Rights Groups to Cory’s son: Release all political prisoners in memory of your mother’s legacy

August 1, 2011

In time for the 2nd year commemoration of the death of former President Corazon Aquino, rights groups, peoples’ organizations and relatives of the political prisoners holding their hunger strike picketed the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Padre Faura to urge government to release all political prisoners, issue a national human rights plan and amend the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) guidelines.

“We strongly urge President Aquino to follow the footsteps of his mother and release all political prisoners who are in their eighth day of hunger strike. The best way to commemorate the death of former President Cory Aquino is to uphold democracy by respecting political beliefs, stop political incarceration in the country and start by releasing political prisoners,” said Emmanuel Amistad, executive director of the human rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).

According to the group, the political prisoners around the country led by inmates in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City are now in their 8th day of hunger strike that started July 25 coinciding with President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“The hunger strike was triggered by the death of the cancer-stricken Tatay Mariano Umbrero last July 15, 2011. Tatay Umbrero was eventually granted clemency by President Aquino on July 19 four days after his death. Compassion came too late. For the political prisoners, Tatay Umbrero’s case shows clearly that the Aquino government has no serious intention of looking into the plight of political prisoners,” Amistad added.

On July 28 President Aquino announced his first issuance of executive clemency for a cancer-stricken prisoner only to find out that Mariano Umbrero or Tatay Umbrero as the group called the old man was already dead.

“It shocked us and we were saddened. If the clemency that we had appealed for had come earlier then Tatay Umbrero would have spent his last days with his family. Nobody wants another Tatay Umbrero, so we strongly urge President Aquino to listen to the calls of the political prisoners who are now on hunger strike. We do not need another life lost before government listens,” Amistad of TFDP said.

According to the group, they are bringing their appeal to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima because it is her department that is mandated to review the cases of Alleged Political Offenders (APO) as the secretariat of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, Pardon and Parole (PCBREPP).

“But without President Aquino’s political will to act on the plight of political prisoners, then there will be no serious and sincere action that will be made by the concerned department such as DOJ. Ang matuwid na daan ay diretso at di bako-bako. Ang daan ng rekonsilyason at pagkakaisa ay nakabatay sa katarungan at pagkalinga sa kapwa. Walang mawawala sa pamahalaan kung palayain nito ang bilanggong pulitikal. Hakbang ito patungo sa landas ng kapayapaan,” Amistad concluded.

Meanwhile, starting today, political detainees in the Manila City Jail (MCJ) are also joining the nationwide hunger strike and Moro political detainees in MMDJ Taguig offer their fasting for the first day of Ramadan for the call for their release.###

Organizations participating in the protest action are members of Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Medical Action Group (MAG), Balay Rehabilitation Center, Alab-Katipunan (AK), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Taga Lungsod (KPML), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), SANLAKAS and REHAS.