BACOLOD CITY — A group on the island of Negros called Tuesday for the immediate release of sick and elderly political prisoners.
In a press release, Kapatid Negros, an advocacy group for political prisoners, said the call is consistent with the kalayaan appeal upheld by the Supreme Court to help solve the serious prison congestion problem in the Philippines.
The kalayaan writ provides an extraordinary legal resource to address congestion in the country’s prison system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuesday also marked Nelson Mandela International Day.
Mandela, an activist lawyer and president of South Africa in the 1990s, was one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, having been jailed for some 30 years for his defense against apartheid.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, revised in December 2015, are named in his honor.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a political prisoner is a person imprisoned for criticizing the government.
Kapatid Negros said that there were 139 political prisoners on the island of Negros.
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 people who were arrested on trumped-up charges, Kapatid Negros said.
Aside from trumped up charges, the country’s political prisoners continue to languish in jails also due to political harassment and the criminalization of political dissent.
“Several Negros political prisoners are infirm and elderly, and the Marcos administration should seriously consider their immediate release based on the possible kalayaan court order,” Kapatid Negros said.
Among them are the diabetic Corazón Javier, 61 years old, and Azucena Garubat, 63 years old.
Other Negros political prisoners who also need to be released immediately include Epifanio Romano, 66, Diosdado Caballero, 65, Andrés Pasyonela and Sidwin Gordoncillo, 63, and Nilda Bertolano and Abraham Villanueva, 60, Kapatid said.
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