Group urges release of ‘at-risk political’ prisoners in Negros

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BACOLOD CITY — A group on Negros Island on Tuesday called for the immediate release of sickly and elderly political prisoners.

In a press statement, Kapatid Negros, a support group for political prisoners, said the call is consistent with the writ of kalayaan being advocated by the Supreme Court to help solve the grave problem of over-congestion in Philippine prisons.

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The writ of kalayaan provides an extraordinary legal remedy to address congestion in the country’s prison system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday also marked the Nelson Mandela International Day.

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Mandela, an activist lawyer and president of South Africa in the ’90s, was one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, having been incarcerated for around 30 years for his anti-apartheid advocacy.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, revised in December 2015, was named in his honor.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, a political prisoner is a person jailed for criticizing the government.

Kapatid Negros said there were 139 political prisoners on Negros Island.

The number is almost 20 percent of the total 778 political prisoners in the country, it added.

The prisoners are mostly farmers, farm workers, and ordinary individuals who were arrested on trumped up charges, Kapatid Negros said.

Aside from trumped-up charges, political prisoners in the country continue to languish in jails also because of political harassment and criminalization of political dissent.

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“A number of Negros political prisoners are sickly and old, and whose immediate release should be seriously considered by the Marcos administration based on the prospective writ of kalayaan,” Kapatid Negros said.

Among them are 61-year old diabetic Corazon Javier, and 63-year old Azucena Garubat.

Other Negros political prisoners whose immediate release should also be effected are 66-year old Epifanio Romano, 65-year old Diosdado Caballero, 63-year-olds Andres Pasyonela and Sidwin Gordoncillo, and 60-year-olds Nilda Bertolano and Abraham Villanueva, Kapatid said.

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