Urgent Appeal (Philippines): Political prisoners and detainees escalate their protest action from fasting to hunger strike
On Political Prisoners
Friday, 29 July 2011 13:51

Urgent Appeal (Philippines): Political prisoners and detainees escalate their protest action from fasting to hunger strike


HS_FOR_HR_copyOn July 25, 2011, political prisoners and detainees around the country started their nationwide HUNGER STRIKE for freedom and human rights. This is to express their concern over: 1) government’s lack of explicit national policy on human rights; 2) the continuous neglect of the plight of victims of political incarceration; and, 3) to push for prison reforms specifically for the government to consider proposed changes on provisions set forth by the guidelines of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

The escalation of the struggle of the political prisoners into a hunger strike signifies their firm stance to call attention not only to their situation but the lack of a human rights agenda of the government. Juanito Itaas, head of the steering committee of political prisoners in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) expressed dismay that present government has no intention of looking into their situation.

Citing his case, Itaas was a full-time activist in Davao City when he was abducted and tortured by the Philippine Constabulary – Criminal Investigation Service (PC-CIS) and Regional Security Unit (RSU) on August 27, 1989. Later on, Itaas was wrongfully accused of murder and frustrated murder but eventually convicted for the killing of Col. James Rowe who was then the chief of the Army Division of the Joint RP – U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) and the wounding of his driver, Joaquin Vinuya. Itaas had filed several applications for amnesty. Due to supposed pressures and strong opposition by the United States government, his petitions were ignored and rejected.

Aside from Itaas, there are 319 political prisoners and detainees languishing in jails across the country before a political prisoner Mariano Umbrero died two weeks ago. Umbrero was the cancer-stricken political prisoner in NBP who died last July 15, 2011 with government failing to grant executive clemency.

Currently, the government denies that these prisoners are political dissenters. After having charged these political prisoners/detainees with common felonies (i.e. illegal possession of firearms), the government now treats them as ordinary criminals. In the process, they deny the legitimacy and justness of the grievances of political offenders. Suspicion of being members or supporters of insurgent groups are the usual grounds for their arrest.

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) has asked the government to look into their plight even before President Benigno Aquino III took his oath last year.  TFDP and human rights organizations even had a dialogue last year with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and they promised that they will resume the operation of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, Pardon and Parole (PCBREPP) to evaluate the releases of political prisoners. But until now this promise has not been fulfilled.

PCBREPP was created during the time of former President Ramos as mechanism to table cases of alleged political offenders.  The process was able to release a significant number of political offenders under President Fidel Ramos’ term.  It was resurrected during the term of former President Gloria Arroyo and was able to release eight political prisoners at the last days of her term of office.

Meanwhile, political detainees in Dumaguete Provincial Jail, Kabankalan City Jail, Leyte Provincial Jail, Samar Provincial Jail and Catbalogan Samar Provincial Jail are also joining the hunger strike while political detainees in Mindanao and MMDJ Taguig are already in fasting since July 21, 2011.

Action Requested

Please write to the authorities in the Philippines urging them to:

  1. Call upon competent authorities to look into the plight of the political prisoners and detainees particularly the criminalization of their political acts, and the bureaucracy in government that failed to immediately act on petitions such as parole, pardon and clemency filed by prisoners;
  2. Review the present Board of Pardons and Parole guidelines 2006 Revised Manual of the Board of Pardons and Parole, Section 3, Extraordinary Circumstances, a) to consider the proposal to lower the age limit of those eligible for pardon from 70 to 60 and, b)  to include prisoners who are “terminally ill and have debilitating diseases” for immediate executive clemency;
  3. Create a working group to examine, monitor, review and provide recommendations in relation to the ongoing cases of political offenders. Similar actions should be taken in dealing with pending appeals and applications for parole, pardon and clemency filed by political prisoners. The group should have unrestricted access to the prison system and its records;
  4. Provide a “a general and unconditional amnesty” for the release of political prisoners and detainees;
  5. Provide a clear action plan of government to include human rights principles as basis for governance and development plan;
  6. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.

Please send your letters to:


  1. President Benigno C. Aquino III
    Republic of the Philippines
    Malacañan Palace
    JP Laurel Street , San Miguel
    Manila 1005

Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

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  1. Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr

Office of the President

1/F Bonifacio Hall, Malacañan Palace,

JP Laurel Street , San Miguel
Manila 1005

Fax: +63 2 733 7636

Tel: +63 2 733 3010 / 733 2485

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


  1. Secretary Leila M. De Lima
    Department of Justice (DOJ)

Padre Faura Street

Ermita, Manila, 1000


Fax: +63 2 523 9548
Tel: +63 2 521 1908
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  1. Secretary Teresita Q. Deles

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)

6th Floor, Agustin 1 Building, F. Ortigas Jr. Avenue (formerly Emerald Avenue)
Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1600


