Monday, June 13, 2011

Political Prisoners press for freedom for their ailing comrade after Araw ng Kalayaan

Political prisoners in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) pressed government to release their ailing comrade Mariano Umbrero in line with Independence Day.

Juanito Itaas, the longest held political prisoner, convicted for the killing of Col. James Rowe, through the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a human rights group, is calling the attention of President Aquino and DOJ Secretary De Lima to urgently act on the release of Mariano Umbrero, a political prisoner at the New Bilibid Prison suffering stage 4 cancer.

“Nanawagan kami kay Pangulong Aquino at DOJ Secretary De Lima, na magkaroon ng puso at ibigay ang inaasam na kalayaan ng aming kasamahang si Tatay Umbrero, na malubha na ang kalagayan dahil sa cancer” (We are appealing to President Aquino and DOJ Secretary De Lima, to have a heart and grant the long awaited freedom of our comrade Tatay Umbrero, whose condition is critical due to cancer.) Juanito Itaas said.

Secretary De Lima last week announced her intention to institute reforms in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) due to the VIP treatment and drugs issues inside the national penitentiary.  She also halted the dismantling of “kubols” (private quarters of inmates) last week saying that she intended to study the system first and coordinate with concerned groups among the inmates.  A technical working group (TWG) which will be created to institute reforms inside the NBP will draft an action plan regarding the matter.  

“Saludo kami sa maagap na pag-aksyon ni Kalihim De Lima hinggil sa mga isyu sa NBP ngunit ipinaaalala rin namin ang inilapit naming kalagayan ng mga bilanggong pulitikal noon pa mang siya ay pinuno pa ng Commission on Human Rights,” Itaas said referring to the dialogue they had with Secretary De Lima when she was still the CHR Chairperson.

(We salute Secretary De Lima’s immediate action on issues at NBP but we would like to remind her of the situation of political prisoners that we discussed with her when she was still the CHR head.)

“Hihintayin pa ba nilang mamatay ang isang mabuting mamayan na katulad ni Tatay Umbrero bago sila umaksyon? Inhustisya na nga na kami ay nakulong dahil sa aming prinsipyo, inhustisya pa rin ang matatamo namin dahil sa burukrasya sa mga ahensya ng pamahalaan kahit sa bingit na ng kamatayan.” He added.

(Are they waiting for a good citizen like Tatay Umbrero to die before they act? It was Injustice when they incarcerated us because of our political belief; it is still injustice we get from bureaucracy in government even in a life and death situation.)      

According to Emmanuel Amistad, TFDP together with other human rights organizations have raised the matter with concerned agencies.  They always ended up being referred to the Board of Pardons and Parole. Since the prison records of Tatay Umbrero have not been forwarded to the BPP, they can not act on the matter.

“It seems that the simple request of a dying man to breathe the air of freedom will be lost in the bureaucratic maze of government,” Amistad said.

“We ask Secretary De Lima to directly order the immediate transmission of the prison records of Tatay Umbrero to the Board of Pardons and Parole. Each day that these records are not transmitted is a day of freedom lost for Tatay Umbrero, “ Amistad added.

“Kung ayaw nilang palayain ang mga bilanggong pulitikal na katulad namin agad-agad, asikasuhin na nila muna si Tatay Umbrero.  Iparamdam naman nila ang pagiging makatao sa isang taong nasa bingit na ng kamatayan,” Itaas lamented.

(If they will not release political prisoners like us immediately, they should act on Tatay Umbrero first.  They should show humanity for a person who is in a critical situation.)

“We remind President Aquino that his father Ninoy was released from political detention by Marcos because of illness. If the dictator Marcos considered the health of a staunch political enemy, why can’t PNoy who champions the cause of the poor and dehumanized? Like Ninoy, Umbrero was also a Marcos victim,” Amistad concluded.

June 13, 2011
For more information please contact:
Egay Cabalitan
TFDP-Advocacy Staff
Mobile Nos. 09219645017
Tel: 437-80-54

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