By Reynard Magtoto
With the observation of Ramadan this May 26 to June 25, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) urgently calls for a Ramadan Amnesty for all political prisoners (Moro and non-Moro) in the country.
In the spirit of Ramadan, which is observed by Moros and respected by non-Moros, the NDFP, including the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), one of its allied organizations, are urging the GRP and all concerned to seriously work out a “Ramadan Amnesty” for the release of all Moro and non-Moro political prisoners in the country.
This year’s Ramadan coincides with the fifth round of the ongoing peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP. In the course of the talks, the NDFP has consistently pressed for amnesty for all political prisoners and their immediate release from prison.
There are some 300 Moro political prisoners currently detained at the Special Intensive Care Area I and II in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, the biggest concentration in all jail facilities nationwide.
Also concentrated there are some 30 other political prisoners, who are adherents of the national democratic cause and eight women political prisoners detained.
Some are affiliated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the Moro National Liberation Front, “but many others are innocent civilians illegally arrested so that their arresting officers could collect huge amounts of “reward” monies provided by the U.S.” according to Luis Jalandoni, NDFP Panel senior adviser.
A number of the Moros in jail at SICA I and II were illegally arrested and detained as minors or teenagers several years ago and are now middle-aged. Among them are a number of students who were attending classes in Isabela City, Basilan, but were arrested in raids conducted in their schools so that the GRP’s fascist military could have “captives” to claim as “victories” in the U.S.-funded “all-out War” operations.
Senior school officials and elderly and sickly residents resting in their homes in the community were also baselessly arrested.
According to Jalandoni, all of them are long-held political prisoners, some for more than a decade. “Illegal possession of explosives” is the usual trumped-up charge filed against most political prisoners in order to prevent them from posting bail.
The New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City also holds a big number of political prisoners whose convictions on trumped-up charges were secured through state-military manipulation of the corrupt judicial process. There are some whose cases have hardly moved at all.
“Because of their long imprisonment and lack of medical attention, many of these political prisoners suffer from serious ailments. Some are already going through their senior years in prison. A number have already died due to pre-existing illnesses made worse by the cruelty and indifference of prison authorities,” Jalandoni said.
During peace talks between the NDFP and the Arroyo regime, an agreement was reached for the release of some 350 political prisoners, with some 30 of them for urgent release because they are mothers, sickly, elderly, long-detained or arrested as minors.
Yet hardly anyone of those listed has been released. Except for those who have already died in prison, practically all of them are still incarcerated. (BaretangBikolnon.com)