release of POW, asks GPH to reciprocate by releasing political
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.”