Free All Political Prisoners!
On Political Prisoners
Monday, 19 April 2010 12:03
“Political prisoners are men and women of conviction who struggled, fought and sacrificed for others.  We cry… freedom for all political prisoners NOW!”

TFDP had its beginnings under a dictatorial regime. In the late 1960s, there was broadening and heightening of peoples' actions and struggles against the unjust economic and political order in the Philippines. This was met by President Ferdinand Marcos with political repression and the declaration of martial law in 1972. Torture, detention and killing of political opposition, disappearance of leaders of peasants, workers and students, burning of villages and massive disregard of people's dignity and rights became the order of the day.   

It was in 1974 when the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) established the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) to assist political prisoners. The AMRSP reflected on a survey which showed the presence of political prisoners in all regions of the country.

TFDP then provided moral and spiritual support to the political prisoners, assisted them in their material needs, documented their situation as well as worked for their just trial and speedy release. Prisoners, on various occasions, conducted hunger strikes to push for better jail conditions and immediate action for their release. TFDP was almost always there to help. Relatives were eager to have sisters or nuns with them when visiting the detainees in the jails, since it seemed that some respect to the habit still prevailed in the military ranks.  

The first Chairperson of TFDP was Fr. Mel Brady who had a very brief stint for three months. The second Chairperson was Sr. Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC who was an ex-political detainee herself and who eventually occupied the position of TFDP chairperson for many years. TFDP's main source of strength, aside from its leadership and the support of AMRSP, was the many volunteers, staff and friends who in various ways, at various times contributed to the delivery of services to the political prisoners.  

What started primarily as work for political prisoners in Manila gradually became activities not only for political prisoners but for victims of other civil and political rights violations in all the regions of the country. Thus TFDP became a national human rights institution documenting human rights violations, assisting the victims in their material and legal needs as well as campaigning against human rights abuse and the structures and policies that caused them.

What are political prisoners?

POLITICAL PRISONER* [ legal: Phil. Law, as per deliberation of the presidential Committee on political prisoners] : A person who has been arrested or detained by reason of the commission of an act penalized by existing law as political crime, or by reason of any other act which is complexes with, or connected to such crime, or impelled by a political reason or motive.

What are political detainees?

POLITICAL DETAINEE* [generic: common Intl. usage]: a detainee held for political reason.

Political crime refers to:

POLITICALCRIME* [legal: Phil. Law, as per deliberation of the presidential committee on political prisoners established in 1986 shortly after the assumption of power by the Aquino government]:  any act penalized as a crime, and which falls under any of the following categories:
1.)    National security crime (purely political crime): any act penalized as a against national security or public order, such as subversion, rebellion, insurrection, treason, or sedition;
2.)    Complexes political crime: any act which is inextricably linked with a purely political offense defined as common criminal offense; and
3.)    Connected political crime: any act not falling under Nos. 1 and 2, committed with a verifiable political intent, reason or motive, or otherwise reasonably connected with a purely political offense.

*Source: “Glossary of Human Rights Terms in Common Use in the Philippines” (second EDITION), TFDP, 1991

Political motive refers to:

POLITICAL MOTIVE [TFDP operation definition]: There is a political motive when any or all of the following circumstances are present:

1.)When the act was committed against member (s) of cause-oriented Organizations; and his/her/their rights were violated by reasons thereof;
2.)When the act was committed on the occasion or as a consequence of Cause-orientation political mass action such as pickerts, rallies, etc.
3.)When the act was committed against suspected/accused (s) Or sympathizer(s) of groups engaged in rebellion against the government; and his/her/their rights were violated for reasons thereof
4.)When the act was committed as a result of counter-insurgency Operations;
5.)When the perpetrators claim the act was a product of counter- Insurgency operation;
6.)When the event is a consequence of armed conflict;
7.)When the victimization is due to religious and/or ethnic Discrimination;
8.)When the victim (s) is/are involved in political motivated cases.

Source: “RDPI Documentation Manual”, TFDP, 1994

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Last Updated on Monday, 19 April 2010 12:06


#1 John Lana 2011-08-02 09:31

Prisoners have basic human rights under the law:

1. All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.

2. There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

3. It is, however, desirable to respect the religious beliefs and cultural precepts of the group to which prisoners belong, whenever local conditions so require.

