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Palace denies what’s right under its nose

/ 08:21 PM October 08, 2011

There are indeed political prisoners, several of whom are our clients.

Our group of lawyers, law students and paralegals, who now number around 400, has discovered and known all along that the alleged acts of the prisoners we are representing or helping are, even if hypothetically admitted, actually political in nature.

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Members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) have established that it should be rebellion that should be filed against at least 85 percent of suspected political offenders, not murder, arson, illegal possession of firearms or explosives, and other common crimes. We have found that most of these are fabricated charges that further persecute these detainees, degrade their stature and mock the basic rules of evidence.

NUPL wishes to point this out to Malacañang. It must really be “news” for the present administration, which must start to think of listening to calls for a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty for these detainees and prisoners as a matter of justice long overdue.

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Our lawyers point to two tricks that the past administration resorted to.

It charged political prisoners with ordinary nonbailable crimes and improvidently used “John/Jane Does” in the criminal information filed in court.

Political activists often fall victim to the John/Jane Doe tactic. After the information was filed in court, spurious witnesses would spring up to identify unknown suspects by fabricating affidavits naming certain persons to be the John/Jane Does on the charge sheet.

What happened next was that, the newly identified John/Jane Does were issued arrest warrants and arrested without preliminary investigation, violating their right to due process. This practice continues to this day.

In our studies of the cases, conferences with clients and jail visits, we have confirmed that political prisoners exist. We heard the detainees’ vivid stories of torture and harassment, the denial of their right to counsel, and how, despite being branded as rebels, were charged and are treated as common criminals. They even went into hunger strike to demand for their release.

The existence of political prisoners in the country is an obvious matter of fact that Malacañang will be hard put to deny with a straight face like the dictator Marcos.

(Olalia is the secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.)

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TAGS: Edre U. Olalia, Government, human rights, Political prisoners
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