[Press Release] Rights group: Death of Political Prisoner reveals P-Noy as an uncompassionate President

Rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) called President Benigno Aquino a heartless uncompassionate President due to his inaction over the death of a cancer-stricken political prisoner.

“He is a heartless uncompassionate President. A President bereft of any compassion for human rights victims and human rights. Tatay Umbrero’s death exposes more that President Aquino’s ‘Matuwid na daan’ is a mirage,” Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of TFDP said.

In the morning of July 15, 2011, Mariano Umbrero, a political prisoner, died at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital.

The 63 year old Mariano Umbrero was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2011.  TFDP together with other members of the human rights community have appealed for the release of Tatay Umbrero as they fondly call him, on humanitarian grounds but they received no decisive and urgent action from the President.

According to the group President Aquino did not even lift a finger to let the dying Umbrero experience freedom before his last breath.

Umbrero was convicted of kidnapping and was charged as member of the rebel group New People’s Army during Martial law.  He was released under conditional pardon by former President Ramos and was again arrested in 2004 due to murder charges resurrected to pin him down.  Up to his last breath he maintained his innocence.

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines’ (TFDP) S.O.S. appeal campaign to lobby for the release of Mariano Umbrero started early March of 2011.  TFDP sent urgent alerts (letter of appeal) to its various partners.  It was followed by an online barrage of appeals posted on Facebook.  This was done to call the attention of P-Noy and other concerned government agencies and for him to act on the case of Umbrero.

TFDP also directly sent a letter to the Office of the President, while the Medical Action Group (MAG) sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Students from the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, with the help of the Social Action Center responded by sending individual letters of appeal to government agencies.  The students asked their friends to do the same.  Members of ACAT, one of TFDP’s international partners, also sent letters to P-Noy and DOJ.

Many friends on Facebook also responded by bombarding P-Noy’s Facebook page. Communications were also sent to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Episcopal Commission on Prison and Pastoral Care of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Both the DOJ and the DSWD referred the request to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).  The Office of Political Affairs under the Office of the President also replied by asking TFDP to provide them with pertinent documents regarding Umbrero’s case.

The BPP responded to their follow-up by saying that their processing as of that moment was on hold.

Because the health condition of Mariano Umbrero which was rapidly deteriorating then, TFDP believed that he was very much qualified for pardon and even for executive clemency on humanitarian grounds.  TFDP also believed that due to his medical condition, his case needed urgent action and aside from the fact that Umbrero should have not been imprisoned in the first place because of his political belief.

Secretary Leila De Lima visited Umbrero last July 7, 2011 after several follow-ups and the help of the Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales.  De Lima ordered the NBP officials to process the release of Umbrero as soon as possible.

“We have been receiving the same answers from all concerned government agencies since we started appealing last March.  We all ended up in the bureaucratic process of the government that only showed that this government failed to understand and consider the urgency of granting a dying man his request. Tatay Umbrero was no ordinary prisoner, he was a victim of injustice of the system,” Emmanuel Amistad, executive director of TFDP said.

“A year after his inauguration, President Aquino has yet to articulate a clear human rights policy and program. He has yet to provide a vision of a nation free from torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. While P-Noy is determined to bring the perpetrators of corruption before the bars of justice, he has yet to pursue the thousands of cases of human rights violations that have piled up through the years. He has yet to declare a war against impunity and injustice.

Now the human rights community is mourning over the death of Mariano Umbrero, “What else can we expect in his coming State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 25? He will just surely talk about his obsession in battling corruption leaving the human rights victims out in the cold,” Amistad concluded.

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