“When Pres. Aquino was lambasted by foreign media for his absence of leadership and lack of resolve during the time of grave crisis, he had the gall to order that the mayor of Tacloban City be investigated when he (BS Aquino) should be charged with criminal neglect and incompetence,“ said the political prisoners in Camp Crame, Quezon City in reaction to BS Aquino’s threat to investigate Tacloban Mayor and other local government units for the casualties in the aftermath of the super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan).
In a joint statement issued by political prisoners, Ramon Argente and peace consultants for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Eduardo Sarmiento, Renante Gamara, and Eduardo Serrano, the four said “Aquino should be the one investigated!”
Sarmiento hails from the Eastern Visayas region, where he was political activist since Martial Law.
“He must be accountable to all of these fatal infractions,” said the detainees. “He (BS Aquino) was the one who acted as forecaster a day before the first landfall of the super typhoon and that was all.” According to them, there were no detailed instructions on how to respond to the disaster and how to prepare for the storm surges and the expected danger to lives and properties as forecasted by local and foreign weather bureaus.
“The government was caught flatfooted,” the prisoners said. “There was a breakdown of the basic government functions despite announcements in the tri-media and social media that the government is well-prepared. The government even boasted of its zero-casualty goal,” the prisoners recalled.
The prisoners added, “Many affected areas were completely isolated and people were left to fend for themselves. The government’s ‘no air-drop’ policy left many people hungry and thirsty for days.”
“Human and animal cadavers were not disposed of immediately … Even lines of communications between the different government agencies were not immediately restored… Worst of all, children died due to hunger and cold because no rescue and relief activities reached their place…The government was also very slow in commandeering the needed sea vessels like the RORO’s and barges to support the disaster response tasks despite declaration of a national state of calamity,” the political prisoners said in their statement.
Furthermore, the political prisoners scored the Philippine government for allowing the US troops participating in the rescue and relief operations to take over the Tacloban airport utilizing the major part solely for their air assets making the US troops appear as ‘saviors.’ ###
Reference: Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator, 0917-5965859
JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA | Davao Today
BAGANGA, Davao Oriental – Former University of the Philippines professor, Kim Gargar, on Thursday pleaded “not guilty” to cases filed against him by the government military.
Gargar entered the no guilty plea before Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III, acting judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Baganga, Davao Oriental.
Gargar was charged with “illegal possession of explosives, violation of the Comelec gun ban and 2 cases of attempted murder” after he was arrested October 1, in Barangay Aliwagwag near the vicinity of a gunbattle between New People’s Army guerrillas members and government troops.
Gargar was brought by a police patrol van on handcuffs to the court two blocks away from the municipal jail where he was detained. He was met by his lawyer, Joel Mahinay, and his parents during the arraignment.
In an interview with davaotoday.com later inside his detention cell, Gargar scored on the military’s “inconsistent” allegation about him being a member of the New People’s Army.
“They should withdraw the cases they filed against me if they say I am a civilian. They are saying one thing but doing another,” said Gargar, who formerly taught physics in the UP.
“What they say doesn’t anymore matter but what matters is that they detained me and curtailed my freedom,” he said.
Gargar looked thin but exuded calm and elated over the presence of his parents to visit him in the jail and attend the arraignment on Thursday.
In a statement to the Davao media dated October 11, Alberto Caber, chief of the public information office of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command said that the “NPAs utilization of Gargar in an attack against the government troops is a gross violation of the provision of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian law (CARHRIHL).”
Caber alleged that “in a recorded video statement, Gargar revealed that that he was given M16 rifle by the NPAs and was among those who fired against the soldiers during the said clash”. The footage was recorded during his interrogation in a military facility.
Caber said that Gargar was charged with several cases and that it was the “duty of the government through the PNP [Philippine National Police] to file cases against those who committed crimes.”
“If indeed Gargar is a civilian as claimed by the NPAs and [human rights group] Karapatan, he was therefore exploited by the NPAs which is a clear violation of his rights,” Caber said.
Gargar described his detention as “repression” of his freedoms and “delays their work in rehabilitating areas affected by Pablo”.
“It also affects the future generations which will also benefit from our reforestation program. If they are truly for development, they should have not given me or others who work for Pablo victims a hard time,” said Gargar.
Balsa Mindanao, a private relief organization, issued a public statement this month that corroborated Gargar’s claim that he was working with them to establish rehabilitation and livelihood projects in the typhoon-ravaged Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
Projects included reforestation and sustainable agriculture activities.
He said that the military should not immediately “label” individuals from cities, like scientists and researchers, as members of the NPA and to later resort “to filing trumped-up cases against these individuals to save them from shame”.
