Tag Archives: Free All Political Prisoners

[Statement] Release all May 1 political prisoners now! -BMP

Release all May 1 political prisoners now!

Socialist labor alliance Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa (PAGGAWA) strongly condemns the PNP’s arrest of labor leaders BMP Vice President Lito Rastica and Reynaldo Dulay on the morning of May 1, 2020, at Rodriguez, Rizal.

The two were arrested for leading a picket protest to mark International Worker’s Day near their residences inside Eastwind Subdivision, Barangay San Isidro. The protesters – who were calling for mass testing, sufficient government aid during the lockdown, and paid quarantine leave and hazard pay for all workers especially frontliners – followed lockdown precautions such as wearing face masks, observing physical distancing, and carrying their barangay passes with them.

Their compliance with lockdown precautions alone should have prevented authorities from penalizing their constitutional right to free speech.

Now the PNP have detained Mr. Rastica and Mr. Dulay for 2 days in San Jose Precinct and have hurled a flurry of trumped-up charges against them such as Alarm and Scandal, Violation of RA 11469, RA 11332 (Non-cooperation), Art. 151 of RPC (Resistance and Disobedience), and Municipal Ordinance 20 s. 2020 sec. 3. Their inquest scheduled for tomorrow May 4.

Far from being an isolated incident, Mr. Rastica and Mr. Dulay join the more than 80 workers and activists persecuted and arrested for peacefully celebrating International Worker’s Day and exercising their right to free speech. These include the Iloilo 42, the Marikina 10, the Quezon City 18, the Valenzuela 4, and the Sta. Rosa 16.

In stark contrast to these arrests, Mocha Uson and her opportunistic gathering of more than 300 OFW’s in Lian, Batangas last April 26 received none of the aggression and stigma that authorities gave to workers and activists on May 1.

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[Action Alert] Release of low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including the sick and the elderly, and victims of political incarcerations, to help decongest jails and protect all PDLs from the COVID-19 pandemic -TFDP

ACTION ALERT: Release of low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including the sick and the elderly, and victims of political incarcerations, to help decongest jails and protect all PDLs from the COVID-19 pandemic

27 April 2020

Dear Friends,

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is forwarding to you an appeal regarding the immediate release of low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable to contracting the virus, including the sick and the elderly, to ensure that the human rights of PDLs are protected, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The release of all political prisoners and detainees would not only help decongest jails, but also prevent worsening injustice and suffering brought upon them by political incarceration and combat the risk of COVID-19 infection because of jail condition.

——————————-
In a news article posted on April 24, 2020, at ABS-CBN.com (https://bit.ly/2y24KA9), the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed that an inmate at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) who contracted the Coronavirus died in the evening of April 23, 2020.

Based on the BuCor data posted in its official website, the total prison population at the NBP stands at 29,173, making it the most densely populated penal facility in the country. Concerned groups fear that this would lead to the catastrophic spread of the virus among PDLs.

It was also reported earlier that 18 female PDLs from the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong who were also diagnosed Corona virus-positive were transferred to NBP.

Meanwhile, in another news article in SunStar.com.ph (https://bit.ly/3cNvsLB), it was reported that as of April 23, the total number of persons infected with the Coronavirus at the Cebu City Jail (CCJ) was 129, 116 of whom are PDLs, while 13 are jail personnel.

TFDP and other human rights organizations are in solidarity with the call to release all victims of political incarceration, torture, and victims of red-tagging and trumped-up charges, because of their political beliefs and association, amid this health crisis.

According to TFDP, as of January 2020, there are 409 political prisoners and detainees languishing in jails nationwide – 232 in Luzon, 43 in the Visayas, and 134 in Mindanao. They have been suffering political incarceration for years and are now at risk of contracting the Coronavirus.

