P-Noy urged: “Free all political prisoners from Central Luzon”

PRESS RELEASE (for immediate release)
November 17, 2010

P-Noy urged: “Free all political prisoners from Central Luzon”

Reference: Julita Caloza, Spokesperson
Families and Friends of Central Luzon Political Detainees
Mobile Phone No. 09395351731

Lito Baes, OIC/Acting President
United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU)
Mobile Phone No. 09291912383

Sr. Cecile Ruiz, Chair
KARAPATAN-Gitnang Luson
Mobile Phone No. 09175960578

Joseph Canlas, Chair
Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (AMGL)

Roman Polintan, Chair
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luson
Mobile Phone No. 09272223418

Families and relatives of political detainees from Central Luzon today troop to Malacanang Palace to press for the immediately release their kin who are now languishing in various jails in and outside Region III on the strength of trumped-up criminal charges leveled against them by their military captors.

According to Julita Caloza, spokesperson of Families and Friends of Political Detainees-Central Luzon, their detained relatives are honorable people and not criminals. “It is extremely unjust for the government to slap them with criminal charges for their political offenses,” Caloza said, adding: “Hindi matatawaran ang naging papel nila sa pagpapatalsik sa diktaduryang Marcos at ng rehimeng Estrada, gayundin sa pakikibaka ng mamamayan laban sa nakaraang rehimen ni Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”

In a petition they presented to Malacanang, hundreds of signatories belonging to the church sector, academe, lawyers, government officials, congressmen, government employees, farmers, workers, students and other groups supported the call for the detainees’ immediate and unconditional release, noting that the government had violated their human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in international instruments of human rights and humanitarian laws.

“At the very least, they are entitled to be treated as political offenders and not as criminals, to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty, to be granted provisional liberty while their cases are being heard, to be given adequate medical attention or released on humanitarian considerations for health and analogous reasons,” the petitioners stressed.

But the petitioners lamented that even these minimum safeguards have not been afforded by the government but instead it made the detainees victims of its prevailing practice of criminalizing political offenses in evident effort to portray them as criminals.

They also scored the military’s penchant for fabricating new criminal charges whenever the previous criminal cases were dismissed by the courts. “To say the least, these maneuverings constitute a serious affront to the basic tenets of justice and fair play,” the petitioners stressed.

They also bewailed that two of the political detainees, Leopoldo Caloza and Emeterio Antalan, have suffered worsening health condition while in detention. Karapatan-Gitnang Luson chair Sr. Cecile Ruiz said that Caloza has been suffering from obstructive europathy for several years now, while Antalan continues to suffer the pain of kidney trouble and fluctuating blood pressure. “They deserve to be released on humanitarian grounds,” Ruiz pointed out.

For his part, Roman Polintan, BAYAN-Gitnang Luson chair, said that Caloza, Antalan, along with Efren Delalamon and Eduardo Friginal are duly designated consultants and staff of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on peace process. “As such, they are covered by the protection against arrest and detention under the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed between the Philippine government and the NDFP. “This all the more justifies their immediate release from detention.

The petitioners therefore call on the administration of President Aquino as follows:

1. Immediately release and unconditionally drop all the charges against all the 25 political detainees in the same way that former President Cory Aquino has done in the exercise of her political will upon her assumption to office in 1986. But urgent consideration must be accorded to Leopoldo Caloza, Emeterio Antalan, Efren Delalamon and Edgardo Friginal due to their status as NDFP consultants and staff on peace process, and also in view of Caloza’s and Antalan’s worsening health condition.

2. Immediately pass adequate legislative measures to decriminalize political offenses.

3. Investigate all human rights cases, prosecute and pnish the perpetrators, and indemnify victims of human rights violations.

4. Duly enforce the law against torture as well as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws. ###

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