MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2010) - An organization of former political detainees called the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya or SELDA, urged President Benigno Aquinom III to free all political prisoners in the Philippines.
Selda has welcomed the release of former Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, one of the military officers who were arrested four years ago in connection with a supposed attempt to overthrow President Gloria Arroyo.
It said at least 402 political prisoners are still languishing in jails.
Marie Hilao Enriquez, SELDA Secretary General, said it is but just to release Querubin, as well as the other victims of illegal arrest and arbitrary detention during the past administrations. Political prisoners, whom the government has charged with fabricated common criminal cases, are worse off because most of them suffered torture and inhumane treatment during their arrest.
Enriquez cited the Morong 43, the community health workers and doctors who were illegally arrested last February 6 and are still currently detained at Camps Bagong Diwa and Capinpin; the case of Myrna Cruz, a former teacher and a consultant of farmer organizations in Cagayan; the case of Angie Bisuña-Ipong, the 60-year old lay leader who was abducted and missing for two weeks in March 2005, before she was surfaced in the Pagadian City Jail and is still incarcerated; as well as those of hundreds of others in other jails in the country.
SELDA and Karapatan, the alliance of human rights organizations, said another victim of illegal arrest and detention, Dario Tomada, 51, and former chairperson of SAGUPA Eastern Visayas, an alliance of various peasant organizations in the region, was arrested on July 23, in Laguna province.
Tomada is said to have been among those charged in the supposed mass killing of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Inopacan town in Leyte province in 1985, along with Representative Satur Ocampo.
Ocampo, himself, was arrested and detained in 2007 on the charges, but was freed after filing a petition at the Supreme Court.
Enriquez said the charges against Tomada and Ocampo were fabricated. Tomada is now being detained at Camp Karingal in Quezon City. His family, members of SELDA and Karapatan and supporters have been allowed to visit him only on Tuesday.
“The Supreme Court has ruled in 2007 that the regional trial court proceedings should be suspended based on the petition of those being charged elucidating their innocence on the said case. Hence, Tomada should be immediately released,” she said.
Enriquez also urged the government to stop the practice of political persecution of political dissenters and criminalizing political dissent.