Raymund Narag, a prison reform advocate, in his article posted and shared online as early as March, already warned that jails and prisons are among the most susceptible areas to the spread of the virus. According to him, “With an overcrowding rate of 350%, the Philippines has the most congested correctional system in the world. If one of the PDLs gets infected in the congested jails, it could be a catastrophe.”

“Our jail staff would be tremendously strained to handle the infection once it starts. Despite their best efforts and even in normal circumstances, they lack medical facilities and doctors to handle routine health problems. We have recently witnessed jail unrest in more resource-endowed jail and prison facilities in Italy and the USA. We are not sure what the outcome would be if similar unrest began in the Philippines correctional system,” he added.

Human rights groups have been urging the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to release low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable to contracting the virus, including the sick and the elderly, for humanitarian reasons, and also to be able to decongest the facilities and prevent the impending catastrophe.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following authorities urging them to:

• fulfill their obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings and ensure that their human rights are protected, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic;
• conduct mass testing for COVID-19 for PDLs and jail personnel in all prison facilities;
• immediately release PDLs with low risk profiles or have committed minor and petty offenses; with imminent release dates; the elderly and the sickly; and those who are arbitrarily detained subject to court review;
• immediately release children in detentions with adequate care arrangements from relevant government agencies mandated to provide child protection;
• provide adequate housing and reasonable accommodation to PDLs who are qualified for immediate release but may not have a residence upon release while they are undergoing re-integration program;
• release all political prisoners and detainees;
• consider that any measure to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 in places of detention must be necessary, proportionate and must be based on public health emergency guidelines on social distancing and other health measures;
• bear in mind that under no circumstance shall the isolation or quarantine be used to justify derogation of rights or the imposition of harsher penalties or less adequate conditions; and
• guarantee the protection and well-being of prison staff. The prison authorities should device appropriate work arrangement as an emergency plan, which include regular health monitoring, and provision of personnel protective equipment.

Please send your letters:

1. HIS EXCELLENCY RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE
President, Republic of the Philippines
New Executive Building, Malacanang Palace Compound
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila
1005 Philippines
Tel: +632 87368645; +632 87368603; +632-87368606; +632-87368629; +632-87368621
Telefax: +632 87368621
E-mail: pcc@malacanang.gov.ph

2. HER EXCELLENCY MARIA LEONOR G. ROBREDO
Vice President, Republic of the Philippines
Reception House 110 11th Street
Brgy. Mariana, New Manila, Quezon City
TL: +632 5346451
E-mail: vp@ovp.gov.ph; lenirobredo.ovp@gmail.com

3. HON. MENARDO GUEVARRA
Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)
Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila
1000 Philippines
Tel: +632 85218348
Telefax: +632 85262618
Trunkline: +632 85238481 loc 217
Email: osecmig@gmail.com, communications@doj.gov.ph

4. HON. EDUARDO AŇO
Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
DILG-NAPOLCOM Center
EDSA corner Quezon Avenue, Quezon City
Tel: +632 89250330; +632 89250331
Fax: +632 89250332
Trunkline: +632 88763454 loc 1001
Email: emano@dilg.gov.ph

5. HON. JOSE LUIS MARTIN GASCON
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +632 89285655; +632 89266188
Telefax: +632 89290102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

6. PNP CHIEF LT. GEN. ARCHIE GAMBOA
Philippine National Police
PNP National Headquarters
Camp General Crame, EDSA
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines 1100
Tel: +632 87230401; +632 87220650 local 3453/3473

7. USEC GERALD Q. BANTAG
Director General, Bureau of Corrections
NBP Reservation, Muntinlupa City, Philippines, 1776
8809-80-73, 8850-32-82, 8809-97-75
Telephone: +632 850-50-02, +632 807-23-68

8. SEC. CARLITO G. GALVEZ, JR.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
5/F Agustin I Building, F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig, Philippines
Office of the Secretary: +632 637-6083
Trunk line: +632 636-0701 to 07
Fax: +632 638-2216
Email: peace.opapp@gmail.com

