Saturday, May 28, 2011

VIP treatment of wealthy Philippine prisoners denounced

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 28, 2011) - A Philippine organization of former political prisoners on Saturday denounced the granting special privileges given to wealthy prisoners in jails.

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA said in the light of the recent news that members of the Ampatuan clan accused of the 2009 ‘Maguindanao massacre’ and former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste, convicted of homicide, were given special privileges under detention.

Members of the Ampatuan clan are accused of getting special privilege in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, and Leviste at the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntilupa City.

Bonifacio Ilagan, SELDA’s vice chairman, said the cases are classic examples on the varying treatments given to prisoners, especially to those who are wealthy, as compared to the situation of the thousands of inmates, including political prisoners, in the two detention facilities.

“While Leviste and members of the Ampatuan clan enjoy VIP treatments, political prisoners, for example, in the Medium Security Compound in the NBP, and in detention facilities in Camp Bagong Diwa, are in detention cells together with inmates convicted of or undergoing trial for common crimes,” he said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Ilagan cited the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners that obliges states to segregate political prisoners from other prisoners.

“These political prisoners have been long languishing inside jails and have experienced various injustices while in detention as they were heaped upon with criminal charges. It is for this reason that we are persistent in our demands for their immediate release,” he said.

Ilagan cited the case of activist Rolando Pañamogan, who was unjustly charged and convicted with frustrated murder and is now detained in NBP, as among those who needs to be immediately released especially because he has been suffering from diabetes, deep toxic goiter, and congestive heart failure.

He said Pañamogan is currently confined at the NBP Hospital due to lowered blood pressure as complications of his diabetes, where facilities and attending medical personnel are scarce.

“Pañamogan and the rest of the 346 political prisoners deserve to be freed, after long years of incarceration and illegal detention,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan also decried the government’s policy of political persecution against persons with different political beliefs and the filing of common criminal cases against political prisoners.

“Filing common crimes against political offenders conveniently hides the political nature of the cases against political prisoners thereby hiding the systematic political persecution committed by the government against people who have different political beliefs and getting away with it; this practice must be stopped,” he said.

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