July 22, 2010: AS VICTIMS OF GRAVER INJUSTICES, CRUZ AND POLITICAL PRISONERS SHOULD BE RELEASED, PNOY TOLD

Former political prisoners, kin of current detainees and human rights organizations today trooped to Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s residence at Times Street, Quezon City to call for the immediate release of Myrna Cruz and other political prisoners, especially during under the Marcos and Arroyo government.

Myrna Cruz, a former teacher and organizational development worker for peasant organization in Cagayan Valley, was illegally arrested last March 22 2010 on charges of murder and violations of the gun ban during the election period. She is among the 359 political prisoners under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, as documented by Karapatan and SELDA.

“My mother has languished in jail for crimes she did not commit. Our whole life, we are witness to our mother’s selflessness and dedication for the poor and their welfare. It is the height of injustice that my mother is being denied of her freedom,” Gem Abraham, Myrna’s daughter, said.

On her fourth month of detention today, Cruz is on hunger strike since July 9 to protest the “inhumane judicial process and illegal detention” she is being subjected to, even as the Provincial Public Prosecutor’s Office has recommended last June 28 the dismissal of the charges against her and has moved for her immediate release. Since March, she is being detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Tuguegarao City.

“It is deplorable how innocent development workers and activists are continuously persecuted and illegally incarcerated for fabricated charges. Pres. Aquino should show the same compassion and concern for these political prisoners, as what he has shown former Navy Officer and detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. We call on Pres. Aquino’s immediate action for the release of Myrna Cruz and all political prisoners,” Bong Bersoles, Chairperson of SELDA National Capital Region, said.

SELDA members were joined by Myrna’s children and friends, as well as organizations such as Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Bayan Muna and Gabriela. They delivered a letter of appeal for Pres. Aquino bearing their immediate concerns.

In their letter, they cited the counter-insurgency blueprint of the Arroyo government, Oplan Bantay Laya, as the strategy behind the illegal arrests, detention, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. The strategy, they said, “has been used to legitimize the targeting of civilians who express dissent to government policies and actions that are detrimental to the interests and welfare of the people.”

“This strategy makes no distinction between armed insurgents and civilians who exercise their right to express their opinions and who organize and assemble to articulate their grievances and dissent,” they added in their letter.

They likewise called for the immediate scrapping of Oplan Bantay Laya and demanded justice for all victims of impunity under the Arroyo government.

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