9. J/DIR ALLAN SULLANO IRAL, CESE
Chief, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)
Address: 144 Mindanao Avenue, Project 8, Quezon City, Philippines 1106
Email: itu@bjmp.gov.ph
Trunkline: 89276383, 89275505, 89275807
Tel: 9276383 loc. 402

https://www.facebook.com/notes/task-force-detainees-of-the-philippines/action-alert-release-of-low-risk-offenders-and-those-most-vulnerable-pdls-includ/3804311962944761/

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[Statement] Give Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) a fighting chance against COVID19 -HAHR

Give Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) a fighting chance against COVID19

Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) supports the call for the temporary release of vulnerable persons in detention on humanitarian grounds during this health emergency caused by the Covid19. The Philippine government should heed the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet “to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities, as part of overall efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.”

HAHR bears witness to the dangers that PDLs face inside the detention centers. The detention facilities in the Philippines are highly congested, unhygienic, unable to provide decent nutrition and lack the appropriate health facilities. This situation exacerbates the already vulnerable status of the elderly, sick and pregnant detainees, and they will be first to suffer if the virus begins its rampage in detention centers. Detainees deserve the same protection as the general public, and if the BJMP and Bureau of Corrections cannot provide that, they might as well support the temporary release of selected populations in their care to give them a fighting chance against this health crisis.

HAHR further appeals that aside from releasing the vulnerable, consideration could also be extended to one of couples detained, breastfeeding mothers and those with disabilities.

The detention centers should also be decongested and the selection of those to be temporarily released could also include those who have light offenses, are due for parole or those who may avail of the right to bail. Political prisoners who are unjustly detained should also be candidates for release.

Reference:
Geneve R. Reyes, MD 09088624524
Reginaldo Pamugas, MD 09178654723

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[Press Release] Karapatan: Stop the delays, stop the excuses, release political prisoners now!

Karapatan: Stop the delays, stop the excuses, release political prisoners now!

No more excuses and no more delays for the release of political prisoners, human rights group Karapatan strongly asserted, as the Supreme Court (SC) is set to deliberate today, April 17, on the petition seeking the temporary release of sick and elderly detainees to combat the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic inside the country’s highly congested prisons.

“The mass decongestion of detention facilities is a matter of life and death for the thousands of prisoners in the country especially amid the looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports of inmates being isolated for suspected infection should be a cause for great alarm, especially since quarantine measures such as physical distancing are almost impossible in our overcrowded jails,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general urged. “Philippine jails are ticking time-bombs — and we cannot afford to waste more time. Political prisoners, especially the sick and the elderly, must be released now on humanitarian grounds.”

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said nine inmates at the Quezon City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s third weekly report to the Congress last April 7, there are 74 inmates in the Bureau of Correction facilities being isolated for suspected COVID-19 infection. In the Correctional Institution for Women, there are currently 30 suspected COVID-19 infection cases, while overcrowding at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City has led to unmanageable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis last year. Despite these reports, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra stated that they need at least another week to study the proposals for the release of low-risk offenders.

Read complete story @www.karapatan.org

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[Statement] Free ALL political prisoners coming from ALL rebel groups -TFDP

Free ALL political prisoners coming from ALL rebel groups

LONG HELD PPS websiteTask Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) welcomes the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF). Since 1986, we have keenly watched the perilous journey towards peace between the two parties.

TFDP, like all other Filipinos, desires peace – a peace firmly anchored on the bedrock of justice. For too long so many of our kababayans have wallowed in abject poverty and exclusion. Thirty years of elite democracy has proven it cannot alleviate the problems of hunger, landlessness, joblessness, exclusion and discrimination.

The time to change was years ago. Now, we are given the opportunity once more to tread the path of change.

TFDP welcomes the release of political prisoners through amnesty. We welcome the immediate release of those who are sickly and those who are covered by the JASIG.

