Rights groups blame gov’t for death of political prisoner

Nov. 30, 2016
Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a political prisoner since 2007, slipped into a coma after a heart attack last Friday. (photo from Karapatan.org)

Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a political prisoner since 2007, slipped into a coma after a heart attack last Friday. (photo from Karapatan.org)

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Various human rights groups scored the government for the death of a political prisoner who suffered a cardiac arrest.

Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a peasant organizer, died from a third and fatal cardiac arrest Tuesday at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital here.

“Accountability on the death of political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla lies squarely on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. Instead of immediately fulfilling its commitment to release all political prisoners, especially the ailing and elderly political prisoners, the Duterte administration, through its GRP peace panel, have spewed mere rhetorics instead of actually releasing them,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General said in a statement.

Palabay blamed the government’s continuing injustice to the political prisoners in the country. This as the group expressed their condolences to the bereaved family of Ocasla.

Ocasla was among the 401 political prisoners listed and submitted by Karapatan to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the government.

“For months, the GRP, through Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza and GRP panel chairman Secretary Silvestre Bello III, have been announcing the release of political prisoners but so far only 19 has been released in line with the peacetalks,” Palabay said.

Karapatan, however, pointed out that until now the government has yet to release all the political prisoners in the country through the issuance of general amnesty.

Meanwhile, the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) demanded the immediate release of 400 political prisoners following Ocasla’s death.

“The Duterte administration is accountable for the death of Ocasla, who should have been released along with more than a hundred ailing political detainees as soon as it assumed office. This is the tragic result of the government’s deliberate delays and excuses in the release of political prisoners,” said Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA spokesperson.

15 counts of multiple murder

Cabillas said Ocasla was jailed for seven years and was detained at the Manila City Jail facing charges for 15 counts of multiple murder.

He was one of the co-accused of NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva on trumped up charges of multiple murder cases filed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines pending before Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

Cabillas said Ocasla just came from his court hearing the day before he suffered a heart attack last week.

“He was optimistic and hopeful for their freedom. He, however, was a ticking time bomb since, with his hypertension and partial blindness,” he said.

More ‘Ocaslas’

According to Karapatan, there were 12 other political prisoners died while under detention because of lack of proper medical attention and inhuman jail conditions were:

·       NDFP peace consultant Eduardo Serrano (Special Intensive Care Unit 1- Camp Bagong Diwa),

·       Jose Andaya (Tinangis Penal Farm, Camarines Sur),

·       Alison Alcantara and Benny Barid (New Bilibid Prison),

·       Ester Montes (Eastern Samar),

·       Nenino Cabarles and Renato Abadiano (Samar Provincial Jail),

·       Crisanto Fat (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bago City, Negros Occidental),

·       Melchor Renomeron (Compostela Provincial Rehabilitation Center),

·       Romeo San Andres (Aurora Provincial Jail),

·       Gildo Gonzales (Makati City Jail) and

·       Willy Geocado (Sorsogon Provincial Jail).

The group also hit the poor jail conditions particularly the Manila City Jail where Ocasla was detained.

“At least 130 political prisoners are suffering from various illnesses, many are life-threatening ones like Ocasla’s condition. This is the reason why their immediate release was crucial, for they could have better medical treatment outside jail,” Karapatan said. (davaotoday.com)

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