August 17, 2011
Peace Not Prisoners! Katarungan Stands in Solidarity with Political Prisoners in the Philippines in Their Struggle for Justice and Peace.
Over 230 political prisoners participated in a nationwide, four day fast in the Philippines from July 22 to July 25, 2011 in order to call for the urgent release of all political prisoners and for unconditional amnesty for all those who have been illegally detained, arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. Political prisoners from detention centers and jails located all over the Philippines participated in the nationwide action and released statements to pressure President Aquino’s administration to answer the vital call.
Currently there are 354 political detainees in the Philippines, the majority of whom were arrested during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (GMA) presidential term and were arrested under fabricated charges such as arson, robbery, or even murder. They were targeted due to their political beliefs and for speaking out against the injustices and oppression under GMA’s regime.
According to the current report from Philippine based human rights monitoring organization, Karapatan, of the 17 detainees imprisoned in the Northern Mindanao region, 3 are peace consultants for the formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government. The illegal detention of the three peace consultants is a clear violation of the Joint Agreement of Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), an agreement formed in 1995 and signed by both the NDFP and the Government of the Philippines. In February 2011, the peace negotiations resumed and the Philippine government panel committed to the release of the 17 detainees including the three peace consultants, however, until this day the Aquino administration has not lived up to this commitment.
“The Aquino administration’s apathetic response to the release of political prisoners is a statement in itself which only confirms that the human right violations in the Philippines will continue under his administration and that the government’s sincerity in the peace process remains questionable,” said Katrina Abarcar of Katarungan, a Washington, D.C. based Filipino American advocacy group.
SELDA, or Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, an organizatio of former political prisoners, has been demanding unconditional amnesty and release of all political prisons.“One year since the first SONA (State of the Nation Address) of Aquino, nothing has been done to serve justice for the illegal arrest, torture and illegal detention of the 354 political prisoners who are still languishing in jails all over the country. Under his term, there were already 45 political prisoners incarcerated. It appears that the Arroyo policy of witch-hunting, arrest, criminalization of political offenses and/or the slapping of fabricated criminal charges to silence and put behind bars human rights defenders continues to be implemented under Aquino,” states Angie Ipong, a recently released political prisoner who was jailed for almost seven years and now a member of SELDA.
Katarungan stands in firm solidarity with SELDA and other grassroots human rights organizations in the Philippines for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners including the three peace consultants in Northern Mindanao: Alfredo Mapano, Pedro Codaste, and Maria Purcray. In addition, Katarungan encourages international supporters and peace activists and advocates to sign the petition to urge for the release of all political prisoners in the Philippines.
See petition website at Free All Political Prisoners!