Lira Dalangin-Fernandez | InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines — The hospitalization of lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes for a panic attack she suffered over fears of being detained with suspected communist rebels proves the government’s double standards in dealing with prisoners, rights activists and lawyers said Friday.
The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, which advocates political prisoners’ rights, noted that there are around 50 ailing detainees, a number of them elderly, who languish in jail without proper medical care, and that some have, in fact, died because of this.
Among the most recent cases are the deaths of the daughter of Andrea Rosal, incarcerated although she was eight months pregnant when she was arrested, soon after she was born in May, Bilibid prisoner Allison Alcantara who was rushed to the Philippine General Hospital only after he went into a coma from which he did not recover in September last year, and Crisanto Fat who died of a heart attack in a Negros Occidental jail.
Rosal, daughter of the late communist rebel spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, was cleared of kidnapping with murder charges by the Pasic regional trial court but remains detained because of a pending murder charge before a court in Quezon province.
Reyes, who is accused with her former boss, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, of plunder and graft over the pork barrel scam, was admitted to the Taguig-Pateros Hospital late Tuesday night as she was being transferred to the female dormitory of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on orders of the Sandiganbayan.
She has filed a motion for reconsideration of her commitment order, citing concerns over being locked up with nine alleged female rebels.
“Whether true or imagined sickness, Gigi Reyes’ swift hospitalization without need of a court order is another showcase of the government’s soft spot for those accused of plunder,” SELDA spokesman Jigs Clamor said.
He noted that it takes a month, on the average, for courts to process motions filed by political detainees to undergo medical examinations.
On the other hand, Rosal’s lawyer Edre Olalia said Reyes appeared “out of touch with reality and seems delusional” and suggested it might do Enrile’s chief of staff good to actually know and talk to the political prisoners.
Reyes was a known student activist when she studied at the University of the Philippines.
“If she sees her own demons in the company of principled, rational and dignified political prisoners she pejoratively labels as NPAs (New People’s Army) all, then she should really seek some professional help. They should not be the ones in jail in the first place,” Olalia, who is also secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said.
“She might be jolted and humbled if she eventually discovers that these people she disdains and looks down at could probably be the most simple, humane, merciful and selfless people she could find. She might even be enlightened what the proximate cause is of the decrepit, filthy, infernal and squalid little hells we call jails,” he added.
“If contrived or feigned, then this is comical. If real, then by all means, let a doctor see her and give her immediate, necessary and appropriate medical care. But the rich and famous are not the only children of a greater god,” Olalia said of Reyes’ panic attack.
He also suggested a “medical convention of experts to validate the direct correlation between detention and worrisome illnesses and health disorders that affect only the rich. This is alarming already.”
SELDA said it holds “a long list of political prisoners who need proper medical attention,” and named some of them as:
Benny Barid – Pale and very thin, he is suffering from chronic asthma. After suffering from a series of asthma attacks, he has been in and out at the NBP Infirmary. He cannot stand up by himself and needs a wheelchair for mobility. Fellow political prisoners support his medical needs. His prolonged stay at the NBP Hospital makes him more vulnerable to various diseases.
Rolando Pañamogan – In 2009, he was admitted twice, first at the NBP Hospital, and second at the Philippine General Hospital. He was diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction and pneumonia related to tuberculosis. He recovered from the said illnesses but was later diagnosed with hepatitis B and diabetes. His diabetes and asthma need more than first aid.
The Alegre couple, Jesus and Moreta – both in their late 60s, are languishing in jail for almost 10 years now. The elderly couple’s imprisonment has made them sickly. Both are suffering from hypertension and arthritis. Moreta has a weak heart and moves very slowly. Their imprisonment has separated them from each other — Jesus and Selman are at the NBP Maximum Security Compound in Muntinlupa, while Moreta is at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City.
Gerardo dela Peña, 75 – Despite his age, he was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment last year due to trumped-up charges of murder. After his arrest on March 2013, it took the court only 10 months to pin down Dela Peña. At his old age, his eyes are blurring. He also has poor hearing. He is detained at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) Reception and Diagnostic Center, awaiting transfer to the NBP Maximum Security Compound.
Ramon Argente – had a triple heart bypass operation in 2013. After the surgery, he was brought back to detention at the PNP Custodial Center. He remains in fragile condition, as he still experiences difficulty in breathing and chest pains. Argente was undergoing medication when he was arrested. His health worsened while detained at the Camarines Norte Provincial Jail. It took six months before his motion for hospitalization was granted.
15 July 2013
Rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) demanded the release of a political prisoner who is now in a critical condition at the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila after he had a stroke.
SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez identified the political prisoner as Oscar Belleza, a 56-year-old peasant leader from Samar and is detained at the Manila City Jail for three years now. He was one of the co-accused in the multiple murder case in 2008 along with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Jose Ma. Sison for the alleged mass graves found in Leyte.
Enriquez said Belleza was only transferred this morning at the JRRMMC after being unconscious and confined at the jail’s infirmary for three days. Attending doctors suspect possible brain hemorrhage.
As of press time, he just regained consciousness and can speak a little.
“We demand that Belleza be immediately released on humanitarian grounds. His condition does not give any justification for him to be brought back to jail,” Enriquez said.
The group also demanded that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-Manila City Jail should shoulder the medical expenses for Belleza’s hospitalization.
“Poor conditions in the jail, including the inadequate budget allotted for nutrition and healthcare services for prisoners, have aggravated Belleza’s condition,” Enriquez said.
She added that political prisoners, like all prisoners in jail, suffer the same conditions. The government only spends three pesos per inmate for medical services, according to the group.
“We cannot tolerate another loss of life. He was a victim of a trumped-up case because he fought for genuine land reform. He should be released before it’s too late.” Enriquez said.
Enriquez mentioned the case of Crisanto Fat, a political prisoner in Negros Occidental, who died in 2011 after being in and out of the hospital due to a heart ailment. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms and illegal possession of explosives which, according to members of his family who witnessed his arrest, was all made up by the military.
SELDA has been demanding the release sickly and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds but the Aquino government continues to ignore the plea. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson 0917-5616800