Monday, June 13, 2011

Rights group urges gov’t to release cancer-stricken political prisoner - Nation - GMA News Online - Latest Philippine News

Rights group urges gov’t to release cancer-stricken political prisoner - Nation - GMA News Online - Latest Philippine News

As the government continues to look into the alleged VIP treatment of homicide convict former Batangas Governor Jose Antonio Leviste, a rights group asked President Benigno Aquino III to release an ailing political detainee.

The alleged VIP treatment given to Leviste by national penitentiary officials had urged the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) to call for the immediate release of political prisoner Mariano Umbrero, who is diagnosed with cancer.

“We pray for Umbrero’s health and that God may touch PNoy’s heart and convince him to exercise his power to grant executive clemency to Tatay Umbrero whose health is deteriorating rapidly," TFDP executive director Emmanuel Amistad said.

Umbrero is serving his sentence in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and is in an extremely critical state due to non-small cell carcinoma stage 4.

The group started an S.O.S. Appeal Campaign for Umbrero’s release last month by sending letters to the President and other government agencies.

Recently, TFDP also started an online campaign to solicit support for Umbrero using the social networking site Facebook.

Friends and supporters have been asked to post an online prayer at 4 p.m. everyday for Umbrero.

Weeks prior to his check-up at the Philippine General Hospital in January this year, Umbrero had complained of abdominal pain and breathing difficulty, both severe enough to require admission in the Intensive Care Unit of the NBP hospital.

Umbrero is also experiencing multiple-organ problem, including his heart and liver.

While the group expressed approval of the planned reforms at the NBP (the national penitentiary), they also said they were “disappointed with the Office of the President’s reply to our various letters of appeal."

According to the group, both the Office of the President and Justice Secretary Leila De Lima have failed to respond to letters appealing for Umbrero's release.

The group said its members and allies had also made an appeal to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), which until now has not done anything yet on the request.

“It is urgent and imperative to free Tatay Umbrero now. Let him spend his remaining days with his loved ones. Let him breathe the air of freedom," Amistad added.

“[Umbrero] was also a victim of Martial Law. His condition qualifies for pardon and even executive clemency. Let Tatay Umbrero experience freedom before it’s too late. The BPP was able to release rich convicts such as former Zamboanga del Norte Representative Romeo Jalosjos and others, why can’t they do it with Tatay Umbrero?" Amistad said. — Bea Cupin with Egay Cabalitan/LBG, GMA News

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