He warned about this military posturing, citing the fatal case of botanist Leonard Co, who was conduting reforestation work for the Energy Development Corporation but was killed by elements of the military along with two companions in an purported encounter with NPA guerrillas in 2010.
In 2012, the Commission on Human Rights recommended the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the killing of Co saying that a CHR investigation found out that the alleged encounter never happened and that the soldiers only mistook them for insurgents.
Instead, Gargar said that the government must also support “scientists who work for domestic need”.
“A niece said she would visit me when she heard that I am a scientist because she is also interested in science. Such kids who are interested must be supported,” he said.
Gargar also said that a lawyer from The Netherlands contacted his group Agham would work on a proposal regarding scientists working in conflict areas.
“I hear that he is currently studying to propose an international policy that scientists who are working in conflict areas must be given a neutral status like emergency responders and medical personnel,” Gargar said.
He said that like medical personnel who are there to help no matter which side a person or group belongs, scientist also may have the same role.(John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)
We, the political prisoners currently detained at Camp Crame join our compatriots, families, relatives, friends and advocates of peace and human rights in the campaign to free all political prisoners in our country.
We thank them for their solidarity visits to the various detention centers to be with the political prisoners and other detainees in commemoration of the National Correctional Consciousness Week during the last week of October.
We would like also to extend our thanks to the human rights organizations of SELDA and KARAPATAN that will be joined by other people’s organizations and friends in a solidarity caravan for the release of all political prisoners especially the detained consultants for the peace talks of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
We welcome them on October 25 here in Camp Crame and we hope to convey our message to the OPPAP, the message to resume the peace negotiations and to our comrades at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan Taguig, our solidarity greetings for them to resolutely fight for the rights and welfare of all political prisoners and other detention prisoners.
We reiterate our demand to the government to grant an unconditional, general, and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners; and to immediately resume the peace talks.
We salute our fellow political prisoners who stand by their principles and continue to struggle for justice, freedom and democracy in spite of the various threats and intimidation by the state terrorists on them and their families, relatives and friends.
We also salute our fellow political prisoners who have died while in detention and those who have been abducted and disappeared and never gave up on their nationalist and internationalist standpoints!
Free All Political Prisoners!
Grant a General,Unconditional and Omnibus Amnesty to all Political Prisoners!
Fight for Justice, Freedom and Peace!
Political Prisoners in Camp Crame Oct 23, 2013 Ramon Quina Argente Renante Macatangay Gamara Eduardo Olango Sarmiento Eduardo Roson Serrano
We, political prisoners in various jails here in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, greet with great enthusiasm the Caravan para sa kalayaan that Samahan ng mga Ex-detainee laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA), KARAPATAN and other advocates of freedom and justice for all political prisoners are launching today, highlighted by a tour of detention centers where political prisoners are being kept in Metro Manila, and a rally before the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to demand the release of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants and other political prisoners and to call for the resumption of the stalled peace talks between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH). The Caravan para sa Kalayaan is also giving emphasis on the gross inhumanity and injustice in the continuing detention of political prisoners who are sickly, elderly, minors or arrested as minors, and have long been under detention.
Political prisoners in various jails here in Camp Bagong Diwa include those being kept in the Female Detention at the Taguig District Jail (FD-TDJ), in the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA), and in the Metro Manila District Jail-Main (MMDJ-Main), practically all of whom have been unjustly, arbitrarily and illegally arrested, detained and charges in courts.
Among us are five peace consultants of the NDFP (Ma. Loida Magpatoc, detained at the TCJ-FD, Tirso Alcantara, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza and Alan Jazmines, detained at the SICA). Four at the MMDJ-Main, and some 200 more at the SICA, some 25 of whom are associated with the national democratic movement, another of the same number associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and more than a hundred ordinary community folk – - practically all unjustly, arbitrarily and illegally arrested, tortured, detained and swamped with trumped-up criminalized charges, and mostly under intentional “mistaken identities” just so that those behind their arrest and detention could collect all and pocket huge bounties provided by the U.S. “anti-terrorist” aid and by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
There are also (particularly here at the SICA) a handful of U.S. rendition victims (all Indonesians), who were surreptitiously transferred (under U.S. FBI direction and Philippine police, military and intelligence connivance and implementation) to Philippine detention and made to undergo the exceedingly rotten and slow justice system in the country, just to keep those rendition victims indefinitely detained in a Philippine version of Guantanamo.
