Ailing 74-year-old political prisoner dies while under hospital arrest

By Reynard Magtoto

A 74-year-old political prisoner in Cordillera arrested under President Rodrigo Duterte died while on hospital arrest Tuesday.

Marcos Aggalao, a veteran of the struggle against Ferdinand Marcos’ Chico Dam project, died while on hospital arrest at the Kalinga Provincial Hospital in Tabuk September 12 from complications arising from multiple strokes he suffered in detention.

Aggalao already had pneumonia, dementia and hypertension when he was arrested and suffered from stroke thrice while in detention on July 2017 which paralyzed half of his body.

Sandugo holds the Duterte regime accountable for the death of 7 ailing and elderly political prisoner. Aggalao hailed from Balbalan, Kalinga province, one of the many communities that fiercely fought the Marcos dictatorship.

“Pres. Duterte is accountable because he failed to fulfill his commitment to release all political prisoners, especially the elderly and the ailing. To him, political prisoners are simply trump cards he can use to force the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) into a bilateral and permanent ceasefire agreement ahead of the agreement on social and economic reforms that includes guarantees on the rights of the national minorities to their ancestral lands and territories,” Sandugo stated.

The national minorities’ group said Aggalao’s death adds to a long list of those who have given their lives and prime years “to fight tyranny” which President Duterte disregards.

Duterte has consistently moved towards the political rehabilitation of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was responsible for the multiple crimes of genocide against the Bangsamoro and the widespread dispossession of the national minorities of their ancestral lands according to Sandugo.

Aggalao, detained at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Tabuk, Kalinga before being transferred to the hospital, had eight trumped-up charges filed against him. Two of his cases in Kalinga had already been dismissed and his lawyer and paralegals were working to seek his release on bail.

Aggalao is the second political prisoner who died in detention under the Duterte regime. He was arrested on September 10, 2016 by combined elements of the police and the military in Gawaan, Balbalan, Kalinga.

On November 2016, Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a peasant organizer detained in Metro Manila City Jail also died after being in a coma for three days and subsequently suffering a heart attack. He had already been suffering from hypertension and rheumatic heart disease. Ocasla’s name was placed in the list of political prisoners prioritized for humanitarian release in line with the GRP-NDFP peace talks.

According to Karapatan, the release of political prisoners is an issue of justice.

“It was the Duterte administration who floated the idea of providing amnesty for political prisoners; It was the GRP who signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which puts them under obligation to release political prisoners; It is them who is under obligation and yet it is also the GRP who continues with false promises and loose change,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

“Two political prisoners have already died. It is not only their illness that have caused their deaths, but this government’s injustice and inaction. For every political prisoner who dies, ultimately, the GRP is accountable,” said Palabay on the death of Aggalao.

As of August 31, 2017, Karapatan has recorded the number of political prisoners at 430, 85 of them arrested during the Duterte administration.

The human rights group demand release of all political prisoners before the administration indirectly kills all 430 political prisoners by way of inhuman prison conditions and deteriorating health according to Palabay. (BaretangBikolnon.com)

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