In the spirit of compassion and mercy and as an act of statesmanship, we request the two parties to consider these proposals.

We ask the two parties to consider the release of ALL political prisoners coming from ALL rebel groups as a major step towards peace and reconciliation. We are fully aware that a great number of the political prisoners come from the NDF bloc but we are aware too that a significant number come from our Moro brothers and sisters. There are also long-held political prisoners like Juanito Itaas, Gerry Butial,  and Basilides Badion who have languished in jail since the time of Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos. There are also those coming from other rebel groups such as the RPM-RPA-ABB, the RHB, the MLPP-ABB, etc.
All of them deserve freedom. All of them long to embrace their loved ones.

Any meaningful amnesty proclamation must cover ALL political prisoners coming from ALL rebel groups. Any release of political prisoners should not discriminate against their political affiliation and must not exclude any by virtue of a limited period of coverage.
We must free ALL political prisoners recognized as such coming from ALL rebel groups regardless of when and where they committed their alleged offenses.

The amnesty proclamation should cover Juanito “Nitoy” Itaas, the longest held political prisoner to date (based on our records). He has already applied for amnesty under the administration of Fidel V. Ramos but was denied release due to outside pressure.

We reiterate our call: Free ALL political prisoners coming from ALL rebel groups!
Pursue peace based on justice!

EMMANUEL AMISTAD
Executive Director
ecamistad@yahoo.com

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[Statement] Free ALL political prisoners and detainees regardless of political affiliations -TFDP

Free ALL political prisoners and detainees regardless of political affiliations

FREE ALL 2015 copyTask Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) welcomes the pronouncement of the President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to release all political prisoners not only as a confidence building measure for the resumption of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF but to begin to heal the divide and exclusion of different groups/sectors from governance and development.

We strongly urge the incoming administration to free ALL political prisoners coming from different political/revolutionary groups and all the human rights defenders who are victims of trumped-up charges under the previous administrations.

TFDP documented 340 political prisoners and detainees nationwide including those alleged members of different Moro rebel groups, alleged members of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and alleged members of the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB).

There are also human rights defenders detained because of false charges to silence them in fighting and defending their rights.  Antonio Tolentino or Apung Tony, a barangay chieftain in Porac, Pampanga was arrested on April 16, 2014 on false charges of kidnapping and carjacking.

Apung Tony leads the residents and farmers’ group in a dispute against land developers in Hacienda Dolores.

Another example is the case of Marites Dela Cruz Marquez and Rosario Marquez Loreto, two Agta women and both from General Nakar in Quezon Province, who were illegally arrested on September 26, 2014 at Barangay Sta. Ines, Tanay, Rizal Province.

The two Agta women are wrongly charged with the kidnapping of a retired military official allegedly committed by the New People’s Army. On the basis of their traditional necklace allegedly worn by the NPAs, the two women were arrested and continue to languish in jail.

We ask for a comprehensive review of all cases charged against political prisoners as well as a review of those wrongfully convicted of common crimes when in fact it was in

furtherance of their political beliefs. We also ask for the immediate withdrawal of charges filed against human rights defenders and innocent civilians.

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has rightly recognized that political prisoners are not criminals since they acted in pursuit of their political beliefs. Let these words be translated to action: Mr. President, grant a general, unconditional release for ALL political prisoners and detainees regardless of political affiliations and associations. Free the innocents and release ALL human rights defenders who are victims of false charges. Genuine peace relies on the respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights of the people.

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[Featured Story] Political Prisoner Longs for Freedom, The Story of Juanito Itaas (Part 1)- TFDP

Political Prisoner Longs for Freedom, The Story of Juanito Itaas (Part 1)
by Task Force Detainees of the Philippines

HRonlinePH.com published this article by TFDP in July 2011. We decided to reshare this article one more time in support of TFDP’s #FREEourDEFENDERS Campaign.

