URGENT CALL FOR SUPPORT: Free all political prisoners! Campaign and Information Kit
Dear friends and colleagues,
Let us demand the release of all political prisoners, including those who should be released on humanitarian grounds, lest they run out of time and die in prison cells.
On November 25, 2016, Bernabe Ocasla, an elderly and ailing political prisoner detained since 2007, was rushed to a hospital following a stroke. Ocasla died three days after slipping into a coma.
Ocasla is the first political prisoner who died while in detention under the Duterte administration. There are twelve (12) other political prisoners who suffered the same fate during the BS Aquino administration because of lack of proper medical attention and inhuman jail conditions: NDFP peace consultant Eduardo Serrano (Special Intensive Care Unit 1- Camp Bagong Diwa), Jose Andaya (Tinangis Penal Farm, Camarines Sur), Alison Alcantara and Benny Barid (New Bilibid Prison), Ester Montes (Eastern Samar), Nenino Cabarles and Renato
Abadiano (Samar Provincial Jail), Crisanto Fat (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bago City, Negros Occidental), Melchor Renomeron (Compostela Provincial Rehabilitation Center), Romeo San Andres (Aurora Provincial Jail), Gildo Gonzales (Makati City Jail) and Willy Geocado (Sorsogon Provincial Jail).
We also recall the death of Diona Andrea, the newborn baby of former political prisoner Andrea Rosal. Because of poor jail conditions and inadequate maternal care, baby Diona died two days after she was born at the Philippine General Hospital.
Bernabe Ocasla, 66, was a peasant organizer in Catbalogan, Western Samar when he was illegally arrested on December 31, 2007. He was unjustly implicated in the trumped up multiple murder charges, with peace consultants Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, Benito Tiamzon, Randall Echanis, Raffy Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad and Satur Ocampo, fellow peasant organizers Dario Tomada, Norberto Murillo, Oscar Belleza and former Bohol town mayor Exuperio Lloren. Ocasla was detained at the Manila City Jail.
The multiple murder case, lodged at Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 and where Ocasla and several others were implicated, is a tale of make-believe stories spun through highly questionable testimonies of soldiers and military-backed witnesses and planted evidence, to justify the illegal arrest and imprisonment of peace consultants and peasant leaders. A previous case using the same set of evidence was earlier dismissed in court when a witness admitted that he was under military custody when he executed his complaint affidavit.
Imprisoned when he was already 57 years old, and having spent almost 9 years in jail, Ocasla suffered from deafness, blindness in one eye, and hypertension. Ocasla’s health has undoubtedly deteriorated due to jail conditions. On November 25, 2016, Ocasla was rushed to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center after suffering a stroke. His heart stopped but was revived after desperate efforts. A respirator was the only thing which kept him alive for the next three days. Come, November 28 in the afternoon and after three consecutive heart attacks, his body gave up.
Ocasla’s name is among those listed and submitted by Karapatan to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as priority for release under humanitarian considerations. His release requirements have been prepared, completed, and merely awaiting the fulfillment of GRP’s commitment.
The resumption of the formal peacetalks between the GRP and NDFP on August 22-26, 2016 was a welcome development, which paved the way, among others, for the reaffirmation of previously signed agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the release of political prisoners through a general amnesty, with priority given to detainees for humanitarian considerations, and the process for the drafting and approval of key agreements on social, economic, and political reforms.
Though commitments were made to release a substantial number of political prisoners on the first and second round of the talks, only nineteen (19) NDFP consultants and staffs have been temporarily released on bail, to be able to join the formal talks in August 2016. Pronouncements by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and GRP peace panel head Sec. Silvestre Bello III publicized the alleged signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the two parties on December 10 and that 71 political prisoners have already been released; none of said pronouncements are true.
As of October 31, 2016, there are still 401 political prisoners in the country. Of the 401, 130 are sickly, 33 are elderly, 33 are women, and 49 have been imprisoned for more than ten years. At least 296 of them were illegally arrested during the BS Aquino administration, while 15 were arrested during the Duterte administration. Please see the attached profiles of some of the political prisoners.
This coming commemoration of the International Human Rights Day 2016, Karapatan will support the initiatives of all political prisoners in the Philippines as they are set to conduct hunger strikes from December 7 to December 10. This will be complemented by solidarity fasting of the PPs’ relatives and supporters outside jails starting December 3 to December 10, 2016 to amplify the call for the immediate release of all political prisoners via general amnesty and for the continuation of peace initiatives of the Philippine government with the NDFP and Moro movements. Please see attached concept note on this activity.
We enjoin you and your organization to support the political prisoners through the following:
1. Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
- The immediate release of all 401 political prisoners, particularly the sick, elderly, women, and those who have incarcerated for more than 10 years;
- The Philippine Government to uphold and implement its commitments in the first and second rounds of the GRP-NDFP formal peacetalks under the Duterte administration.
- You may send your communications to the appended contact information sheet.
2. Support the online petition by Pilgrims for Peace by signing and disseminating it. You may access the petition through: https://www.change.org/p/release-political-prisoners-in-the- philippines-support-the-grp-ndfp-peace-talks.
3. You may take individual or group pictures of people holding fan signs with the text: Free all Filipino political prisoners! Free the defenders! Upload the said photos to your Twitter and Facebook account/s and tag the following: @rodyduterte @bebotbello @peacegovph @karapatan @freeallpoliticalprisonersnow. Please use the hashtag #AmnestyNowPH #FreeAll #PoliticalPrisonersPH.
4. Hold other forms of solidarity actions, including pickets or rallies or initiating meetings with Philippine Embassy and/or consulate officials on the issue, conducting solidarity fasting in your communities or workplaces, and other creative forms.
5. Provide material and financial support for the legal defense and welfare of the political prisoners. You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.