4. The responsibility of prisons for the custody of prisoners and for the protection of society against crime shall be discharged in keeping with a State’s other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society.

5. Except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, where the State concerned is a party, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol thereto, as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants.

6. All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality.

7. Efforts addressed to the abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment, or to the restriction of its use, should be undertaken and encouraged.

8. Conditions shall be created enabling prisoners to undertake meaningful remunerated employment which will facilitate their reintegration into the country’s labour market and permit them to contribute to their own financial support and to that of their families.

9. Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.

10. With the participation and help of the community and social institution, and with due regard to the interests of victims, favourable conditions shall be created for the reintegration of the ex-prisoner into society under the best possible conditions.

But realities proved the opposite!

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: “Prison conditions were rudimentary and sometimes harsh. Jails and prisons were often overcrowded, lacked basic infrastructure, and provided prisoners with inadequate nutrition and medical attention.”

“The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), under the Department of Justice, administered seven prisons and penal farms for prisoners sentenced to more than three years in prison. During the year, BuCor’s prisons and penal farms held 36,101 prisoners, including 2,041 women. The Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Bureau of Management and Penology (BJMP) and PNP control over 1,002 city, district, and municipal jails that hold pretrial detainees, those awaiting final judgment, and convicts serving sentences of three years or less. The DILG reported that its jails operate at an average of 400 percent over their designated capacity, and that Manila City Jail, built to hold 1,000 inmates, held 5,300 inmates at year’s end.”

“Prison and jail administrators allotted a daily subsistence allowance of 50 pesos per prisoner. Lack of potable water, poor sanitation, and poor ventilation continued to cause health problems. During the year, BuCor and the BPMJ reported 871 deaths in prison due to various illnesses, including cardiopulmonary arrest and pulmonary tuberculosis.”

“Some prisoners, including women and children, were abused by other prisoners and prison personnel. The slow judicial process exacerbated overcrowding. During the year, the president granted executive clemency to 29 elderly persons. BuCor records showed that at least 8 percent of its inmates were 60 or older.”

“According to BJMP regulations, male and female inmates should be held in separate facilities and, in national prisons, overseen by guards of the same sex; these regulations were not uniformly enforced. In provincial and municipal prisons, male guards sometimes supervised female prisoners directly or indirectly. Although prison authorities attempted to segregate children or place them in youth detention centers, in some instances children were not fully segregated from adult male inmates. Girls were sometimes held in the same cells as boys. As part of reform and budget reduction efforts during the year, the government consolidated women and minors into fewer jails, including some that contained separate facilities for those groups. Of the 1,002 BJMP and PNP-managed jails, 194 had separate cells for minors, while 418 jails had separate cells for women. Lack of adequate food for minors in jails and prisons was a concern.”

“During the year, BJMP and PNP jails held 59,289 prisoners, 95 percent of whom were pretrial detainees. The remainder had been convicted of various crimes. Of the total number of sentenced prisoners and detainees, 5,673 were adult women and 12 were minors. During the same period, the BJMP released 111 minor inmates, usually in response to a court order following a petition by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) or the inmate’s private lawyer, or through NGO-led appeals.”

“Prisoners and detainees generally had access to visitors, but local NGOs reported that family visitation was restricted at times for some political detainees. Prison officials noted that security concerns and space limitations at times restricted prisoners’ access to visitors. Muslim officials reported that while Muslim detainees were allowed to observe their religion, Catholic masses were often broadcast by loudspeaker to prison populations made up of both Catholic and non-Catholic prisoners and detainees. There were no reports that authorities censored or blocked prisoner or detainee complaints or requests for investigation of inhumane conditions. International monitoring groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, were allowed free access to jails and prisons. However, a local NGO reported difficulty accessing jails or detention centers where children were held and was forced to seek court orders or permission from the governor to visit political prisoners in one provincial jail.”

“In an October 16 riot in the Bataan provincial jail, 57 prisoners were injured when guards used water hoses, truncheons, and rubber bullets to quell an uprising of an estimated 900 inmates. A CHR investigation found that the guards used excessive force against the prisoners, and nine correctional officers were removed from their posts following the incident.”

