A day before the commemoration of Martial Law, leaders of civil society organizations urged President Benigno Aquino III to permanently eradicate the dark shadows of atrocities that Filipinos experienced under the authoritarian rule by starting with the release of all political prisoners, giving justice to victims of human rights violations and ending impunity.
“‘Tuldukan na ang labi ng pampulitikang panunupil’. President Aquino should eradicate the remnants of political repression and broaden the base of Philippine democracy by releasing all political prisoners. No better legacy can the President bequeath than implementing the principles to combat and end impunity,” Max de Mesa, Chairperson of PAHRA said.
Leaders of the two broadest formations of human rights defenders, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), gathered in a restaurant in Quezon City to reaffirm their unified campaign against political detention and challenged President Aquino to stand on his parent’s legacy.
“The best way to commemorate Martial Law is to celebrate its downfall. By reminding the public especially the youth that in those dark years of our history, there were men and women of courage who stood and fought against the dictator, there were human rights defenders who remained steadfast despite the harassments and killings, and freedom fighters who either were killed, disappeared, tortured or detained. The best way to remember martial law is to banish its vestiges in our midst – stop human rights violations and end impunity,” Ricardo Reyes, Chairperson of FDC, said.
According to the group they pledged to pursue the demands of the political prisoners’ hunger strike for freedom and human rights that took place during the July 25 State of the Nation Address of President Aquino.
The protest ended indefinitely after 23 days when the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Malacanang committed in a dialogue to convene the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Pardon (PCBREP), draft a National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) and proceed with prison reforms.
PCBREP was the Government’s inter-agency body created during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos. DoJ is to spearhead its process and evaluation for the release of alleged political offenders.
According to Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a member of PAHRA, “We are holding on to the promise of Secretary Leila De Lima to convene PCBREP by this month. We hope that it would start the process as soon as possible and give the political prisoners the freedom they deserve. Nitoy Itaas who has been in jail for 22 years and the more than 300 political prisoners and detainees languishing in jails nationwide are clamoring for this.”
According to TFDP’s record, there were thousands who were detained during Martial Law and while presently we only have more than 300 languishing in jails nationwide, this shows that political incarceration still persists.
“We kept on reminding the president that his parents, specifically Ninoy was one of the defenders of democracy who fell victim under Marcos, he was a political detainee who was jailed because of his being a staunch critic of a military-backed political dictatorship and he was one of the inspirations that sparked the movement of the people to oust the dictator,” continued Amistad.
The group challenged President Aquino to, “Make public the information of victims of enforced disappearances and of other gross violation of human rights. Affirm that human rights become the preferred values that guide your governance and development efforts.
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- [Event] A Solidarity Fasting for Freedom and Human Rights (on the 4th day of Political Prisoners’ Hunger Strike) (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
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