Juanito Itaas source: jezzdave.wordpress.com

Amidst the sound of merrymaking, Juanito Itaas addressed the visitors and his fellow inmates during the Paskuhan sa Kampo at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) last year.  He called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to pay attention to the plight of all political prisoners and detainees and act for their immediate release.

After his speech, a calmer Juanito, more fondly known as Nitoy, approached some of the staff of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) to chat.  His zeal was still very evident, but there seemed to be a tinge of sadness in his eyes, which became more evident when he started to speak.  Christmas, after all, is just around the corner, and despite the joy brought about by the visit of relatives and friends during the Paskuhan sa Kampo, the fact remains that for more than two decades already, Nitoy has spent Christmas locked behind the cold bars of his prison cell.

He has been previously recommended for release.  But the wheels of fate did not turn in his favor.

Background

Nitoy is one of the ten children of Mamerto and Fausta Itaas of Barangay Sinuron, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.  Nitoy’s family tended root crops, corn and coconut as their primary source of income.  Aside from farming, Nitoy’s father was a part-time pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

Those who knew Nitoy said that he has a big heart – helping those in need and standing up for the weak.   He also joined mass mobilizations and demanded land for the tillers. When Nitoy was 15 years old, he worked in a shoe factory where he stayed for two years.  After which, he sold tapes, radios and textiles in a mining site in Davao del Sur.  The idea of social justice was not lost in him as he witnessed the injustices experienced by the miners.  For every ten sacks of ore dug by the miners, only three remain with them.  Six went to the owner of the tunnel and one to the military positioned at the entrance.

In 1981, Nitoy became a full time organizer.  The death of his brother, a guerilla fighter, in 1982 all the more pushed him to continue with his involvement.

In 1984, Nitoy met Glenda, who later became his wife, in Tagum, Davao.  In 1986, they got married.  They continued to live in Tagum until one fateful day in 1989.

In the evening of August 27, 1989, Nitoy was with a companion and onboard a jeepney along Lizada Street corner Quezon Boulevard in Davao City, when a vehicle cut across their path.  Several men alighted from the vehicle and declared a hold up.  Nitoy’s companion, later identified in the newspapers as Constabulary 2nd Class Camilo Maglente, suddenly held his arms tight.  Nitoy resisted but there was another vehicle whose passengers pointed their guns at him.  His legs and arms were bound.  He was blindfolded and in a matter of seconds, he was thrown into the back of the van.  He was brought to an unidentified military barracks where he was held for questioning.  The many different questions thrown at him confused Nitoy.

Based on TFDP documents, Nitoy’s military captors under the Philippine Constabulary – Criminal Investigation Service (PC-CIS) and Regional Security Unit (RSU) headed by then Lt. Cesar Mancao were the ones who tortured him.

The next morning, the interrogation continued, but Nitoy did not provide any information.  The interrogators were not able to get any information from Nitoy.  Hence, when his arresting officers, Lt. Mancao and a certain Boy Erno of the RSU failed to get anything from him, he was turned over to two unidentified military men where his agonizing experience began.

Immediately after he was blindfolded, handcuffed at the back, and covered at the mouth with a masking tape, the men dragged him into a vehicle.  Inside, heavy blows reduced Nitoy into a shapeless heap.  His captors also used the “dry submarine”  on Nitoy.  He eventually blacked out.  After he regained consciousness and another round of punches, he admitted everything that was accused of him.  The men stopped hurting him.

Nitoy further related that he lost track of the time.  He was taken to several places and subjected to intense interrogation.  He then remembered that when his blindfold was removed, flash bulbs blinded his strained eyes.  He was presented to the media as the government’s prized catch.

A few minutes later, they went to a local airport and took a Manila-bound flight where he was accompanied by Gen. Ramon Montano, military escorts and a number of media.  That was Nitoy’s first time to go to Manila.  He was then committed at the Camp Crame in Quezon City where he was kept in solitary confinement for one week.

