AUCKLAND PHILIPPINES Solidarity (APS) and Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) are dismayed that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has altogether forgotten her public declaration that the executive branch would pardon elderly and terminally ill prisoners before Pope Francis’ January 2015 visit.
When Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines last January, there were 491 political prisoners in the country, 53 of them suffering from various ailments; 42 were elderly, among them 75-year-old Gerardo dela Peña who appealed to the Pope for help in their call for immediate release. We hope Malacañang won’t wait for the next pope to visit the country before heeding the sick and elderly inmates’ appeal. These prisoners of conscience only wish to spend the few remaining years of their lives with their families.
In the case of Sharon Cabusao, one of the sick women-detainees recently arrested with husband Adel Silva, a consultant of the National Democratic Front in peace negotiations with the government, it is tragically ironic that they, like other activists who actively campaigned for justice for the assassinated Ninoy Aquino, are now in jail and remain so on trumped-up charges even in the presidency of his son.
Sharon is suffering from chronic B12 deficiency anemia, a health condition that requires constant medical attention and special diet. Her continued stay in prison obviously places her life in danger due to daily physical and mental stress, an affliction not unusual among political prisoners, especially the sick and elderly.
Founded in the 1980s at the height of the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle, PSNA actively supported campaigns for human rights and democracy in the Philippines. Meanwhile, APS was founded at the height of the campaign to stop the killing of activists and journalists during the Arroyo presidency. In our view, each day that Sharon and her fellow activists remain in prison adds to the mockery of democracy and freedom that Ninoy fought and died for.
Janet Napoles and all the public officials involved in the pork barrel scam are the ones who deserve to be in jail. We call on President Aquino for the nth time: Honor thy father; grant presidential amnesty to sick and elderly prisoners, and to all prisoners of conscience—NOW.
—MURRAY HORTON, secretary, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAMERON WALKER, spokesperson, Auckland Philippines Solidarity, email@example.com