5 December 2016
References: ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio (09209220817) and Rep. France Castro (09209698457)
Solons demand release of political prisoners, including sick and elderly teachers
Following the death of an ailing detainee on the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) priority list for release, militant solons reiterate the demand for the government to release around 400 political prisoners, including 130 who are ailing and elderly, some of whom are teachers. ACT Teachers Party-List Representatives France Castro and Antonio Tinio scored government’s failure to release political prisoners since President Duterte dangled the possibility of a general amnesty in May.
“The Duterte goverment has been fulfilling so-called campaign promises left and right, but he has yet to comply with its commitment at the peace negotiating table to free our political prisoners, all of whom are unjustly detained,” scored Castro. “They are still suffering behind bars—activists, including teachers, whose service to the masses is criminalized, are jailed and branded as rebels.”
The solons cited the cases of Dominiciano Muya and Amelia Pond, both Lumad educators. Muya was a school agriculturist and Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) teacher of Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The military arrested him in October 2014 in Tagum City, presented the teacher as a top-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), then collected a P4.8 million bounty.
Pond, 64, was a volunteer teacher, researcher, and curriculum developer for STTICLCI when she was illegally arrested in August 2016 under a warrant in the name of one Adelfa Toledo, an alleged NPA official in Davao. The CIDG agents planted fake IDs at the very scene of her arrest then charged her with murder and frustrated murder.
The solons pressed for the immediate and unconditional release of the Lumad teachers, saying that aside from being charged with malicious trumped-up cases, Muya and Pond are ailing and elderly. Muya, who suffers from pneumonia and bronchitis, is currently detained in an isolated prison facility in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. He was reinfected with tuberculosis due to prison conditions.
Pond is under hospital arrest at the Southern Philippines Medical Hospital, after an operation on her lumbar spine. She also has chronic renal infection, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia.
Another teacher, Rhea Pareja, 28, is in jail under false charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. She was a volunteer teacher participating in the Adult Literacy Program of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) when she was arrested in March 2010 in Mulanay, Quezon. The military planted evidence, coined various aliases, and tagged her as an NPA to pin her on the charges. She developed tuberculosis after physical and psychological torture and six years of difficult and unsanitary jail conditions.
“The health conditions of teachers Muya, Pond, and Pareja prove the urgency of their release. We demand their immediate discharge from detention and the dismissal of the fabricated charges against them,” said Tinio. “President Duterte should not wait for another detainee to die before fulfilling his commitment. Free them now, in time for the coming International Human Rights Day. Do not let them spend another Christmas behind bars.”
From December 3, political prisoners in detention facilities nationwide as well as human rights advocates are staging a hunger strike that will culminate in International Human Rights Day, December 10. The hunger strike demands for the immediate release of 400 political prisoners, especially the sick, elderly, and those who have been long detained. ###