SELDA pushes for immediate release of charges vs woman political prisoner in Cagayan, calls on Pnoy to release all political prisoners

SELDA, the organization of former political prisoners, today expects the immediate release from prison of Myrna Cruz, a former teacher and organizational development worker for peasant organizations in the Cagayan Valley Region, who was illegally arrested in Cagayan last March 2010.

Cruz’s family today went to Tuguegarao to witness the first hearing on her motion for dismissal in the Regional Trial Court Branch 3.

After her arrest last March 2, the court has moved for the re-investigation of her case. The provincial Public Prosecutor’s Office released a report last June 28 that “the evidence on record is insufficient to establish a prima facie case” against her, thereby recommending the dismissal of the charges of murder and her immediate release. Since March, she is being detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Tuguegarao City.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA Secretary General, said her organization expects this development as they welcome the court order dismissing the charges of murder against Cruz. “We likewise expect that the violation of gun ban charges against her will be similarly dismissed as these are equally trumped up ones,” Enriquez added.

“Myrna’s case illustrates the clear violations and distortions of the law which state security forces resort to just to muzzle and paralyze the work of human rights defenders working for the welfare and well-being of marginalized Filipinos who are also the poorest and voiceless people in Philippine society. We decry and condemn this obvious bias against the poor and those who help them,” the human rights leader commented.

Enriquez further said this shows what the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program has achieved so far – hit the civil society efforts at alleviating the plight of the poor and destroy the democratic institutions primarily established to gain the people’s trust in government thereby alienating more the poorest sections of the population that have been neglected for years. “This is the reason why the Oplan Bantay Laya is also a failure,” she asserted.

Cruz is among the 359 political detainees under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, as documented by Karapatan and SELDA.

“We call on President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to release all political prisoners and not to embark on a similar counter-insurgency program. Instead, he should address, in a substantive manner, the root causes of the insurgency rather than adding more military troops and resort heavily to military solutions,” Enriquez concluded.###

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