Political prisoners (PPs) are those who are arrested, detained and imprisoned for acts in furtherance of their political beliefs. As a consequence, they are arbitrarily denied their liberty and due process of law. They may be charged with political offenses such as rebellion, sedition and variations thereof.

But more often than not, they are charged with criminal offenses in an effort to deny the political nature of their alleged offenses and to stigmatize them as plain criminals guilty of the most heinous crimes. Political prisoners are slapped with murder, multiple murder, frustrated murder, arson, kidnapping, robbery-in-band, illegal possession of firearms and others. These are mostly non-bailable offenses meant to keep the PPs incarcerated while court hearings proceeded at snail’s pace.

There are a total of 360 political prisoners (PPs) reported to Karapatan as of August 31, 2011. The vast majority were arrested under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, they being among the most determined in opposing the corrupt, repressive and puppet Arroyo regime. There are 27 who were arrested before Arroyo’s time and 77 under Benigno Aquino III.
Among them, there are 11 elderly political prisoners and 28 sick ones who should be expeditiously released on humanitarian and just grounds.

Some of them are as follows:
Jesus Alegre (who will be 67 years old in December), Moreta Alegre, 65, and son Selman Alegre, 37, all from Sagay Negros Occidental, were simple folk and farmers, before they were illegally arrested and incarcerated. Moreta is illiterate while Jesus could write his name but barely could read and write. They are a family who had been languishing in prison for 7 years. They spent four years at the Sagay Prison in Negros Occidental and three years now at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa (Jesus and Selman) and at the Correctional Institution for Women (Moreta). They were arrested because they were accused in the murder of an associate of a certain Avelino Gaspar, a landlord in the area who started grabbing their land. They fought to stay on their land which caused the death of another son Romeo. Despite the death of Romeo and the threats and harassments they got from the landlord, they refused to leave their land. Unfortunately, one of the men of Avelino Gaspar was killed by unidentified persons and this was blamed on them. They were accused of murder and later convicted to suffer in jail for life.
Rolando Pañamogan, 47 years old from Ponpunan, Baybay, Leyte, was a leader of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in the province. He was illegally arrested in January 2002 and had been in jail since. He faced fabricated charges of murder and frustrated murder and was later convicted to suffer life imprisonment. Detained at the New Bilibid prisons, he had been suffering from diabetes, toxic goiter and congestive heart disease. He has been confined at the NBP hospital, where facilities and attending medical personnel are scarce. On several occasions, he had been rushed to the clinic for shortness of breath and convulsive seizure.

Sandino Esguerra, a farmer from Mulanay Quezon, was arrested by the military in June 2000 for kidnapping and murder and has been denied his right to swift resolution of his cases. Eleven years after his arrest and incarceration, his case is still pending for promulgation at the Regional Trial Court in Manila, while he is detained at the Manila Sector-Metro Manila District Jail facility at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. He was the breadwinner of their family.

Muhamadiya Hamja, a fisherman from Isabela City, Basilan, was first illegally arrested in 2001 after Pres. Arroyo declared the State of Lawless Violence in Basilan in July 2001 on trumped up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Because none of the witnesses positively identified or pinpointed him on the crimes, he was acquitted and released in June 2005. He was abducted, illegally rearrested, tortured and detained in November 2009, on the same charges on the same cases where he was acquitted. He is currently detained at the Basilan Provincial Jail. We are deeply concerned on the situation of the elderly and sickly political prisoners. Many of them have serious health problems aggravated, if not directly caused by poor, unhealthy and merciless prison conditions and lack of medical attention. This situation has come to public attention, after President Aquino granted pardon and freedom to Mariano Umbrero, an elderly political prisoner with stage 4 lung cancer, but who, ironically, had died in prison four days earlier.

We are likewise concerned with the situation of political prisoners who are unjustly kept in jail for a long time, while court proceedings are being conducted at exceedingly slow paces.

We call for the immediate release on humanitarian grounds of the elderly and sick political prisoners. Aside from the immediate release of the elderly and sick PPs, we urge Pres. Noynoy Aquino to grant general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all other political prisoners in the country. We hope that these can be realized on or before September 21, 2011 to show the government’s political will in eliminating the vestiges of the dictator Marcos’s fascist rule.

Karapatan and SELDA list of other elderly and sick political prisoners:

1. Rogelio Natividad will turn 61 years old this December 2011 and is a political prisoner at the New Bilibid Prison. He is married with three children. Before he was arrested, he worked as a simple fisherman from Malabon City. Arrested in Feb. 2, 1991 and charged and convicted of murder at the Malabon Trial Court, he has been in jail for the last 20 years. Compounding his long years of imprisonment are the inhumane conditions in jail where there is meager food ration and poor hygiene which has caused him kidney infection , ulcer and hypertension. He
has been found to have kidney stones, which is currently causing him pain.

2. Bernardo Andrade, 61 years old and married, was a resident of Purok Santan, Old Sagay, Sagay City, Negros Occidental and has nine children. Before his arrest, he worked as
fisherman and member of KAIMASA, an organization of fishermen in Sagay, Negros Occidental. He was arrested in Dec 1, 2001, charged and later convicted of murder. He has been in jail for the past 10 years. Since his arrest and incarceration in 2001, his family had never visited him for lack of financial and material support. He is suffering from diabetes, asthma and hypertension. The cramped and poor ventilation in jail contributes a lot to the worsening of his asthma.

3. Cresenciano Inocerta, 64 years old and married with five children, is from Maloonay, Valencia, Negros Oriental. He used to be a peasant organizer of Kaugmaon sa mga Maguuma, an organization of peasants in their area. He was arrested in August 11, 1999 charged of a murder of a CAFGU. While in jail, he has contracted tuberculosis and underwent treatment for
six months. He has been considered healed of TB but he continues to suffer asthma, arthritis and constant cough. Because of the distance of his family’s residence to NBP, he has not been visited by any member of his family and kin.

4. Manolito Matricio, 60 years old, is from Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental and is married with six children. Before his arrest, he was the provincial chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pililipinas and a National Council Member of said organization. He has been suffering from arthritis, diabetes and hypertension.

5. Ernesto Dumlao, detained at the Quezon City Jail, has asthma and has been sleeping on the floor of the Quezon City Jail because he cannot pay for a “tarima” (cot) that costs P3,000.

6. Antonino Roda, detained at the Misamis Occidental Provincial Reformatory Jail, has severe kidney infection, urinating with blood several times already.

7. JASIG-protected Emeterio Antalan, detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, who has kidney problems and fluctuating blood pressure and has previously collapsed while he was in jail in Nueva Ecija, and did not receive proper medical attention nor was he rushed to the hospital as what emergency cases should have been treated inside prison.