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Karapatan welcomes release of POW, asks GPH to reciprocate by releasing political prisoners

July 31, 2014

QUEZON CITY – “We welcome the release of the four prisoners of war by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. We view the release as a gesture of goodwill in the peace negotiation with the Philippine government. It is about time the Aquino administration releases political prisoners to reciprocate the NDFP’s act and to honor its commitment as stated in the 2011 GPH-NDFP Oslo Joint Statement,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

Palabay said there are currently 504 political prisoners in various jails nationwide. Among them are 15 peace consultants of the NDFP who are protected from arrests and other human rights violations under the Joint Agreement for Safety and Immunity Guarantees of the GPH and NDFP. Karapatan cited the cases of Eduardo Serrano and Eduardo Sarmiento, NDFP peace consultants from Southern Tagalog and Eastern Visayas, respectively.

Serrano was arrested under the Macapagal-Arroyo regime and has been detained for more than 10 years. He was arrested on May 2, 2004, a few days after a consultation with panel members Fidel Agcaoili and Connie Ledesma on the formation of the Joint Monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). He is detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, with other peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, and Renante Gamara.

On the other hand, Sarmiento was tortured when he was abducted and then brought to jail after trumped-up criminal charges were filed against him. On December 11, 2013, he was sentenced with reclusion perpetua and is now detained at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

“The government slapped fabricated criminal charges against the political prisoners to keep them in jail. Legal shortcuts and defective warrants were used to arrest them, including false witnesses hired by the military. This practice has become prevalent especially under the Aquino administration,” Palabay stated.

Palabay added, “Aquino resents the political prisoners who work for just and lasting peace in the country and puts them in jail, while coddling those who plundered billions of public funds to evade accountability.”