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Uphold Human Rights, Free all Political Prisoners!

7 December 2016 No Comment

Privilege Speech of ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro | 07 December 2016

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of personal and collective privilege as I ask each and everyone — hanggang kailan po natin hahayaan ang pagtapak sa mga karapatang pantao ng mga bilanggong politikal?

Allow me to begin with the words of a colleague in the teachers’ movement:

Anecdote: Rene Boy Abiva Case

“Isa akong social worker Lunes hanggang Biyernes [sa Baggao, probinsya ng Cagayan, DSWD Field Office 02], Sabado’t Linggo’y ginugol sa pag-aaral sa Graduate School ng Cagayan State University.  Dahil batid na kailangan ang paglahok ng sektor-guro sa panlipunang pagbabago, tumulong ako sa pagmumulat, pag-oorganisa, at pagmomobilisa ng pampublikong guro sa ilalim ng Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).  Isang makabayan, militante, at progresibong organisasyon ng mga guro para sa katuparan ng kanilang nasa na maging ahente ng kamulatan…Ang karanasan nila sa araw-araw ay karanasan din ng mga pesante at manggagawa–mga karanasang nagpapatibay sa kung anong klaseng lipunan mayroon ang Pilipinas.  Mapanupil, mapang-api, at komersyalisado ang sistema ng edukasyong kanilang kinikilusan. . .

“Disyembre 28, 2013, araw ng pag-igkas ng lahat–araw ng pag-aresto sa akin…

“Isa akong bilanggo ngayon, suot ay kamisetang dilaw…Ngayon, sa probinsya ng Ifugao, dito sa piitang ginawang garison, kasama’y tatlo pang detenidong pulitikal na miyembro ng kilusang pesante, isinasailalim sa nakapanlulumong kalagayan…

“Ito ba ang sukli sa pagsisilbi sa sambayanan?  Ang kapalit sa ating kolektibong paghahanap ng tunay at batayang kabuluhan ng pagiging tao?  O ganti sa paglalahad sa katotohanan na sa likod ng mga slogang ‘daang matuwid’, ‘demokrasya’, ‘kalayaan’, at ‘kawalan ng korupsyon’ ay eksklusibong kagandahan, karangyaan, kapangyarihan, gara, at luho para sa iilan na pinaghaharian ang bansa?”

“Ako si Rene Boy Abiva…kasalukuyang nakapiit sa BJMP-Cordillera Administrative Region.  Isa ako sa daan-daang detenidong pulitikal sa buong kapuluan na pinagdurusahan ng matagal ang mga gawa-gawang kaso.”

Ginoong Speaker, si Rene Boy ay isang social worker ng DSWD, organisador ng mga guro at pesanteng komunidad, at aktibista—pero ayon sa militar, siya ay responsable sa isang ambush sa mga sundalo, isang rebelde.

Amidst the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the national Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), around 400 political prisoners are still suffering behind bars on the basis of malicious, fabricated charges.

This Representation maintains that they have suffered long enough behind bars.  In fact, they should not have suffered in the first place—they are only activists from marginalized sectors who, in their struggle with the masses for their economic, social, and political rights, are branded as rebels by past administrations, the military and the police, and the Oplan Bayanihan.  We demand their immediate release so that justice is realized, so that they can return to the communities they serve.

Political Prisoners from the Education sector:  Zara Alvarez, Rhea Pareja, Dominiciano Muyo and Amelia Pond

Si Rene Boy ay isa lamang sa mga detenidong pulitikal mula sa sektor na aking kinabibilangan.  Tiyak na hindi pinaligtas ng karahasan ng Oplan Bayanihan ang sektor ng edukasyon, dahil kabilang sa mga biktima nito ay mga guro at organisador ng militanteng kilusang guro na ang tanging layunin ay lumaban kasama ang mamamayan para sa isang lipunang kinikilala ang kanilang karapatan at kagalingan.  Itinuring na kriminal ang kanilang pulitikal na paniniwala at aktibidad sa pamamagitan ng pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawa at malisyosong kaso.  Dahil sa ito sa tortyur sa kustodiya ng pulis at militar, at di makataong kalagayan sa piitan, marami sa kanila ay nagkasakit o lumala ang mga dati nang sakit.  Gaya ng tinuran ni Rene Boy, ITO PO BA ANG ISUSUKLI SA KANILA NG PAMAHALAAN KAPALIT NG PAGLILINGKOD SA KAPWA PILIPINO?

One of them is Rhea Pareja, a volunteer teacher for peasants in Quezon, now in jail under false charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. She was participating in the Adult Literacy Program of ACT when she was arrested in March 2010 in Mulanay. When the military arrested Teacher Rhea, they took P70,000, a laptop, fruit, toiletries, pencils, paper, and notebooks—all for the children and barangays in her care—and of course, her freedom.  What the military gave her instead?  Planted evidence, coined aliases, and, to pin her on the charges, a red tag: she is allegedly an NPA.  She developed tuberculosis after physical and psychological torture and six years of difficult and unsanitary jail conditions.

