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Gov’t accountable for death of political detainee

SELDA to Duterte: Release the 400 now!

By SELDA
November 28, 2016

QUEZON CITY – SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) demanded the Duterte administration the immediate release of 400 political detainees following the death of Bernabe Ocasla, Monday afternoon.

“The Duterte administration is accountable for the death of Ocasla, who should have been released along with more than a hundred ailing political detainees as soon as it assumed office. This is the tragic result of the government’s deliberate delays and excuses in the release of political prisoners,” said Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA spokesperson.

Selda and other rights groups have been calling for the release of Ocasla, 66, who went into a coma after suffering a heart attack on Friday, November 25. He has been languishing in jail for seven years, and was detained at the Manila City Jail on trumped-up charges of 15 counts of multiple murder. Calls for the immediate release of more than a hundred political prisoners who are ailing and elderly on humanitarian grounds is continuously denied by the government.

He is one of the co-accused of NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva on trumped up charges of multiple murder cases filed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines pending before Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

“Ocasla just came from his court hearing the day before he suffered a heart attack, optimistic and hopeful for their freedom. He, however, is a ticking time bomb since, with his hypertension and partial blindness. There are more Bernabe Ocaslas who are suffering inside detention centers. Their health conditions are rapidly deteriorating for lack of proper medical attention and subhuman jail conditions. Most importantly, they should not be in jail in the first place,” said Cabillas.

More than one-thirds of the 400 political prisoners are sick, a number of them are already old. In previous years, political prisoners like Alison Alcantara, Benny Barid and Eduardo Serrano died while under the custody of the state. Serrano, who died last January, would have been one of the released NDFP consultants this year, after formal peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP resumed in July.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza and GRP panel chairman Secretary Silvestre Bello III have been announcing the release of political prisoners since they assumed office.

“Sec. Dureza even has the gall to say they’ve released 70 political prisoners while those with life-threatening illnesses like Ocasla gamble with death. This is far from truth. We don’t need their empty grandstanding, what we demand is the release of all political prisoners, alive and granted amnesty. Release the 400! Amnesty now!” said Cabillas.