Rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) was shocked and dismayed after hearing the news that President Benigno Aquino III granted clemency to the deceased political prisoner Mariano Umbrero.
“Apparently the President is oblivious to the fact that he gave conditional pardon to a dead man. Tatay Umbrero died on July 15, 2011 and PNoy signed his release papers on July 19. It seems that Umbrero’s release papers stopped at a bureaucratic red light and did not move till he was dead,” Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of TFDP said in disappointment.
Mariano Umbrero the cancer-stricken political prisoner died last July 15, 2011. TFDP received a copy of Umbrero’s release papers yesterday, July 28, 2011. TFDP and other human rights groups have been campaigning for his release on humanitarian grounds since early March after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in late February of this year.
According to TFDP’s records, Tatay Umbrero as they called him was one of the 320 political prisoners languishing in jails nationwide. Tatay Umbrero’s case was a showcase of how inhumane the bureaucracy was, specifically victimizing poor inmates like him. It is just and reasonable to review and amend the difficult provisions of the Board of Pardons and Parole rules and regulations on granting executive clemency.
“It is necessary that PNoy listens and looks into the plight of our political prisoners. He should learn the lesson and heed the call of the political prisoners who are now in a Hunger Strike since July 25. PNoy should act immediately again before another Umbrero happens,” Amistad continued.
The political prisoners’ hunger strike continues on its fifth day this Friday. Human rights groups, peoples’ organizations, religious groups and supporters gathered last Thursday inside the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) compound and held a solidarity fast with the political prisoners’ demand for freedom and human rights.
The political prisoners nationwide led by those in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City have taken a step further from an indefinite fast into a full-scale hunger strike last July 25 coinciding with the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno S. Aquino III.
“Now on their fifth day, the political prisoners in NBP have stopped all food intakes and only take in liquids to underscore and demonstrate their demand to the government to look into the gravity of injustice they suffered.
The prisoners are getting physically weaker as they continue their hunger strike, but their political will and courage remains as strong as ever. Let us hope and pray that no more lives will be lost before government acts on their demands. If need be, we will give them coffee to wake them up from their bureaucratic slumber. Baka kailangan pa nila ng mas maraming kape para dumilat ang kanilang mga mata at makita ang kalagayan ng mga bilanggong pulitikal,” Edeliza P. Hernandez, Executive Director of the Medical Action Group (MAG) added.
According to TFDP, the regular supply of meals of the prisoners or “rancho” as the inmates call it are now piling up in front of the NBP Building 11 where the political prisoners staged their hunger strike.
“The on-going hunger strike of political prisoners for freedom and human rights are guided and inspired by the lessons from the prison struggles of the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino, P-Noy’s father and other political prisoners during the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s and first half of the 1980s,” TFDP continued.
In a letter of appeal sent to the Office of the President, the political prisoners laid down their calls for P-Noy to pronounce a clear National Human Rights program, for immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and for prison reforms particularly to amend the Rules on Parole and Guidelines for Recommending Executive Clemency which is not in conformity with the principles of restorative justice.
Meanwhile, according to Max De Mesa, chairperson of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), “It is imperative that the government declares its clear program for the respect and protection of human rights which we find lacking in the first year of the Aquino administration and in his recent SONA.” -end-