[Press Release] Political prisoners escalate their fasting to HUNGER STRIKE for freedom and human rights – www.tfdp.net

In the morning of July 25, 2011, before President Benigno Aquino III delivers his second State of the Nation Address, political prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa escalate their fasting to Hunger Strike to demand for freedom and human rights.

“Ngayong araw na ito ay iniaangat namin ang aming pag-aayuno sa HUNGER STRIKE upang ipakita sa pamahalaan na kami ay seryoso sa aming panawagan na magkaroon siya ng programa para sa karapatang pantao, palayain ang lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal at repormahin ang sistema ng koreksiyonal sa bansa lalo na ang Board of Pardons and Parole guidelines,” Juanito Itaas, leader of the political prisoners’ steering committee in NBP said in a statement through the rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).

Last Thursday, July 21, political prisoners and detainees around the country launched their nationwide fasting for freedom and human rights to express their concern over government’s lack of explicit national policy on human rights and the continuous neglect of the plight of victims of political incarceration in the country.

The escalation of the struggle of the political prisoners into a Hunger Strike signifies their firm resolve to call attention not only to their situation but the lack of a human rights agenda of this government, according to Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).

“There are 320 political prisoners and detainees languishing in jails across the country before Tatay Umbrero died two weeks ago.  We have asked the government to look into their plight even before President Aquino took his oath last year.  We even had a dialogue last year with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and they promised us that they will resume the operation of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, Pardon and Parole (PCBREPP) to evaluate the releases of political prisoners. Up to now this promise has not been fulfilled,” Amistad said.

PCBREPP was created during the time of former President Ramos as mechanism to table cases of alleged political offenders.  The process was able to release a significant number of political offenders under President Ramos’ term.  It was resurrected during the term of former President Arroyo and was able to release eight political prisoners at the last days of her term of office.

Political prisoners worry that PNoy’s administration has no intention of looking into their situation. Tatay Umbrero’s death shows that PNoy has no time and attention for human rights violations victims.  He did not even lift a finger to release a dying man,” Amistad lamented.

On this matter, the dictator Marcos fared better as he released Benigno Aquino for medical reasons while a dying man’s plea for freedom fell on deaf ears.

Mariano Umbrero was the cancer-stricken political prisoner in NBP who died last July 15, 2011 with government failing to grant executive clemency.

“We cannot blame the people for worrying.  He has been in office for one year and he has repeated so many times his single-minded determination to pursue the corruption cases against the former administration but not a vision or a roadmap for our future based on human rights and justice. Sa matuwid na daan, karapatan pantao ang salalayan. Sa matuwid na daan kapakanan at kagalingan ng mamamayan hindi ng iilan ang dapat isaalang-alang”, Amistad concluded.

Meanwhile, political detainees in Dumaguete Provincial Jail, Kabankalan City Jail, Leyte Provincial Jail, Samar Provincial Jail and Catbalogan Samar Provincial Jail are also joining the hunger strike while political detainees in Mindanao and MMDJ Taguig are already in fasting since July 21, 2011.


July 25, 2011

22 thoughts on “[Press Release] Political prisoners escalate their fasting to HUNGER STRIKE for freedom and human rights – www.tfdp.net

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    By John Lana

    Political prisoners all over the country from various political blocks has been calling the attention of President Noynoy Aquino for their freedom. In fact, during the 2nd Sona of Pnoy, alleged political offenders and political prisoners (APOs/PPs) are on hunger strike and appealing to the new administration for their immediate release. They are the new Ninoy Aquino, who fought side by side with the masses and whose only sin was to serve the greatest number of people for their greatest good. Can the son (Pres. Noynoy Aquino) grant freedom to his father (alleged political offenders and political prisoners)?

    Few days before Pres. Noynoy Aquino delivered his rhetorical speech in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona), another political prisoner died on stage four lung cancer without being granted release on humanitarian grounds by the Pnoy regime. Different human rights groups has been calling the attention of the new administration and followed by a written request to Sec. Teresita Qunitos-Deles of OPAPP, asking for the immediate release of Tatay Mariano Umbrero based on humanitarian consideration but the new regime of Pnoy seems to liken with the past administrations who were also naive, heartless and inhuman in treating political prisoners. Record shows that five political prisoners died due to severe sickness in New Bilibid Prison and one from BJMP Bicutan in the past and but what is very disgusting and irritating is the failure of the past and present administrations to address the very major question of all seasons and that is “why until now there are still many Ninoy Aquino languishing in jails?”

    Ninoy did not only fight against Marcos dictatorship but also against poverty and same true with all political prisoners in this country. If Ninoy would be living today, he would tell his son (Pres. Noynoy) what democracy means for Filipino masses and particularly for political prisoners. He would tell him to free political prisoners as what his mother did during Edsa 1.

    Why there are political prisoners? They only proves three major things: (1) the state is repressive and coercive and cannot tolerate non-align and opposing political and ideological beliefs (2) there must be something wrong with the socio-economic system and governance; and (3) change is inevitable. Along that lines we can say that it is the very system itself that gave birth to political prisoners and therefore, the burden to free must also be a state responsibility and accountability. In fact, not only APOs/PPs are its end result, many in our detention centers suffer a crime they didn’t actually commit and if there are some who really did it, it can be rooted in the very nature of the system itself that fails to address the very problem of society like poverty and injustices.

    Quoting from Negros Chronicle, retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, one of the most outspoken magistrates of the high court , and pillar of human and civil rights, declared that poverty is the greatest terrorist not only in the Philippines but the entire civilized world as well.

    People , he said, who are driven by extreme poverty, and in need of immediate survival for himself and his family especially, the option to commit crime and get money for survival comes to play. Supreme Court Chief Justice Puno said:

    “If you come to the various dimensions of this problem of poverty, you will come to the conclusion that poverty is the cause of so many crimes, it is almost the mother of all causes of crimes in the world.

    “A country may enjoy the first generation of human and political rights , but if the people are suffering from poverty, all these civil and political rights are nothing to them.”

    “You may tell a poor man that he has the right and liberty to travel anytime anywhere in the world, but if he has no money, this right means nothing to him,” Puno said.

    “You cannot tell a poor man about his right to participate in our political process, of being able to vote and be voted upon because if he has no money to pay for a decent education, this political right means nothing to him,” Puno added.

    “The government and non-government sectors are doing everything to win this war against poverty. We cannot afford to lose this war against poverty because if we lose, then we lose everything, our liberty, our freedom and our future,” Justice Puno said.

    Many observers agree and that, it is for this reason that illegal drug trafficking and extrajudicial killings are rampant in poverty stricken areas. Negros Oriental is one of the most depressed poverty stricken areas in the country in terms of economic opportunities because of the nature of the volcanic terrain.

    People’s farms are now converted to residential areas since owners fear that CARP might take over their lands. Sugar mill owners said that they do not want to expand even modernize because owners are apprehensive what will happen to the industry under CARP take overs.

    Puno said, “what good is human and civil rights if the people are poor? How can they air their legitimate gripes against government if they do not have money to go to court, that is why the jails are overstocked with poor detainees awaiting trial.”

    Commenting on the bungled hostage taking, Justice Puno said that “everyone knows the crisis has been mis-handled however, he gives President Noy the benefit of reviewing the findings and that as President PNoy, he said, has the mandate to make a final decision on the outcome of the crisis.” Puno was here as main guest during the inauguration of the Suzuki World, the biggest Suzuki motorcycle service center so far opened by the company.



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