‘Most of us were arrested without warrant’
Malacanang’s statement was obviously far from the truth. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said there were no political prisoners in the country. Lacierda was reacting to the loud cry of protesters on Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) demanding freedom for all political prisoners on the 39th anniversary of martial law.
We ask representatives and spokespersons of Malacañang, together with the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Justice, the Public Attorneys Office and other relevant offices to visit us here at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame and other political prisoners in other jails throughout the country. They can interview us about our cases and experiences, and open their minds.
They can learn the truth about how we have all these years become victims of gross injustice, political persecution, human rights violations and even patently illegal arrests and imprisonment, and various other crimes – not in any way different from those that political prisoners underwent during the open martial law years.
We have been lucky enough not to have become victims of extrajudicial killings or enforced disappearances that were commonplace during martial law. These have continued as part and parcel of atrocities by military, paramilitary, police and security forces under a democratic façade.
After Marcos fell, the biggest wave of political extrajudicial killings and abductions – about one third the cases during the 14 years of martial law –took place under the not-so-disguised semimartial law of the previous regime. More than a thousand political extrajudicial killings and more than 200 abductions were recorded during its close to 10 years of rule.
Under the Aquino administration, about 50 political extrajudicial killings and five political abductions have occurred.
Over the past years, a great number of political prisoners have continued to be unjustly, cruelly and illegally hauled into jail.
We, political prisoners under the present administration, now number more than 350. Of the total, some 250 were thrown into jail by the Arroyo administration and additionally about 100 by the current administration.
All of us went through, and continue to go through various forms of injustice, political persecution, human rights abuses and other crimes. After the end of the dictatorship in February 1986, these have continued to be committed against political prisoners, as extension of political repression under the cloak of pseudodemocratic rule.
We are all victims of political repression, state terrorism, fascist crimes and human rights violations. Many of us are imprisoned for acts in furtherance of political beliefs, social aspirations and struggles against the exploitative and oppressive status quo.
A big number of us, however, are ordinary folks victimized in their communities, and persecuted and abused under various military “counterinsurgency” programs.
Most of us were arrested without any warrant of arrest and only served fake warrants post facto. In practically all cases, we were slapped with trumped-up criminal charges and other “legal” sleight of hand to justify our illegal imprisonment.
These new “legal” sleight of hand included the 1,500 trumped-up charges cooked up by Malacañang’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group against the main targets – leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and consultants of its peace panel, as well as numerous political activists. The maneuver improved upon the simple Preventive Detention Action and the Arrest, Search and Seizure Order used during the martial law years in order to arrest and jail political opponents.
Among those arrested in the past few years were close to a score of NDFP peace consultants. The arrests were in violation of justice and the ruling state’s own legal jurisprudence and in mockery of the peace process and standing peace agreements, and in blatant disregard of their supposed immunity from surveillance, arrest, detention and other antagonistic acts as provided for by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
Since the start of the resumption of formal peace talks between the NDFP and the Aquino administration in February, only four among 17 detained NDFP peace consultants have been released. Their release was not in any way a gesture of goodwill that the administration has been trying to portray. The release came because of the peace consultants’ clearly unstoppable court victories.
(Jazmines, reportedly a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was arrested in Baliuag, Bulacan, on Feb. 14 just before the peace talks between the government and the NDF started.)
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