Groups reinvigorate campaign to free political prisoners

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

Breaking chains, Reclaiming freedom from Marcos Sr to Marcos Jr,” an activity demanding the immediate release of all political prisoners, was held on June 27 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City. It was led by the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) and joined by 13 organizations and some former political detainees under the Marcos Sr. dictatorship. During the dictatorship, the call “Free all political prisoners!” was a major campaign.

According to SELDA, there were 49 victims of arbitrary arrest and detention in the first year of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. They are now among the 778 political prisoners on human rights group Karapatan’s list as of June 30.

Among the prisoners are more than 70 elderly, 150 women and 90 ailing.

Among the regions, Northern Mindanao has the highest number of arrested and detained (105), followed by the National Capital Region (104), Caraga (93), Western Visayas (90) then Central Visayas (85).

Most of the political prisoners are held on trumped-up charges. They were arrested without legal grounds and most without an arrest warrant. They were detained because of their political convictions and activities.

Their cases move at snail-pace. There are detainees who have already completed their maximum sentence but continue to languish in jail because their cases are not properly monitored. This is common among detainees who are poor and whose families live remotely, and do not have regular lawyers.

There are detainees who have been acquitted in their original case, but are not released because of “multiple cases” filed by the military. Others simply die in prison without their cases being resolved.

The activity also commemorated the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In addition to torture and other inhumane treatment, political prisoners endure overcrowded cells, inadequate food and insufficient health services.

The campaign aims to gather support locally and internationally, build a network and coalition with different entities and conduct dialogues with relevant institutions such as the United Nations.

On July 1, human rights defenders again raised the issue of worsening human rights violations at the 53rd meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland.

Groups reinvigorate campaign to free political prisoners