to 400 political prisoners arrested under the Duterte regime
December 6, 2019
QUEZON CITY –
Today, December 6, human rights group Karapatan and Kapatid, along
with other people’s organizations, trooped to the Boy Scout Circle
in Quezon City to call for the release of all political prisoners.
The said mass action highlighted the plight of political prisoners
and the ongoing injustices in jail, the issue of criminalization of
activists and human rights defenders, and the weaponization of the
law and legal processes to silence dissent.
According to data released
by Karapatan as of November 2019, there are now 629 political
prisoners in the country; more than half, or 382, were arrested
under the Duterte government. Of this figure, there are 50 elderly,
93 women, 113 sickly, 11 peace consultants, and 5 were minors during
the time of arrest.
Karapatan Deputy Secretary
General Roneo Clamor said that these figures are staggering. "The
numbers reflect the vindictive, militarist and repressive position
of the Duterte government. Duterte has already arrested more
activists in a span of three years than his predecessor's entire six
years. This is also indicative that the situation has progressively
worsened, and that our laws have been increasingly weaponized to
Clamor linked the high
number of trumped-up charges and arbitrary arrests to the
government’s repressive policies, foremost Executive Order No. 70
(s2018), which created the National Task Force to End Local
Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The structures and
partnerships orchestrated by the NTF, particularly its Legal
Cooperation Cluster, is tasked to draw up and file legal offensives
against activists and human rights defenders.
“We continue to call for
the immediate and unconditional release of individuals who were
arbitrarily incarcerated as a form of harassment and persecution for
their relentless fight for social justice. We deplore the Duterte
administration for maintaining its militarist policy of
criminalizing defenders and social activists. On the other hand,
amid these attacks against critics, the regime and its corrupt
bureaucratic machinery have been freeing convicted plunderers and
perpetrators of human rights violations, killings, torture,
disappearances, and harassment,” he said.
“The double standard in
our justice system is infuriatingly ironic. While political
prisoners are painstakingly suffering inside filthy and cramped
jails, the likes of Imelda Marcos, the wife of the former dictator,
is now roaming free despite her conviction. Others like Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, along with her corrupt officials in Philippine
Charity Sweepstakes Office and Commission on Audit, are now absolved
from graft cases in the Ombudsman. Other corrupt and vile, but rich
individuals such as infamous Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez, find
loopholes by trying to buy their way out of justice. This happens
because jail management is focused on profiteering and further
perpetrating injustices even behind bars,” added Clamor.
The Karapatan official
said that this reeks of the gruesome state of the justice system
under the Duterte regime, in which criminals are being absolved one
after the other from the crimes they committed against the Filipino
people, while peace consultants, social activists, human rights
defenders, and administration critics continuously face the wrath of
Clamor also noted how this
same fate is being experienced in other countries, including Hong
Kong, Venezuela, and Palestine, where tyrants continue to circumvent
laws and use state machinery to suppress dissent and pacify the
legitimate calls of victims and various sectors. Issues raised
include unjust laws and neoliberal policies which continue to
disenfranchise the poor and marginalized – concerns that are similar
to those being experienced and criticized in the Philippines.
“Karapatan expresses its
solidarity with the brave political prisoners around the world who
suffer the unjust and inhumane consequences of standing in the line
of fire. We reiterate that political prisoners are not criminals.
They are courageous and exemplary individuals who did not waiver in
advancing their political beliefs, regardless of the powerful forces
that they are confronting. They are farmers, peasant advocates,
workers, trade unionists, teachers, agriculturists, health workers,
pastors, peace consultants, freedom fighters, community leaders,
human rights defenders, and citizens who struggle for a better and
humane society,” he explained.
“The rising number of
political prisoners indicates the worsening tyranny and repression
in the country. Free all political prisoners! Resist tyranny! We
likewise enjoin everyone to join us in the December 10 protest, in
commemoration of International Human Rights Day,” ended Clamor.