As of August 2013, there are 449 political prisoners in the country, all victims of gross violations of justice and human rights, including numerous provisions in the NDFP-GPH’s CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law). The current Aquino regime has been responsible for the arrest and detention of about a third of these, and yet it lies through its teeth in denying that there are political prisoners in the country.
Among political prisoners are some 14 NDFP peace consultants, whose arrest, torture, detention and prosecution have been in arrogant violation of the NDFP-GPH’s JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees), which is supposed to protect peace consultants and peace process staffs from arrest, torture, detention, prosecution and other antagonistic acts that would deter their effective participation and work in the peace process. The adamant refusal of the current Aquino government to abide by the JASIG, as well as CARHRIHL and other standing peace agreements, has caused the stalling once again of the NDFP-GPH peace talks.
Earlier GPH regimes had in varying degrees been more open to abiding by peace agreements, including guaranteeing the freedom and safety of NDFP peace consultants and staffs. The Ramos regime was the most open, such that the NDFP-GPH peace talks achieved the most progress during its reign.
There were also a number of agreements up to the Gloria Arroyo regime. But the problem was that most of those agreements were actually only on paper and not implemented. It was also under that regime when a number of NDFP peace consultants became victims of involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Eventually the Gloria Arroyo regime even went as far as suspending the JASIG and conniving with the Dutch police to arrest the NDFP’s Chief Political and Peace Adviser, Jose Ma. Sison.
The current Aquino regime agreed to resume the NDFP-GPH peace talks and revive the suspended JASIG and other peace agreements. But it did not do so in actual practice. It denied JASIG protection for NDFP peace consultants and staffs, and in fact had an NDFP peace consultants and member of the NDFP Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms arrested and detained on the very eve of the resumed peace talks, had a number of other NDFP peace consultants and JASIG holders arrested and continue to be detained, despite the NDFP peace panel’s demand for their release.
The current Aquino Regime also left hanging and did not bother to touch, much less to implement, specific peace agreements entered into by the NDFP and GPH peace panels during the Gloria Arroyo regime, including the following:
The review and evaluation of cases about 300 political prisoners documented by KARAPATAN and the immediate release of those found to have been arrested, detained and charged or even convicted of what were made to appear as common crimes, contrary to the Hernandez Doctrine (which prohibits charging with common crimes those with supposed political offenses), as those political prisoners were only involved in political opposition and had nothing to do with common crimes they were arrested, detained, charged or even convicted for – - or in many cases were only innocent civilians);
The immediate release (within 30 days, i.e. by November 3, 2004 of specifically named political prisoners, consisting of women, minors, ailing and elderly.
Except in the case of a very few who won rare acquittals in court, bulk of the 300 political prisoners supposed to be processed for release by the Gloria Arroyo regime were only passed on to the current Aquino regime, who, instead of continuing with the processing for their release, declared that there are no political prisoners in the country. The current Aquino regime even added another half to the number of political prisoners it inherited from the Gloria Arroyo regime.
Upon resuming the peace talks with the NDFP in February 14, 2011 up to now, the current Aquino regime still has not even released the 30 women, minors, ailing and elderly political prisoners agreed upon by the NDFP and GPH peace panels way back in 2004.
Four of the minors the list (Taufic Muner, then aged 14; Bimbas Abubakar, then aged 14; Omar Galo, then aged 16 and Jammang Palili, then aged 17 are all still detained at the SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa. There are further eight more political prisoners who were minors when arrested and still detained at SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa. Included among them are Grego Guevarra and Reynaldo De los Santos, who were only 17 years old when arrested and detained by the current Aquino regime for more than two years ago to just several months ago.
Another stark phenomenon, especially at the SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa, is the big number of ailing and elderly political prisoners, most of whom have been detained for about a dozen years or more already. Because of their overly long detention already; the poor cramped conditions; poor food rations; lack of medical attention; and the indifferent treatment and severe restrictions they have been undergoing in jail, they have suffered and continue to suffer further deteriorations of their health.
A number of these have died in prison. One of the latest death at the SICA, Camp Bagong Diwa (last “Good Friday”, March 29) was that of Intong Amirol, past 70 years, who suffered a hypertensive stroke more than two years ago and became totally paralyzed and bedridden since then, was not brought to any hospital or given adequate medical attention, and had to totally rely on his cellmates for full-time caregiving. His family could not assist him at all or even just visit him as they are poor and too far away. State authorities were asked to release him, as his precarious health condition could surely only deteriorate further in jail, and as his further detention was not only inhuman but also illegal, since he was already past 70 and, in the first place, he is totally innocent of the charges against him. He was actually a victim of intentional “mistaken identity” as he was arrested, detained and charged as another person (a certain “Intong Aninol”, supposedly of the Abu Sayyaf Group. But the indifferent state did nothing about all these. This indifference killed him.
