has a fractured hip and hypertension.

Fides Lim emphasized that the charges against her husband and the Villamors are “nothing but lies.” She added that “not one of those grenades nor firearms has even a speck, a smudge, a shadow of Vic's fingerprints nor of Virginia's and Alberto's because they were ALL PLANTED to keep them in indefinite detention on non-bailable charges.” 

As of September 2018, Karapatan’s figures show that out of the 517 political prisoners in the country, 115 are sickly and 40 are elderly. Political prisoners comprise of activists, peasants, workers, indigenous leaders and organizers, and many others from marginalized sectors who have been criminalized for their respective advocacies and continuing struggle against the government’s anti-people policies. 

“Indeed, humane treatment in this government is only reserved for the rich and powerful, exemplified by the likes of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Janet Napoles, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada and the more recent addition to this line of convicted criminals, Imelda Marcos. This double standard permeates every aspect of the justice system, but becomes more glaring in terms of prison conditions,” added Palabay.

Fides Lim called for the government to (1) stop reprisal actions being committed against Vic Ladlad; (2) secure proper medical attention and treatment for Vic and for Alberto and Virginia Villamor; (3) transfer them to safer and better detention quarters. In this regard, human rights lawyers have filed a motion before the Quezon City Office of the City Prosecutor and Manila RTC Branch 32 to immediately transfer them to the Metro Manila District Jail 4 (formerly known as SICA-1) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, where other political prisoners are being held.