Last Sept. 21, President Aquino commemorated the 40th anniversary of the imposition of martial law by visiting the detention cell in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, where his father, Ninoy, was jailed. The President also opened it as the Armed Forces Center for Human Rights Dialogue.
On the same day, political prisoners all over the country lifted their one-week fast held to call for their release and to remind the nation of the thousands of Filipinos who were tortured and detained during martial law.
There are currently 385 political prisoners in different detention centers in the Philippines. One hundred seventy of them were arrested during the 2-year-old rule of the Aquino administration. Yet, President Aquino continues to deny their existence.
It is understandable for a son to remember his father and the suffering he endured during martial law as a political prisoner, but it is appalling to see him refusing to acknowledge that political prisoners still exist today. All the political prisoners are facing trumped-up criminal charges. Among them, 19 are elderly, 30 are women, and 49 are suffering from various illnesses.
Worse, Mr. Aquino depicts the Armed Forces of the Philippines of today as dependable allies of the people compared to the AFP during martial law. Truth is, today’s AFP continues to be the state’s primary machinery in implementing Oplan Bayanihan, which has caused numerous human rights violations against the Filipino people, including the increase in the number of political prisoners.
The creation of the AFP human rights center is another effort to deodorize the image of the military since martial law. Unfortunately, the institution carries on with its mercenary practices, and political prisoners are a proof of this.
When martial law was declared, most of those who were arrested were brought to military camps like Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio. The practice has not stopped. Current political prisoners Tirso Alcantara and Ramon Patriarca, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peace talks with the government, are in solitary confinement in separate military camps. The military has defied a court order for Alcantara’s transfer to a regular detention cell in Camp Crame. Patriarca was arbitrarily transferred from Danao provincial jail to a cell at the AFP Central Command in Cebu.
The dark era of martial law is not yet over. State repression that results in human rights violations persists under a so-called democracy. We at Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) will continue to work for justice for all the victims of human rights violations during martial law and after, up to the present Aquino administration.
Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban
sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda),