Karapatan Alliance Philippines Inc. started a petition to President Rodrigo Duterte urgently calling on the government to immediately release all political prisoners on just and humanitarian grounds, through general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.
As of December 2019, there are 610 political prisoners suffering injustice in jails throughout the Philippines, including 13 consultants and staff involved in the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Among them are 104 who are suffering physical ailments; 92 are women, and 48 elderly. At least 363 were arrested under this administration.
Some have been detained for 10 years or more, he said.
These political prisoners experience further suffering due to the periodic denial of visitation along with the harassment and abuse, including mandatory strip searches inflicted on their families and loved ones.
The release of political prisoners is a matter of justice, he said.
Political prisoners have been arrested, detained, and imprisoned for engaging in acts in furtherance of their political beliefs. While some political prisoners are charged with political offenses such as rebellion and sedition, majority of them are facing trumped-up charges of non-bailable, common crimes based on planted evidence and falsified testimony.
Even those who face political charges are also charged with common crimes.
These trumped-up charges are used to justify their illegal arrest and detention, hide the political reasons of their imprisonment as well as to stigmatize and demonize them as common criminals.
“With President Duterte’s bold pronouncement that he desires the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP, he needs to match his talk with action by undertaking confidence-building measures. Foremost of these is the release of political prisoners, most especially the sick and elderly for humanitarian reasons, and the peace consultants and staff who have played and will continue to play pivotal roles in the peace negotiations,” said Karapatan in a statement.
Karapatan said the Duterte government must also stop the political persecution of critics and dissenters using illegal and unjust practices such as the filing of trumped-up charges, red-tagging, surveillance, and harassment, especially as part of its counterinsurgency operations under the auspices of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“It is within President Duterte’s power to rectify such historic injustices and to bring relief and remedy to political prisoners and their families. Whether through an amnesty proclamation, pardon, or through the most expedient measure of humanitarian release, President Duterte has the power to free all political prisoners,” said Karapatan.
“President Duterte promised to end armed conflict and to resume the GRP-NDFP peace talks. We believe that to achieve a just peace, the GRP must address the legitimate demands of our people that underlie the armed conflict—as reflected in the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)—rather than rely on militarist policies and solutions,” they said.
The release of political prisoners on just and humanitarian grounds is a critical gesture of goodwill and fosters confidence for the hard work and diligent efforts needed in the peace talks, they said.
In addition, such releases are in consonance and compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), a hallmark agreement already signed by the two Parties.
“As peace advocates, we join the people’s clamor for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks to arrive at a just and lasting peace in the country. As human rights advocates, we reiterate the call for President Duterte to release all political prisoners without further delay,” the group said.