On September 1, 1989, charges of murder and frustrated murder docketed as Criminal Case Numbers Q-89-4843 and Q-89-4844 were filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 88, for the killing of Col. James Rowe and the serious wounding of his driver, Joaquin Vinuya.  The two cases were filed without preliminary investigation.

On September 8, 1989, Gen. Montano talked to him about his alleged involvement in the Rowe killing.  Nitoy retracted the statements he made in Davao.  He said he was only forced to admit the accusations against him because of the severe pain that was inflicted on him.  Donato Continente, the other suspect in the Rowe killing, failed to identify Nitoy during a brief confrontation.

During the trial, nine witnesses were presented by the prosecution.  But only one, a certain Meriam Zulueta identified Nitoy as the gunman. On cross-examination however, Zulueta admitted that her eyewitness identification was based on a single fleeting glimpse of a stranger during a startling occurrence; and that she did not have an adequate opportunity to observe the gunman’s physical feature since he was in motion when she saw him, and was holding and firing a long firearm, thus preventing her from getting a good look at him.

Aside from the testimony of Zulueta, the only evidence presented against Nitoy was his alleged extra-judicial confession, in which he purportedly admitted that he was part of a New People’s Army (NPA) assassination team responsible for the Rowe killing.  The confession was signed in the presence of a lawyer, a certain Atty. Felimon Corpuz, who later admitted when he testified in court that he was a retired military lawyer and said he was summoned not by Nitoy but by the CIS to “represent” Nitoy.

Atty. Corpuz also revealed that he was not familiar with the rights of the accused when he was unable to enumerate such rights during cross-examination.

Despite the tenuous and unreliable testimony of Zulueta, the absence of a competent and independent counsel when Nitoy allegedly confessed, and Nitoy’s confession which was made under duress, the trial court rendered an unfavorable decision.

On February 27, 1991, Nitoy and his co-accused, Continente, were found guilty by Judge Tirso D. C. Velasco of RTC-Quezon City Branch 88.  They were sentenced to life imprisonment (reclusion perpetua) plus a minimum of ten (10) years and a maximum of 17 years, four months and one day for the frustrated murder.  Both appealed the RTC decision in 1993.

On August 25, 2000, the Supreme Court (G.R. Numbers 100801-02) affirmed the conviction of Nitoy and ruled that he was the lone principal in the killing of Rowe.  Continente’s case was modified to that of an accomplice.  His jail sentence was reduced to a minimum of 12 years to a maximum of 14 years and eight months for the Rowe killing and a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years and four months for the wounding of Vinuya.  Continente therefore had an aggregate sentence of 12 years and six months as minimum and a maximum of 16 years.  After serving his sentence, he was released on June 28, 2005.

On the other hand,  the life sentence of Nitoy was retained for the Rowe killing plus another six years as minimum to nine years and six months as maximum for the Vinuya wounding.

U.S. Army Colonel James Rowe

The United States government took a great interest in the case of Nitoy.  They kept a watchful eye from the time he was arrested to his incarceration and conviction.  And it was not difficult to figure out why.  Nitoy, after all, was accused, and later convicted for the murder of Rowe, considered to be an American hero.

James Nicholas “Nick” Rowe was a graduate of the West Point Military Academy.  He later became a decorated war veteran.  He joined the United States Army’s elite Green Beret Special Force and went to Vietnam in the early 1960s.  He was one of only 34 American Prisoners of War (POWs) to escape captivity during the Vietnam War.  Rowe was assigned as Executive Officer of Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group, a 12-man “A-Team” in Vietnam in 1963.  On October 29, 1963, after only three short months in Vietnam, then Lieutenant Rowe was captured by Viet Cong guerillas, along with Capt. Humberto R. Versace and Sgt. Daniel L. Pitzer.  Separated from his comrades, Lt. Rowe spent 62 months in captivity with only brief encounters with fellow American POWs.  He escaped from his Vietnamese captors on December 31, 1968.  He authored the book, “Five Years to Freedom,” an account of his years as a prisoner of war.

