7 February 2013
Following the release from detention of poet-artist Ericson Acosta on Tuesday, rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) demanded the Aquino government to free elderly and sick political prisoners.
“We welcome the release of Acosta, finally, after two years of detention. What remains true is that no person should be held in detention, charged with trumped-up cases, and stripped of his rights because of his political beliefs. We then demand the release of all sick and elderly political prisoners,” said SELDA secretary general Angie Ipong.
According to Ipong, sick and elderly political prisoners have more reason to demand for freedom.
“Most of the time, sick political prisoners are not given the proper medical attention because of the lack of facilities in prison hospitals and lack of budget to provide health services to prisoners. To a certain extent, their being political prisoners is even used as flimsy excuse to be deprived of medical treatment,” Ipong said.
As for the elderly political prisoners, Ipong said there should be no question as to their release on humanitarian grounds.
Ipong, a political prisoner herself, was arrested at the age of 60. She was released six years after charges of murder against her were dismissed.
SELDA said there are currently 430 political prisoners in different jails nationwide, 148 of them were arrested and detained under the Aquino administration. The group documented some 45 political prisoners who are sick, while 12 of them are elderly prisoners, or those who are aged 60 and above.
“Cramped and poorly ventilated prison cells, poor water supply and inadequate food and nutrition worsen the state of health of political prisoners who suffer from various ailments. This, along with the fact they shouldn’t be detained because of their political beliefs, are more than enough grounds for their immediate release,” Ipong said.
Ipong cited the case Rolando Pañamogan, who’s only 47 but is now suffering from illnesses usually associated with old age. Pañamogan has been admitted to the NBP Hospital for a number of times.
“Doctors diagnosed him to have diabetes, hyperthyroidism and asthma. He manages to persist in his work as a political prisoner everyday but the truth remains that his medical condition is aggravated by prison conditions,” Ipong said.
Pañamogan is detained at the New Bilibid Prisons Maximum Security Compound for charges of murder and frustrated murder and accused as a member of the NPA.
Aside from Pañamogan, the Alegre family also hopes to be freed for humanitarian reasons. All three, father, mother and son, were imprisoned due to a land dispute with a local landlord in their town in Negros Occidental. Jesus, 67 and Moreta,65 are both suffering from arthritis and hypertension. Moreta also has a weak heart.
“We are made to suffer for sins we did not commit. It’s because we don’t have money and power. We just want to live in tilling our small land. We want justice,” Jesus said in an interview. Father Jesus and son, Selman, are at the New Bilibid Prisons. Mother Moreta is at the Correctional Institute for Women. They are all imprisoned for eight years now.
SELDA hoped that Pañamogan, the Alegre family and other political prisoners shall also be given their well-deserved freedom.
“We then call on all those who supported the campaign to release Acosta to support the campaign to free all political prisoners. More political prisoners are detained for crimes they did not commit. We should make the Aquino government accountable for allowing such rights violations to continue,” Ipong ended.
Angelina Ipong, SELDA secretary general 0907-6114086