Subject:  NZ Groups Pin Hopes for Church Support to Political Prisoners Hidden & Denied of Visitation Rights During Papal Visit

Date:  Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:05:32 +1300

From:  Phil Solidarity <phsolidarity@gmail.com>

PRESS STATEMENT
20 January 2015

NZ Rights Advocates Pin Hopes for Church Support to Political Prisoners Hidden & Denied of Visitation Rights During Papal Visit

We, human rights advocates and members of Philippine solidarity groups in New Zealand , are hopeful for some great news to come out after the historic Papal visit in the Philippines .

On one hand it is deplorable that the Aquino government set up metal barriers to hide Manila ’s urban poor shanties from the Pope and it continues to detain political activists who stand against scandalous corruption and inequality in the Philippines . On the other hand it is encouraging to hear that in response to the Pope’s exhortation, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle vowed that the Church would “bring light to the peripheries.”

“Don’t be afraid, every Filipino wants to go with you, not to Rome , but to the peripheries. We want to go with you to the shanties, to the prison cells…” Archbishop Tagle declared.

Thus, we humbly appeal to Archbishop Tagle and other Philippine Church leaders to personally bring to Pope Francis’ attention the unjust and degrading treatment of political prisoners whose families were denied visitation rights during the Pope’s 3-day visit in the Philippines . Doctors were barred from checking the prisoners who staged a hunger strike to highlight their plea for freedom from unjust detention based on multiple fabricated charges commonly filed against social justice activists.

May the millions who gathered to greet Pope Francis be inspired to take concrete actions against social injustice based on Pope Francis’ call to love the poor and needy. In particular, we appeal for Archbishop Tagle to lead in calling on Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III to end the sufferings of political prisoners and their families. All 491 political prisoners started hunger strike on January 15, five days before the Pope’s arrival. We have learned that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), through the Jail Superintendent Michelle Ng-Bonto, imposed repressive measures against the political prisoners at the Special Intensive Care Area 1 (SICA) of the Metro Manila District Jail at Camp Bagong Diwa, SICA-1. In gross violations of the law on the rights of detained persons, families and doctors were not allowed to visit and check the health conditions of the prisoners.

On behalf of the political prisoners especially the sick and elderly, we ask Archbishop Tagle and other Church Leaders to echo the appeals of human rights advocates for:

1. The BJMP authorities to allow visitors to enter SICA-1, Camp Bagong Diwa, and allow doctors, lawyers, family, friends and human rights workers to visit and look into the health situation of the political prisoners.

2. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the repressive and unjust actions of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel at the Special Intensive Care Area 1 at Camp Bagong Diwa against the hunger-striking political prisoners.

3. The dropping of the fabricated charges against the 491 political prisoners and for their immediate release.

4. The Philippine Government to observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory to.

Murray Horton – Secretary , Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA)
Box 2258 , Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
cafca@chch.planet.org.nz

Cameron Walker
Spokesperson, Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS)
ph.solidarity@gmail.com