Relatives, advocates call for the release of political prisoners, dismissal of trumped-up charges

On December 3, declared as the International Day of Political Prisoners, relatives and advocates led by Karapatan marched to Mendiola called for the release of political prisoners and the dismissal of trumped-up charges against them. As of November 2018, Karapatan’s figures noted that the number of political prisoners has climbed to 540 – 203 of which were arrested under the Duterte regime. Out of the 540, 120 are sickly, 40 are elderly, 56 are women and 7 are peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor said that “political prisoners will always be proof of this corrupt and unjust system, and the double standard in which the “rule of law” inevitably translates to the rule of rulers. It is so easy for the government to subvert the law and use it as a tool for political persecution – in connivance with security forces and even the courts. Recent cases of illegal arrests are evident of the police and military’s continued use of planted evidence, twisted ploys, and ridiculous narratives to jail rights activists and progressive leaders of organizations and communities.”

Clamor cited the following cases: the illegal arrest of NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad, 68, and Virginia and Alberto Villamor, 65 and 62 years old, respectively. Ladlad, along with the Villamor couple, was arrested on November 8, 2018, for trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives; and the illegal arrest of peace consultant Adelberto Silva, 71, organic farmer Ediesel Legaspi, 60, union organizer Ireneo Atadero, 55, Gabriela Women’s Party consultant Hedda Calderon, 63, and their driver Julio Lusania, 53, on October 16, 2018. The 5 were charged also charged with trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“The trend is that the AFP and PNP is becoming adept at filing trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which is why they have built expertise in planting evidence and giving perjured testimonies. Political prisoners languish in jail for years because the vindictive Duterte regime has closed its doors for the peace talks, and the justice system works at snail-pace. The increase of political prisoners in the country indicates how aggressive the Duterte regime has become in persecuting its critics, utilizing agencies and other under-handed maneuvers to silence dissent,” added Clamor, noting that illegal arrests have become more rampant after the creation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) in October 2017.

Kalayaan Rosales, daughter of political prisoners Oliver and Rowena Rosales who were illegally arrested on August 11, 2018 for trumped-up charges of murder, said that “this is the first Christmas our family will be spending with my parents in jail. They are former organizers in a union for government employees. This is not a crime; activism is not a crime. My parents taught me to speak out against injustices, even if the situation repeatedly attempts to mute your voice. I am proud of my parents, and their arrest speaks more about this regime’s fascism than anything else.” 

“We reiterate that political prisoners should be immediately released on just and humanitarian grounds. Their release is an issue of justice. It is enraging how convicted criminals like Imelda Marcos and Juan Ponce Enrile can gloss over the laws and evade imprisonment despite orchestrating the murder and torture of thousands by citing humanitarian consideration and heavily depending on their money and influence, while political prisoners – individuals mostly from the poor sectors in society and who dedicated their lives for the oppressed – are unjustly jailed. The Duterte regime should release all political prisoners and resume peace negotiations with the NDFP. If it continues along the track of militarism, it has failed the Filipino people and has shamelessly become the vanguard for this corrupt and repressive system,” concluded Clamor.