Rights groups stage solidarity fast for political prisoners’ hunger strike

Press release
July 28, 2011

As the political prisoners’ hunger strike continues on its fourth day this Thursday, human rights groups, peoples’ organizations, religious groups and supporters gathered inside the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) compound for solidarity fast with the political prisoners’ demand for human rights and freedom.

“We, leaders and members of civil society organizations hold solidarity fast to show that we are with the political prisoners in their calls for justice and, immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners,” said Sister Crescencia Lucero, sfic, Deputy Executive Director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).

The political prisoners nationwide led by those in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa City have taken a step further from an indefinite fast into a full-scale hunger strike last July 25 coinciding with the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“Now in their fourth day, the political prisoners in NBP have foregone all food intakes and only take in liquids to underscore and demonstrate their demand to the government to underscore the gravity of injustice they suffered. The prisoners are getting physically weaker as they continue their hunger strike, but their political will and courage remains as strong as ever,” Edeliza P. Hernandez, Executive Director of the Medical Action Group (MAG) added.

According to TFDP, the regular supply of meals of the prisoners or “rancho” as the inmates call it are now piling up in front of the NBP Building 11 where the political prisoners staged their hunger strike.

“The on-going hunger strike of political prisoners for justice and freedom are guided by the correct lessons from the prison struggles of the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino, P-Noy’s father and other political prisoners during the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s and first half of the 1980s,” TFDP continued.

In a letter of appeal sent to the Office of the President, the political prisoners laid down their calls for P-Noy to pronounce a clear National Human Rights program, for immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and for prison reforms pertaining particularly to amend the Rules on Parole and Guidelines for Recommending Executive Clemency which is not in conformity with the principle of restorative justice.

“It seems that P-Noy, after several times that we tried to lobby in the Executive department, has no intention to look into the plight of political prisoners.  In his SONA, he has not mentioned or minced words about human rights. Tatay Mariano Umbrero, who died at NBP hospital last July 15, lays bare to the utter disregard of the government to the rights and welfare of prisoners and their very lives, just as the government chose to be deaf and blind to legitimate demands for prison reforms,” the groups lamented.      

Meanwhile, according to Max De Mesa, chairperson of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), “It is imperative that the government declares his clear program on the respect and protection of human rights which we find lacking in the first year of the Aquino administration and in his recent SONA.” -end-