According to REHAS, many of detention centers in the Philippines do not have regular doctors and many of the assisting medic are non-board passer nurses and therefore not authorized to diagnose and prescribe medicine to inmates.

These worsening conditions of our detention centers like hell and slaughtering houses only proved government’s failure to address major issues of society:

1. It fails to address the root causes of crimes (this is the real meaning of crime prevention)

2. It fails to rehabilitate inmates

Now, why crimes still continue despite that our detention centers are not meant to rehabilitate but to exterminate life? No penitentiary places can prevent the proliferation of crimes unless the root causes of poverty, injustices, exploitation and oppression are broken first. What makes inmates inside detention centers different from many Filipinos who are outside the detention bars? It is only a matter of area space and nothing more. Prisoners inside jails are confined to small areas and are over populated while we seeming have wider area space and the so-called “liberty” but the truth of the matter, we are all prisoners under wider area space.

Filipinos are all experiencing alienation, the very form of exterminating life in this country

Alienation is a systemic result of capitalism. It is founded upon the observation that, within the capitalist mode of production, Filipinos invariably lose determination of their lives and destinies by being deprived of the right to conceive of themselves as the director of their actions, to determine the character of their actions, to define their relationship to other actors, and to use or own the value of what is produced by their actions. Workers become autonomous, self-realized human beings, but are directed and diverted into goals and activities dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of productionin order to extract from workers the maximal amount of surplus valuepossible within the current state of competition between industrialists. By working, each contributes to the common wealth. Alienation in capitalist societies occurs because the worker can only express this fundamentally social aspect of individuality through a production system that is not collectively, but privately owned; a privatized asset for which each individual functions not as a social being, but as an instrument:

“Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature. Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.”

These alienation include:

Alienation of the worker from the work he produces, from the product of his labor. The product’s design and the manner in which it is produced are determined not by its actual producers, nor even by those who consume products, but rather by the Capitalist class, which appropriates labor – including that of designers and engineers – and seeks to shape consumers’ taste in order to maximize profit. Aside from the lack of workers’ control over the design and production protocol, however, this form of alienation refers more broadly to the conversion of the activity of work, which is conducted to generate a use value in the form of a product, into a commodity itself which – like products – can be assigned an exchange value. In other words, the Capitalist gains control of the worker – including intellectual and creative workers – and the beneficial effects of his work by setting up a system that converts the worker’s efforts not only into a useful, concrete thing capable of benefiting consumers, but also into an illusory, redified concept—something called “work”—which is compensated in the form of wages at a rate as low as possible to maintain a maximum rate of return on the industrialist’s investment capital (an aspect of exploitation). Furthermore, within this illusory framework, the exchange value that could be generated by the sale of products and returned to workers in the form of profits is absconded with by the managerial and Capitalist classes.

Alienation of the worker from working, from the act of producing itself. This kind of alienation refers to the patterning of work in the capitalist mode of production into an endless sequence of discrete, repetitive, trivial, and meaningless motions, offering little, if any, intrinsic satisfaction. The worker’s labor power is commodified into exchange value itself in the form of wages. A worker is thus estranged from the unmediated relation to his activity via such wages. Aside from the limitation of the inherent plurality of one’s species being that the Capitalist division of labor imposes upon workers, identifying another feature of exploitation with this kind of alienation. One’s species being is fulfilled when it maintains control over the subject of its labor by the ability to determine how it shall be used directly or exchanged for something else. Capitalism removes the right of the worker to exercise control over the value or effects of his labor, robbing him of the ability to either consume the product he makes directly or receive the full value of the product when it is sold: this is the first alienation of worker from product. However, the first alienation contributes to the second alienation of worker from the very act of working, as it removes the worker’s feeling of control over the use and exchange of his labor power. This loss of control disrupts the ability of the worker to specialize, focus, direct or apply the inherently plural potency of his species being, thus separating or alienating any activity that he does engage in from the intentional core of that being.

