January 13, 2017
Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831 and Angge Santos, Media Liaison, +63918-9790580
Duterte, GRP peace panel should heed calls to release political prisoners – Karapatan
“Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and the GRP peace panel in negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines should be repeatedly reminded that the release of political prisoners is a commitment and obligation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, in accordance to its statements and bilateral agreements with the NDFP. It is now 2017. Political prisoners have gone into hunger strike and fasting, their families have been crying out for justice, and one of them, peasant organizer Bernabe Ocasla, died, yet, 392 political prisoners remain in jail,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, a week before the start of the third round of formal peacetalks between the GRP and NDFP on January 19, 2017.
“After the first round of formal peacetalks in August 2016, only two long detained political prisoners were released in line with the GRP-NDFP talks. This is a far from the stated commitments of Duterte and his GRP panel,” Palabay said.
Karapatan reported that wrongly-convicted political prisoners Martin Villanueva and Rico Bodino, detained since 1996, were released last December 2016. The two were recommended by the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Pardon (PCBREP) for parole since 2011.
At least twenty political prisoners have been released, based on the merits of their cases and the persistence of their lawyers, families, and human rights organizations.
Karapatan said that the release of political prisoners is an obligation of the GRP under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). “It is a measure of the GRP’s commitment and adherence to peace agreements,” Palabay stated.
“Political prisoners and their families have been on a roller coaster ride since Pres. Rodrigo Duterte first uttered these three words – release political prisoners. They should not be reduced to political gambits and the injustice against them, through their illegal arrest, torture, and tortuous legal persecution and detention, should stop, ” Palabay said.
Karapatan also reminded the GRP that three wrongly-convicted peace consultants in detention – Eduardo Sarmiento, Leopoldo Caloza, and Emeterio Antalan – are still unable to directly participate in the formal peace talks. “Their continuing detention is a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” Palabay stated.
In the third round of formal talks, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) will be tackled. “Political prisoners can contribute substantially in the discussions and implementation of comprehensive social and economic reforms that address poverty, social and economic inequalities, the economic and political dominance of US and other countries, because of their knowledge and experience as social activists and rights defenders. They should be released to enable their participation in forging a just and lasting peace,” Palabay ended.###
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.