Abigail Kwok | Interaksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines — Political prisoners across the country began a weeklong fast Monday to demand freedom ahead of President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address on July 23.
In Camp Crame, detainees Renante Gamara, Eduardo Serrano and Eduardo Sarmiento began fasting on Monday.
Political prisoners from Southern Mindanao, Compostela Valley, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Batangas, Isabela, New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City as well as members of the group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, composed of relatives of friends of political prisoners, also joined the fasting.
They called on Aquino to immediately grant a “general, unconditional and omnibus” amnesty to free all political prisoners in the country.
On Tuesday, around 10 members from SELDA, Karapatan and Hustisya held a noise barrage outside Camp Crame to press their demand for freedom of the 105 political detainees arrested.
“This government has continuously focused on prosecuting activists and their sympathizers because of their political beliefs,” said SELDA secretary general Angie Ipong. “The political prisoners demand what they think is just for the society. They shouldn’t be treated as criminals as what the PNoy government is trying to convey before the public.”
Ipong cited the July 4 arrest of Agnes Mesina, a development worker with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Cagayan.
A former overseas Filipino workers, authorities have reportedly linked Mesina to the murder of Dutch development worker Willem Geertman, a charge her supporters have called ridiculous.
Activist and human rights groups suspect security ofrces of being behind Geertman’s death.
“Detaining critics of the government is nothing but a desperate act of the government to keep its perceived enemies silent,” Ipong said.
Of the political prisoners, 13 are elderly, 48 are sick with various ailments and 20 have been detained for several years.
There are also 13 consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, among them Sarmiento and Serrano.
In a statement, the two, along with Gamara, accused policemen of depriving them of their rights after they exposed the alleged ill treatment of detainees by jail personnel and police.
Another NDF consultant, Alan Jazmines, tagged by authorities as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee, has been transferred from Camp Crame to Camp Bagong Diwa on Taguig.