July 25, 2014
Activists stage a protest in front of Camp Crame to demand the release of political prisoners (photo from Karapatan)
MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 3:23 p.m.) Political prisoners began a fast Friday that will last until Monday, when President Benigno Aquino III delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address, the human rights organization Karapatan said.
Joining the fast are detainees in Camp Crame, who include Benito Tiamzon, alleged chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, his wife Wilma Austria, and National Democratic Front consultants Eduardo Serrano and Renante Gamara; the New Bilibid Prison; and the Taguig City jail’s female dormitory at Camp Bagong Diwa, where Andrea Rosal, daughter of the late rebel spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, is incarcerated.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the fast was meant to underscore the political prisoners’ “disgust” with the Aquino administration.
The Taguig detainees are also expected to stage a march inside the jail compound to protest “Aquino’s misuse of public funds through the creation of DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program),” key provisions of which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.
“Ang patuloy na pagdepensa at pagtatanggol ng papet na rehimeng US-Aquino sa kasuklam-suklam na paglustay ng salapi mula sa kabang yaman ng bansa, dapat itong panagutin sa pamamagitan ng pagsasampa ng kasong kriminal, pagpapatalsik sa pwesto at paglalagay sa loob ng piitan,” (The continued defense of the US-Aquino regime of the disgusting plunder of public coffers should be held to account through criminal prosecution, ouster and jail),” a statement from the Taguig detainees said.
Also on Friday, Karapatan and the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto staged protest actions at Camp Crame and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to demand the release of political prisoners and the punishment of plunderers.
“The detention of activists and those perceived as ‘enemies of the state’ and their condition inside jails poses a stark contrast with how the BS Aquino treats the plunderers, especially the beneficiaries (and) defenders of the presidential pork. It is Aquino’s way of asserting his ‘ignorance’ in the said crime,” Palabay said in a statement.
At the OPAPP protest, Karapatan questioned the DAP funds given to the agency, P1.819 billion in 2011 and P248 million the next year, aside from its regular budget.
“Is the OPAPP deliberately evading public scrutiny by not including their proposed projects for proper allocation in the GAA? Did they find DAP as a way to evade scrutiny for the large amount of money that goes to OPAPP?” Palabay said.
She cited OPAPP’s acknowledgment that the 2012 funds were not included in the list of DAP-funded projects released by Malacanang.
At the same time, she said the huge outlay to the OPAPP, “supposedly spent for the peace initiatives of the government did not translate in concrete gains for the people. At best, only allies of the administration benefited from the DAP funds.”
Human rights activists stage a protest at the OPAPP (photo by Karapatan)
Palabay derided the government’s peace initiatives as “a business venture rather than a sincere effort to go into the root causes of the armed conflict and solve poverty, landlessness and joblessness.”
She also blasted the P264 million given to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the P31 million to the Revolutionary Proletarian Army, former rebel groups that signed peace pacts with government but which the Karapatan official said had transformed into “paramilitary groups” accused of human rights abuses.
“The peace process should serve the interests of the majority of our people and not just a few groups that sow terror,” she said. “Through DAP the money stolen from the people are used against them. With OPAPP, it becomes worse as paying lip service to the peace process only denies the people of a venue where their basic social and economic problems can be discussed and solved.”