Rowe retired from the United States Army in 1974.  In 1981, he was recalled to active duty to design and build a course based upon his experience as a POW.

“Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape” (SERE) is now a requirement for graduation from the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course.  SERE is taught at the Colonel James “Nick” Rowe Training Compound at Camp Mackall, North Carolina.

He was placed in command of the First Special Warfare Battalion at Fort Bragg in 1985.  In 1987, he was sent to the Philippines.  Rowe was assigned as Chief of the Army Division of the Joint RP – U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG).  He led a group who trained the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers on counter insurgency.  He worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on a strategy to infiltrate the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA.

By February 1989, Rowe acquired intelligence information that the communists were planning a major terrorist act.  He warned Washington that a high-profile figure was about to be assassinated and that he himself was second or third on the assassination list.

On April 21, 1989, while Rowe was on his way to the JUSMAG Compound, his car was ambushed at the corner of Tomas Morato Street and Timog Avenue in Quezon City.  Gunmen who were on board an old model Toyota Corolla car suddenly fired at his car.  Rowe was instantly killed while Vinuya, his driver, was seriously wounded.  The two were initially brought to the V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City.  They were later transferred to the Clark Air Base Hospital in Pampanga where Vinuya was confined for four days.  He sustained injuries in the head, shoulder and back portion of his left hand.

Rowe was buried on May 2, 1989 in Section 48 of the Arlington National Cemetery.  Reports said that he was the highest U.S. military officer killed in the Philippines, a feat “that the United States government can hardly stomach.”

Even though the NPA owned up to the assassination, Nitoy and Continente were still arrested.

[to be continued]

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[Event] A group of students from the DLS-CSB joins #FREEourDEFENDERS campaign

A group of students from the DLS-CSB joins #FREEourDEFENDERS campaign

E poster CSB

TFDP logo smallGreat! A group of students from the DLS-CSB joins #FREEourDEFENDERS campaign. They are launching their online campaign in February 23, 2013 as contribution in making their fellow youth aware about human rights issues like the existence of victims of political incarceration in the country. Visit and like their page @ https://www.facebook.com/CsbFreeOurDefenders?fref=ts. Sama na! Express your support and help us campaign #FREEourDEFENDERS!

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[Petition] Support the Political Prisoners’ Hunger Strike for Freedom and Human Rights! Sign Petition NOW!

SUPPORT THE POLITICAL PRISONERSHUNGER STRIKE FOR FREEDOM AND HUMAN RIGHTS! FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!

Dear All,

Picket at DOJ Free All Political Prisoners Photo by Orly Gravador/TFDP

Picket at DOJ Free All Political Prisoners Photo by Orly Gravador/TFDP

On July 25, 2011, political prisoners and detainees around the country started their nationwide HUNGER STRIKE for freedom and human rights. This is to express their concern over: 1) government’s lack of explicit national policy on human rights; 2) the continuous neglect of the plight of victims of political incarceration; and, 3) to push for prison reforms specifically for the government to consider proposed changes on provisions set forth by the guidelines of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

Read more

[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.

PRESS RELEASE

July 25, 2011

[Event] a Worldwide prayer for all victims of torture – TFDP and ACAT

In Commemoration
of the June 26  International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
We invite you to join us in a Worldwide prayer for all victims of torture.

June 25, 2011, Saturday

2:00 p.m.

Most Holy Trinity Parish, Balic-balic, Sampaloc, Manila

This is part of the “S.O.S. Free Tatay Umbrero Now! Free All Political Prisoners!” (Tatay Umbrero is a Political Prisoner suffering stage 4 Cancer)

[Press Release] Political Prisoners press for freedom for their ailing comrade after Araw ng Kalayaan

Political prisoners in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) pressed government to release their ailing comrade Mariano Umbrero in line with Independence Day.

