Militant lawmakers want political detainees freed

THE progressive bloc of legislators in the House of Representatives yesterday filed House Resolution 555 calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

It was an apparent move inspired by the impending release and dropping of charges against soldiers involved in previous anti-government actions.

The bloc is composed of party-list Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Javier Colmenares (Bayan Muna), Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis), Luz Ilagan, and Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela Women’s Party) Raymond Palatino (Kabataan), and Antonio Tinio (Act Teachers).

The lawmakers said “the government’s immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners will be a gesture of justice and goodwill in the interest of attaining an atmosphere conducive to the peace process as well as a confidence-building measure for the resumption of peace talks.”

There are almost 400 political prisoners in the country and most of them were illegally arrested, abducted and jailed on trumped-up charges, according to human rights group Karapatan.

The Resolution specifically cited the “Morong 43” or the 43 health workers illegally arrested on February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal by the Philippine Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade and the Rizal Provincial Police.

They are now detained for being suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Also cited were Angelina “Angie” Ipong who was abducted on March 8, 2005 in Aloran, Misamis Occidental by alleged PNP-CIDG agents. Ipong, 65, was held incommunicado for weeks, tortured and sexually harassed. She has reportedly suffered two mild heart attacks but is yet to be released for humanitarian reasons.

Another case was Randy Felix Malayao, a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel consultant, who was abducted by the military on May 15, 2008.

Malayao was allegedly tortured and denied communication from his relatives and friends.

In June 2010, Malayao was acquitted from murder charges filed against him for the murder of former Cagayan governor and congressman, Col. Rodolfo Aquinaldo and his bodyguard. However, he continues to be detained in Ilagan, Isabela.

The resolution stated that NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad, Randall Echanis and Rafael Baylosis also continue to be victims of fabricated charges and face arrest despite a June 1, 2007 Supreme Court ruling dismissing the rebellion case against them and six members of Congress (the Batasan 6).  D’Jay Lazaro

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