MORE than 600 inmates and political prisoners are joining the nationwide hunger strike to demand that the Duterte administration issue a presidential proclamation ordering general amnesty for all political prisoners, the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said Sunday.
“We do not want another Bernabe Ocasla who died waiting in vain for his freedom that was promised by the Duterte government,” group secretary general Antonio Flores said referring to the first political prisoner to die under Duterte’s watch.
He made his statement even as government chief negotiator Silvestro Bello III said President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration was committed to freeing all 400 political prisoners with the first 100 to be released before the third round of the peace talks in January 2017,
“Yes, that is the commitment of our President and our President will keep his word,” Bello told ANC.
Most of the 400 political prisoners in the country are farmers and land reform advocates. Many of them were implicated in cases of rebellion, murder, robbery with homicide, attempted murder, frustrated murder, illegal possession of firearms and explosives and other charges for which bail is not allowed.
“All of the political prisoners were arrested as civilians and not combatants and yet, the government tags them as members of the New People’s Army because of their past political activities as peasant leaders and organizers,” Flores said.
The KMP and farmers from Eastern Visayas will protest at Mendiola tomorrow to demand the release of peasant political prisoners including Dario Tomada and Oscar Belleza who are detained at the Manila City Jail.
Tomada, 56, is a former leader of the peasant group Sagupa-Sinirangan Bisayas. He was arrested on July 22, 2010 in Binan, Laguna.
Belleza, 59, was the former vice chairman of KMP-Leyte. He was arrested on Nov. 26, 2008 in Olongapo City. Belleza suffered a stroke while in detention and underwent brain surgery. He is now paralyzed and in poor health.
Beatriz Gabuay who is still detained at the Samar Provincial Jail, was arrested on Sept. 23, 2008. She is 56 years old and suffers from hypertension.