Fax +63 2 638 2216

Tel: +63 2 544 4217

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  1. Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales
    Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
    SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
    U.P. Complex, Diliman
    Quezon City 1104

Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188
Fax: +63 2929 0102

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  1. Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva, 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32



Prepared by:


Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)

#45 St. Mary Street, Cubao

Quezon City 1109, Philippines

Tel: +63 2 437 8054

Fax: +63 2 911 3643

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Last Updated on Friday, 29 July 2011 13:56


#1 John Lana 2011-07-30 17:38

Political prisoners all over the country from various political blocks has been calling the attention of President Noynoy Aquino for their freedom. In fact, during the 2nd Sona of Pnoy, alleged political offenders and political prisoners (APOs/PPs) are on hunger strike and appealing to the new administration for their immediate release. They are the new Ninoy Aquino, who fought side by side with the masses and whose only sin was to serve the greatest number of people for their greatest good. Can the son (Pres. Noynoy Aquino) grant freedom to his father (alleged political offenders and political prisoners)?

Few days before Pres. Noynoy Aquino delivered his rhetorical speech in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona), another political prisoner died on stage four lung cancer without being granted release on humanitarian grounds by the Pnoy regime. Different human rights groups has been calling the attention of the new administration and followed by a written request to Sec. Teresita Qunitos-Deles of OPAPP, asking for the immediate release of Tatay Mariano Umbrero based on humanitarian consideration but the new regime of Pnoy seems to liken with the past administrations who were also naive, heartless and inhuman in treating political prisoners. Record shows that five political prisoners died due to severe sickness in New Bilibid Prison and one from BJMP Bicutan in the past and what is very disgusting and irritating is the failure of the past and present administrations to address the very major question of all seasons and that is “why until now there are still many Ninoy Aquino languishing in jails?”

Ninoy did not only fight against Marcos dictatorship but also against poverty and same true with all political prisoners in this country. If Ninoy would be living today, he would tell his son (Pres. Noynoy) what democracy means for Filipino masses and particularly for political prisoners. He would tell him to free political prisoners as what Corazon Aquino (mother of Pnoy) did during Edsa 1.

Why there are political prisoners? They only proves three major things: (1) the state is repressive and coercive and cannot tolerate non-align and opposing political and ideological beliefs (2) there must be something wrong with the socio-economic system and governance; and (3) change is inevitable. Along that lines we can say that it is the very system itself that gave birth to political prisoners and therefore, the burden to free must also be a state responsibility and accountability. In fact, not only APOs/PPs are its end result, many in our detention centers suffer a crime they didn’t actually commit and if there are some who really did it, it can be rooted in the very nature of the system itself that fails to address the very problem of society like poverty and injustices.

Quoting from Negros Chronicle, retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, one of the most outspoken magistrates of the high court , and pillar of human and civil rights, declared that poverty is the greatest terrorist not only in the Philippines but the entire civilized world as well.

People , he said, who are driven by extreme poverty, and in need of immediate survival for himself and his family especially, the option to commit crime and get money for survival comes to play. Supreme Court Chief Justice Puno said:

“If you come to the various dimensions of this problem of poverty, you will come to the conclusion that poverty is the cause of so many crimes, it is almost the mother of all causes of crimes in the world.

“A country may enjoy the first generation of human and political rights , but if the people are suffering from poverty, all these civil and political rights are nothing to them.”

“You may tell a poor man that he has the right and liberty to travel anytime anywhere in the world, but if he has no money, this right means nothing to him,” Puno said.

“You cannot tell a poor man about his right to participate in our political process, of being able to vote and be voted upon because if he has no money to pay for a decent education, this political right means nothing to him,” Puno added.

“The government and non-government sectors are doing everything to win this war against poverty. We cannot afford to lose this war against poverty because if we lose, then we lose everything, our liberty, our freedom and our future,” Justice Puno said.

Many observers agree and that, it is for this reason that illegal drug trafficking and extrajudicial killings are rampant in poverty stricken areas. Negros Oriental is one of the most depressed poverty stricken areas in the country in terms of economic opportunities because of the nature of the volcanic terrain.

People’s farms are now converted to residential areas since owners fear that CARP might take over their lands. Sugar mill owners said that they do not want to expand even modernize because owners are apprehensive what will happen to the industry under CARP take overs.

Puno said, “what good is human and civil rights if the people are poor? How can they air their legitimate gripes against government if they do not have money to go to court, that is why the jails are overstocked with poor detainees awaiting trial.”

Commenting on the bungled hostage taking, Justice Puno said that “everyone knows the crisis has been mis-handled however, he gives President Noy the benefit of reviewing the findings and that as President PNoy, he said, has the mandate to make a final decision on the outcome of the crisis.” Puno was here as main guest during the inauguration of the Suzuki World, the biggest Suzuki motorcycle service center so far opened by the company.


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