We, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants, and other political prisoners presently detained here at the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) in Camp BagongDiwa, Taguig City, and many more NDFP peace consultants and other political prisoners in other jails in the country, boldly and loudly send through the iron bars that seek to keep us in place and in silence, our warmest greetings of solidarity in our common struggle against unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, detention, torture, repression and other violations of human rights.
The jail we are presently confined in is called “Special Intensive Care Area”, as it specializes in the confinement of “high risk” prisoners, and requires the application of intensive security measures to the great detriment of the victims. Many of the “high risk” political prisoners now concentrated here at the SICA have been transferred from jails as far as regions in Mindanao, Southern Luzon and Central Luzon.
Aside from four of us NDFP peace consultants who have been brought here to the SICA, there are about 200 other political prisoners here at present.
Of these 200 or so, 24 are considered related to the NDFP and its New People’s Army, even if a number are in fact civilians (working in the open, legal arena; ordinary community folks; or victims of intentional “mistaken identity”). Most have earned the ire and fascist reaction of reactionary state authorities for espousing and fighting for political, socio-economic and cultural beliefs and causes critical of the rotten, backward and bankrupt semi-colonial and semi-feudal system, its fascist military police, intelligence and other state forces and their foreign masters. Some were even just minors when arrested (one, now still a minor). Three civilians have filed Writ of Amparo cases against their abductors the very next day after they were arrested by drunken soldiers of the 74th Infantry Battalion in Southern Quezon. But nothing has so far happened to their Writ of Amparo case, and instead what are moving in court are belated trumped-up charges against the three innocent civilians.
About a dozen are considered related to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), who remain under detention even as the peace talks between the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) have already come out with a Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and are supposedly now just in the process of working out details for the finalization of peace agreement.
Practically all the rest of the 200 or so political prisoners here at SICA have just been ordinary community folks arrested, tortured to be made to admit crimes they did not commit, and applied various fascist atrocities, as they survived killings and massacres in all-out fascist military and police offensives, combined with arbitrary bounty huntings and snatchings of innocent victims in the U.S.-financed “anti-terrorist” war conducted in impunity in vast areas of the country, mostly in Moro Mindanao as well as in other places.
To justify the arrest and detention of hundreds of innocent victims and the collection of large bounties for the arrest and detention of ordinary civilians who are made to appear as “terrorists”, the arresting units have substituted fake names and aliases taken from those in “wanted” lists, in lieu of the real names and identities of those arrested, detained and charged in court. It has been such that practically the majority of political prisoners here at the SICA, especially in the case of Moro/Muslim prisoners, have been arrested, detained, tortured and swamped with trumped-up criminal charges, not as their real persons but with the use of intentional “mistaken identities” and/or aliases of others.
It has even become ridiculously so, that there have been several pairs of Moro political prisoners here, who have been arrested, detained, charged and brought to court with the same assigned fake identities, as in the case of two who have been tagged as “Black Tungkang,” and several times been brought to the court chained to one another and asked to stand up together whenever the name “Black Tungkang” is called.
Among the innocent community folk unjustly, arbitrary and illegally arrested, tortured and detained as political prisoners have been a number of minors, elderlies and sickly.
Presently there are 13 political prisoners here at the SICA who were arrested, tortured and detained as minors (some as young as 14 years of age when arrested). One of these, who was only recently arrested is now still 17 years of age, while most of the rest are already in their late 20s, as they have been detained for about or more than a decade already.
Quite a number, at the same time, were arrested, tortured and detained even in their advanced and sickly conditions. Many of these have suffered further deterioration of their health, hypertensive strokes and heart attacks and other serious ailments, have been medically neglected, and a number have thus died in prison.