Another case of a political prisoners, who also unfortunately suffered a lot and died because of the indifference of prison authorities, was that of Alison Alcantara, who had been seriously suffering since early September and who his fellow-political prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison has asked the jail authorities to immediately bring him to a hospital. The jail authorities, however, refused and only did bring him to a public hospital when he collapsed and fell unconscious after six more days of suffering. It was too late and he died from complications from diabetes, pneumonia, infections and other ailments.
A number of other elderly and ailing political prisoners need not only immediate and medical attention, but also the return of the freedom deprived of them. These include Ramon Argente, who had to go through a heart by-pass operation; Alvin Langlang, who has suffered paralysis from the waist down due to brain injury; Vanessa delos Reyes, who is paralyzed from waist down; Miguela Piñero, who has long been suffering from thyroid and spinal problem; Felicardo Salamat, who has also been suffering from spinal problems.
We, political prisoners, whose existence the current Aquino regime keeps on denying and the demand for whose release has long been an issue, are heartened by the Caravan para sa Kalayaan’s call for our release, including the urgent release of women, minors, elderly and ailing political prisoners.
The call for the release of political prisoners need further to be raised again and again, and echoed widely through various sectors of society to be able to penetrate the thick and tough buffers of the present ruling state and regime.
All advocates of freedom, justice, human rights and the betterment of society need to press on and further intensify the campaign until it eventually bears fruition the face of the prevailing state and regime’s indifference at present.
Political Prisoner at Camp Bagong Diwa Taguig City
Rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), with relatives and friends of political prisoners held a caravan today from the Quezon City Memorial Circle to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City in an urgent call to free elderly and ailing political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.
“They shouldn’t be in jail in the first place, but they are jailed on trumped up charges. They suffered from torture and other violations of their rights as prisoners. They are denied freedom, and some die of sickness in the long course of their detention. The ailing and the elderly should be released soon while they are still alive,” said Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator.
According to SELDA, political prisoners, like ordinary inmates, suffer from subhuman prison conditions. “They are cramped in congested cells. They receive poor and inadequate health services. Their prolonged detention makes them vulnerable to more serious health conditions,” said Clamor.
Clamor cited the case of Alison Alcantara, who went into a coma on September 4 at the New Bilibid Prisons after suffering from complications to diabetes. “But he was transferred to the Philippine General Hospital only after three days,” said Clamor, “his life could have been saved if there was sufficient medical care right from the beginning.” Alcantara died on September 18.
As of August 2013, there are 449 political prisoners detained in various detention centers all over the country, 48 of them are ailing while 28 are elderly (60 years old and above).
“The low quality and insufficient medical care that the government provides endangers the lives of political prisoners. The P50 a day food budget is very little. Their condition is no different from the lives of people outside prison. Jails and detention centers are barely habitable, unsafe and hazardous to the health and general well-being of prisoners,” Clamor explained.
From Quezon City Memorial Circle, the caravan stopped at the gates of Camp Crame, where four political prisoners, namely Renante Gamara, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento and Ramon Argente are detained.
Gamara, Serrano, and Sarmiento are peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity guarantees of the GPH and the NDFP. Meanwhile, Ramon Argente, a peasant organizer from Bicol, was recently transferred at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame after undergoing triple by-pass surgery. He was previously detained at the Camarines Norte Provincial Jail.
“Even if his surgery is successful, he will recover better outside prison. Why endanger his life again after surviving this ordeal? The least the government can do with his condition is to free him,” Clamor said.
Alongside the caravan, artists and church workers visited the four political prisoners at Camp Crame as part of the “KA-KAUSA” solidarity visits to political prisoners in the Philippines. The group is composed of writers and visual artists, including cultural worker and former political prisoner Ericson Acosta. Poetry and songs were shared in a brief cultural program. The visitors also brought donated art materials for the political prisoners.
The caravan proceeded to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), to call for the resumption of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GPH. According to SELDA, the continued detention of NDF peace consultants and other political prisoners is a hindrance to the resumption to the talks.
The caravan’s last stop was at Camp Bagong Diwa (CBD), where the majority of political prisoners are detained, both at the Metro Manila District Jail-Main, Special Intensive Care Area-Metro Manila District Jail (SICA-MMDJ) and the Taguig City Jail- Female Dorm. A brief program was held at the gates of the CBD where political prisoners released a statement of solidarity in the call to immediately release the eldery and those who are sick among them. ###
Reference: Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator, 0917-5965859