GRP’s non-release of political prisoners, perpetuation of injustice

“While it is true that President Rodrigo Duterte has effected the temporary release of nineteen (19) political prisoners in line with the GRP-NDFP peacetalks, the non-release of ALL political prisoners is a continuing violation of their rights and a perpetuation of the injustice against them promoted by a legal and justice system that has repeatedly failed them,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, in response to statements of  President Rodrigo Duterte and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Dureza on the release of political prisoners. 
 
 
“Lest the GRP’s use of the political prisoners as trump cards in the peace process will be seen as its vile attempt to set the stage to renege on its commitments and obligations, they should release all of them now. Sec. Dureza said that Pres. Duterte has walked the “extra mile” on the peace process, unlike past administrations which didn’t even move an inch to comply with their commitments and obligations. Sadly, Secretary Jesus Dureza and the GRP can’t keep up with the pace and thus seems to be stalling both parties’ peace efforts,” Palabay added.

Karapatan reiterated that the GRP under Duterte upheld all previously signed agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which explicitly states the obligation of the GRP to uphold the rights of citizens against unwarranted and unjustified arrest and detention and to correct the injustice against them. 

“Most of the members of the GRP were also members of the GRP panels in the previous administrations. They should not feign ignorance now that there are many available modes of release utilised in the past regimes in accordnace to the GRP legal and judicial  processes to facilitate the immediate release of the political prisoners. They should stop dragging their feet in effecting the releases,” Palabay stated. 

Palabay also questioned Dureza’s reference to ‘undue public pressure on the government’ on the said releases. “Is there nothing urgent on the release of dying, sick and elderly political prisoners? Or was the death of Bernabe Ocasla that was ‘undue’? The clock is ticking for the dying, sick and elderly political prisoners. So while the GRP is walking at its own pace, the political prisoners are running out of time,” Palabay said. 

“If it’s the fasting of the political prisoners, their relatives and peace advocates is considered the ‘undue pressure on the government,’ we remind Sec. Dureza that every mass action, in all its forms are well within the bounds of the rights of citizens to demonstrate. Dureza has to understand that we will not sit down and wait for his office to do something. As long as there are political prisoners, we will continue to call for their release, in every way possible,” Palabay said. 

“We also remind Pres. Duterte and Sec. Dureza that peace efforts, specifically on the release of political prisoners, are not a charity cases. Hindi ito utang na loob ng mga political prisoners. It is an immediate obligation – to render justice to the political prisoners by releasing them. So while Pres. Duterte has taken bold steps to pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, these steps won’t become significant if his people are taking their sweet time,” Palabay said. 

“It should be the political prisoners and their relatives who should be appalled for the delays. Each delay means an extra day of suffering in prison. And lives have already lost,” Palabay concluded. ###
 

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