Lumad educators Dominiciano “Dioning” Muya and Amelia Pond are also ailing political prisoners.  Ka Dioning 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.  He now suffers from pneumonia and bronchitis, in an isolated prison facility in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. He was reinfected with tuberculosis due to prison conditions.

Teacher Amy was a volunteer teacher, researcher, and curriculum developer for STTICLCI when she was illegally arrested in August 2016 under a defective 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. This illegal arrest occurred a few months before the first round of the Oslo talks, while the government is supposedly preparing for the resumption of the peace talks. Now 64 years old, she 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.

A former political prisoner, recently released on bail but still slapped with fabricated charges, is Zara Alvarez, a teacher, political activist, and human rights defender in Negros.  Writing about her arrest on October 30, 2012 by the military in her hometown of Cadiz, she said:

“Around 30 fully armed men surrounded me and pointed their gun at me. Cases of human rights violations where we documented extrajudicial killings or enforced disappearances came to my mind. I thought, maybe this is the moment, this time it´s me. At the police station I learned that I was arrested for the murder of a first lieutenant in the Philippine army. I did not get any other information, they just handed me the warrant. My name was written incorrectly and also my address was wrong.”

Mr. Speaker, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of teachers Rhea, Dioning, and Amy, and the dismissal of the fabricated charges against them, teacher Zara, and the rest of political prisoners this government has baselessly detained.  Their health conditions prove the urgency of their release.  This government should not wait for another detainee to die before fulfilling its commitment under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).  This is not a matter of charity, Mr. Speaker—this is a matter of life and death, and one of honest compliance to commitments already agreed to and yet to be agreed to.  Free them now, in time for the coming International Human Rights Day. Do not let them spend another Christmas behind bars.

Paninigil sa Gobyernong Duterte:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to underscore the government’s failure to release political prisoners since President Duterte dangled the possibility of a general amnesty in May. I reiterate the demand of ACT Teachers Party-List for the government to release around 400 political prisoners, including 130 who are ailing and elderly, some of whom are teachers.

Hindi maaring gawing bargaining chip ng Pangulo ang mga nakakulong na political prisoners para masunod ang kanyang agenda sa negotiating table na magkaroon agad ng bilateral ceasefire habang wala pang mga substansyal na repormang sosyal-ekonomiko na napagkakasunduan. Ang pagpapalaya sa mga bilanggong political ay pagtupad sa mga pinirmahang kasunduan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at NDFP. The release of the political prisoners is a matter of justice and protection of human rights. It is also in compliance with the signed CARHRIHL.

Their detention has no place under an administration that brands itself as one for change. It shows that, far from discontinuing the heinous Oplan Bayanihan, government still implements it as if it were legal and democratic. It proves political repression still remains under the Duterte administration.

Patuloy na Oplan Bayanihan

Mula nang maipatupad ang Oplan Bayanihan sa ilalim ni Aquino lumobo ang bilang ng mga progresibo, aktibista at mga rebolusyonaryong sinampahan ng gawa-gawang kasong kriminal, sa layuning sila’y patahimikin at pigilan sa pagtindig para sa mahihirap na mamamayan.

Kinakailangang patunayan ng Pangulong Duterte ang kanyangng sinseridad sa Peace Talks sa pamamagitan ng pagtigil sa Oplan Bayanihan at ang ibinubunsod nitong red-baiting at vilification, mga walang batayang kriminal na pagpaparatang sa mga aktibista’t tagapagtaguyod ng karapatang pantao at pagtukoy sa kanila bilang mga target ng mga vigilante, paramilitary at mismo ng Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Violations by the Government of its own unilateral ceasefire, Harassment of Schools

Aming ipinapanawagan ang paggalang ng mga sundalo at pulis sa magkahiwalay na dineklarang tigil putukan. Ang pananatili ng mga bata-batalyong mga sundalo ng AFP sa mga komunidad ng mga magsasaka’t katutubo ay nagdudulot ng maraming paglabag sa karapatang pantao at nagbibigay daan para sa ibayong pananalasa ng malalaking dayuhang minahan at plantasyon at pagpigil sa makatarungang pammahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka. Ang nangyaring panghaharas sa mga guro, studyante at administrador ng Palimbang Lumad school ng mga elemento ng gobyerno ay mariin naming kinokondena.

Reiterate Plea for Release of PPs, Invite Participation for Dec 3-10 HR Campaign

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.

Yesterday, Rep. Antonio Tinio and I joined the nationwide hunger strike of all political prisoners. We fast today in protest of the injustice of a government that considers service to the poor, militancy, and dissent as rebellious and criminal. We call on President Duterte to free them now.

We urge the government to protect the Human Rights of every Filipino

The ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will be pointless if the previously signed agreements like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIRL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) are ignored. Government’s disregard of its duties under these agreements is what caused the criminalization of the activism of our political prisoners and the illegal arrests and detention of peace consultants.

Hinihikayat ang lahat na makiisa sa Solidarity Fast na isinasagawa ngayon ng mga bilanggong pulitikal, kanilang mga kaanak at mga nagsusulong ng karapatang pantao.

Palayain na ang lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal at lansagin ang Oplan Bayanihan tungo sa pagsulong ang usapang pangkapayapaan!

Maraming salamat at magandang hapon sa ating lahat.

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