October 14, 2010

In the light of Malacanang’s amnesty to rebel soldiers by virtue of Proclamation No. 50, the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of former political prisoners, today aired their demand for the release of all 378 political prisoners in the country, saying this is a political decision which should be exercised by the President, as much as the amnesty for the rebel soldiers is a political act.

“While we welcome the intent for the freedom of the rebel soldiers, we are adamant in demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. They do not need amnesty, since almost all of them were charged with trumped-up and fabricated common crimes while they were persecuted for their principled opposition to various anti-people policies. They are demanding for their freedom,” Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA Secretary General, said.

Cabillas cited the case of the forty three health workers who were illegally arrested, tortured and detained since February 6, 2010, among the several cases of political prisoners.

“There has been no let-up in the international community’s appeals and demand for the release of the Morong 43. Pres. Aquino should now decisively make a political act by releasing the Morong 43,” Cabillas added.

According to data from Karapatan and SELDA, under the Arroyo government, there were 2,425 victims of arbitrary arrests, 1,092 of them were tortured. Among these cases are that of political prisoners Myrna Cruz and Randy Malayao, both detained in the Cagayan Valley Region. Cruz, a former teacher and a consultant of peasant organizations, was illegally arrested last March 2010 and has remained incarcerated at the Tugeugarao City Jail, despite state prosecutors’ orders for the dismissal of murder charges and her release. Malayao, a consultant of the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), was acquitted from murder charges filed against him for the killing of former Cagayan governor Col. Rodolfo Aquinaldo and his aide, but he remains detained at the Ilagan City Jail in Isabela.

“Both Cruz and Malayao have suffered unjustly for crimes they did not commit, and yet no attention has been given for their eventual release,” Cabillas said.

SELDA also called for the withdrawal of fabricated charges against activists and leaders of progressive organizations such as former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis, and Randall Echanis.

“These charges, which have been consistently proven false, are pure harassment and persecution of Ocampo, Ladlad, Baylosis, Echanis and others, for their political beliefs. The continuing spate of trumped-up charges against human rights workers in Negros, Bicol and Mindanao indicates that these practices continue,” Cabillas ended. #

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