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