Juanito Itaas, the longest held political prisoner, convicted for the killing of Col. James Rowe, through the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a human rights group, is calling the attention of President Aquino and DOJ Secretary De Lima to urgently act on the release of Mariano Umbrero, a political prisoner at the New Bilibid Prison suffering stage 4 cancer.

“Nanawagan kami kay Pangulong Aquino at DOJ Secretary De Lima, na magkaroon ng puso at ibigay ang inaasam na kalayaan ng aming kasamahang si Tatay Umbrero, na malubha na ang kalagayan dahil sa cancer” (We are appealing to President Aquino and DOJ Secretary De Lima, to have a heart and grant the long awaited freedom of our comrade Tatay Umbrero, whose condition is critical due to cancer.) Juanito Itaas said.

Secretary De Lima last week announced her intention to institute reforms in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) due to the VIP treatment and drugs issues inside the national penitentiary.  She also halted the dismantling of “kubols” (private quarters of inmates) last week saying that she intended to study the system first and coordinate with concerned groups among the inmates.  A technical working group (TWG) which will be created to institute reforms inside the NBP will draft an action plan regarding the matter.

“Saludo kami sa maagap na pag-aksyon ni Kalihim De Lima hinggil sa mga isyu sa NBP ngunit ipinaaalala rin namin ang inilapit naming kalagayan ng mga bilanggong pulitikal noon pa mang siya ay pinuno pa ng Commission on Human Rights,” Itaas said referring to the dialogue they had with Secretary De Lima when she was still the CHR Chairperson.

(We salute Secretary De Lima’s immediate action on issues at NBP but we would like to remind her of the situation of political prisoners that we discussed with her when she was still the CHR head.)

“Hihintayin pa ba nilang mamatay ang isang mabuting mamayan na katulad ni Tatay Umbrero bago sila umaksyon? Inhustisya na nga na kami ay nakulong dahil sa aming prinsipyo, inhustisya pa rin ang matatamo namin dahil sa burukrasya sa mga ahensya ng pamahalaan kahit sa bingit na ng kamatayan.” He added.

(Are they waiting for a good citizen like Tatay Umbrero to die before they act? It was Injustice when they incarcerated us because of our political belief; it is still injustice we get from bureaucracy in government even in a life and death situation.)

According to Emmanuel Amistad, TFDP together with other human rights organizations have raised the matter with concerned agencies.  They always ended up being referred to the Board of Pardons and Parole. Since the prison records of Tatay Umbrero have not been forwarded to the BPP, they can not act on the matter.

“It seems that the simple request of a dying man to breathe the air of freedom will be lost in the bureaucratic maze of government,” Amistad said.

“We ask Secretary De Lima to directly order the immediate transmission of the prison records of Tatay Umbrero to the Board of Pardons and Parole. Each day that these records are not transmitted is a day of freedom lost for Tatay Umbrero, “ Amistad added.

“Kung ayaw nilang palayain ang mga bilanggong pulitikal na katulad namin agad-agad, asikasuhin na nila muna si Tatay Umbrero.  Iparamdam naman nila ang pagiging makatao sa isang taong nasa bingit na ng kamatayan,” Itaas lamented.

(If they will not release political prisoners like us immediately, they should act on Tatay Umbrero first.  They should show humanity for a person who is in a critical situation.)

“We remind President Aquino that his father Ninoy was released from political detention by Marcos because of illness. If the dictator Marcos considered the health of a staunch political enemy, why can’t PNoy who champions the cause of the poor and dehumanized? Like Ninoy, Umbrero was also a Marcos victim,” Amistad concluded.

PRESS RELEASE
June 13, 2011
For more information please contact:
Egay Cabalitan
TFDP-Advocacy Staff
Mobile Nos. 09219645017
Tel: 437-80-54
Email: egay.advocacytfdp@gmail.com