Alienation of the worker from himself as a producer, from his or her “species being” or “essence as a species”. This human essence was not separate from activity or work, nor static, but includes the innate potential to develop as a human organism. Species being as the original or intrinsic essence of the species, which is characterized both by plurality and dynamism: all beings possess the tendency and desire to engage in multiple activities to promote their mutual survival, comfort and sense of inter-connection. A man’s value consists in his ability to conceive of the ends of his action as purposeful ideas distinct from any given step of realizing them: man is able to objectify his intentional efforts in an idea of himself (the subject) and an idea of the thing which he produces (the object). Animals do not objectify themselves or their products as ideas because they engage in self-sustaining actions directly, without sustained future projection or conscious intention. While human nature or essence does not exist apart from specific, historically conditioned activity, it becomes actualized as man’s species being when man – within his historical circumstances – is free to subordinate his will to the demands imposed by his own imagination and not those mandated solely for the purpose of allowing others to do so.

Notwithstanding, the character of an individual’s consciousness (his will and imagination) is conditioned by his relationship to that which facilitates survival; since any individual’s survival and betterment is fundamentally dependent upon cooperation with others, a given person’s personal consciousness is determined inter-subjectively or collectively rather than merely subjectively or individually. As far as has been heretofore observed, all societies have organized groups with differing basic relationships to the means of material survival available to them—i.e. the means of production. One group has owned and controlled the means while another has operated them, the goal of the former being to benefit as much as possible through the latter’s efforts. Every time there is a shift in the organization of the means of production—as with say, the displacement of agrarian feudalism and pre-industrial mercantilism with the technologies that gave rise to industrial capitalism—there is a rearrangement and rupture of the social class structure that relates to those means—a class structure as termed the relations of production. That is to say, a new class relationship emerges, subordinating one group and the species beings of its members to the activities and corresponding values that enable it to operate the means of production for the profit of the dominant group, whose consciousness and values are also conditioned to maintain this dominance.

While industrialization holds the promise of the masses’ eventual liberation from an imagination conditioned chiefly by brute necessity, the division of labor within Industrial Capitalism blunts the worker’s “species being” and renders him as a replaceable cog in an abstract machine instead of a human being capable of defining his own value through direct, purposeful activity. And yet, industrialization would eventually progress to a state of near-total mechanization and automation of productive processes. During this progression, the newly dominant Bourgeoisie Capitalist class would exploit the Industrial working class or Proletariat to the degree that the value they excised from their labor would begin to infringe upon the ability of the Proletariat to materially survive. When this begins to occur, and when the productive forces are sufficiently developed, there will be a final revolution whose end result will be the reorientation of the relation of production to the means of production in a socialist mode of production. In the socialist mode of production, because all members of the society will relate to the means of production on a fundamentally equal and non-conflictual manner, there will be no fundamental differentiation between groups or classes as previously, and the species being of every individual will assume a full actualization of its tendencies, as the application of his efforts will return to him in direct, unmediated proportion to what he is able to conceive. This is partly due to the fact that a socialist society would distribute the benefits and duties of production evenly, in accordance with the capacities its members, such that each member could direct his action more directly towards his interests and preferences rather than a narrowly designated function designed to generate maximal return of value to an owner.

In this classless, collectively managed society, the dialectical exchange of value between one worker’s objectified labor power (via production) and another benefit from that objectification (via consumption) will not be directed by the narrow interest of one group over the needs of another, and will thus directly enrich the consciousness and material state of all of producers and consumers to the maximal possible degree. Though production will still be differentiated to some degree, it will be directed by the collective demand and not the narrow demand of one class at the expense of those of another. Since ownership will be shared, the relation of individuals’ consciousness to the mode of production will be identical, and will assume the character that corresponds, as in previous times, to the interest of its group: the universal, socialist class. The direct, un-siphoned return of the fruit of each worker’s labor to that group’s interest – and thus as directly as possible to his own interest, which assumes the character of his group’s – will constitute an un-alienated state of labor, restoring the worker to the fullest exercise and determination of his species being as is possible at any given moment in the future development of socialist society.

Alienation of the worker from other workers or producers. Capitalism reduces labour to a commercial commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a social relationship between people involved in a common effort for survival or betterment. The competitive labour market is set up in Industrial Capitalist economies to extract as much value as possible in the form of capital from those who work to those who own enterprises and other assets that control the means of production. This causes the relation of production to become conflictual; i.e. it pits worker against worker, alienating members of the same class from their mutual interest, an effect called false consciousness.

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