Today, September 13, former political prisoners, relatives and friends of political prisoners as well as members of human rights organizations hold a sympathy fast in front of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the PNP Custodial Center where several of the political prisoners are detained, to reiterate their call to the national government to free all the political prisoners all over the country. Taking off from PNoy’s “marching orders” to the new PNP chief not to let bosses down, Karapatan expressed frustration over the government’s inaction to release political prisoners who are unjustly detained because of fabricated charges.
“We don’t understand what the government is waiting for when clearly all the political prisoners especially the sick, the elderly, the women and those covered by the JASIG should have been released earlier. The political prisoners are falsely accused of crimes they have not committed, contrary to PNoy’s continued mantra that his government is for human rights,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairperson. Karapatan bewails the fact that political prisoners who are incarcerated because of their political beliefs are falsely charged with common crimes to hide the government’s political persecution of those it labels as “enemies of the state.” This is a very clear violation of the political prisoners’ rights and to correct this transgression, it would do well for the government to release them.
Among the Karapatan list of political prisoners are innocent civilians in Moro/Muslim areas, who were arrested, detained and tortured in the conduct of the government’s so-called anti-terrorism campaign. They are invariably presented to the public as members or supporters of what are labeled as terrorist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaiah Islamiah (JI). Many are intentional victims of mistaken identity, fake ransom claims and have been made as sacrificial lambs in exchange for more “anti-terrorist” U.S. aid.
Today, Karapatan joins members of SELDA and the families of political prisoners in holding a sympathy fast to call on the PNoy government to release the 360 political prisoners (as of 30 August 2011). The sympathy fast coincides with various jail protest activities from September 13 to 21, the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law.
The fasting of political prisoners and their supporters from September 13-21 is the second for this year. The first was held in July in time for the President’s second SONA. “Political prisoners and people’s organizations nationwide have carried out a series of actions starting this year to call for a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty but PNoy remains deaf,” said Hilao-Enriquez. “More than one year is too long a wait for those who were wronged and for those who seek justice. He should know this; he and his family were victims of political persecution during martial law.”
Karapatan stressed that the President is capable of releasing political prisoners as he did when he released the members of Magdalo who rebelled against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. All he has to have is the political will to release those who are wrongly imprisoned.