One such recent case has been that of IntongAmirol, a copra producer in Lumbang, Isabela City, Basilan. Although a Muslim Imam, he also work as an assistant at the Claret Catholic School in Sumipsip, Basilan. He was arrested more than a decade ago and brought to the SICA as a certain “IntongAninol” of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group accordingly operating in the mountain areas of Basilan. He was more than 60 years old then. A large bounty was collected by the arresting forces as reward for his arrest. His hypertensive condition worsened during his long detention and he suffered a severe hypertensive stroke in 2011. He was not given competent medical attention and was never brought to a hospital. He was totally bedridden in his detention cell since his stroke. His cellmates had to assume the task of feeding him, washing him and helping him with his toilet functions – – all in bed. He died on Good Friday, April 25, 2013.
There are also a number of foreign political prisoners here (Indonesians, including three U.S. rendition victims surreptitiously transferred to the Philippines from Malaysia, where they were detained for a year for illegal entry as they were passing Malaysia on the way back to Indonesia in 2003. While they only participated in protests led by imprisoned Malaysian political oppositionists against prison repression and abuses there, the Malaysian authorities could not touch the imprisoned Malaysian oppositionists and instead blamed the three Indonesians for leading the protests. The Malaysian authorities then handed over the three to the U.S. FBI, which then passed them on to the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group (PNPIG) in June 2005 with instructions to bring the three for indefinite detention, Guantanamo-style, in the Philippines with the use of assigned Filipino identities and to be charged as “terrorists.” The three were then beaten up and injected with drugs to render them unconscious, blindfolded, straightjacketed, disguised to look normal, loaded into a private plane, flown into the Philippines and detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame. They were hidden from public for two years, and only after then allowed to be able to get in touch with their families through the Indonesian embassy. For more than seven years, together with other political prisoners they were subjected to pressures by the U.S. FBI at the secret U.S. FBI room right inside the Maximum Security Area of the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
The three U.S. rendition victims and the other Indonesian political prisoners at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame were later transferred one after another to the SICA, especially after the intrusion of the U.S. in the cases of political prisoners and the existence of U.S. rendition victims at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame were exposed through the mass media in late June last year.
Aside from having been victims of unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, detention, torture and trumped-up criminal charges, political prisoners here at the SICA and in other jails across the country have also become victims of the cruelest, slowest crawl of justice in the world.
In the cases of more than a hundred political prisoners here at the SICA – – mostly those who have been transferred here from Mindanao – – their court hearings have practically been at a standstill for about or even more than a decade, until these have started to move again only very recently at the strong instigation of human rights and progressive lawyers organizations. But, even then, at still very slow paces (at the rate of once every several months, and for a few minutes per hearing).
Furthermore, in practically all cases of those who have from time to time been transferred to the SICA from various jails in the provinces, as those political prisoners are accordingly “high risk” and therefore their court hearings and places of detention should no longer be continued in the provinces, but instead have to be transferred to Taguig City, where the SICA (as the main national detention center for “high risk” prisoners) is located, the transfers of their court hearing have resulted in even further delays in the already very cruelly slow crawl of justice. This is because Taguig City-based courts and prosecutors have to be acquainted first with the transferred cases and also have to obtain new legal counsels in Metro Manila (where Taguig City is), as their previous legal counsels are already too faraway from the new venue of the transferred cases. There have also been many problems where transfer of court venues have not followed the transfer of political prisoners. Among such problems are the many snags in bringing the prisoners to courts in distant provinces – – accordingly due to logistical, personnel and security issues.
An even more prior factor in the practically indefinite detention of “high risk” political prisoners is the swamping of as many trumped-up criminal charges against them as possible, so that their court hearings on too many cases would have to take several years.
In the meantime, political prisoners suffer hostile, including unhealthy, overly restrictive and repressive prison conditions, poor food rations, lack of necessary medical support, and quite often highly unequal treatment compared to the highly favored and special treatment prisoners in exchange for large bribes paid to highly corrupt prison authorities.
The families, loved ones, co-workers, supporters and beneficiaries of the work of political prisoners suffer a lot, as on the part of the political prisoners themselves, with their separation. The sufferings become a lot more so with the distant, prolonged and virtually indefinite detention of political prisoners.
The much greater physical distance of political prisoners transferred to the SICA and other far-away detention centers for “high risk” political prisoners have further worsened the problems of both the transferred political prisoners and their families, loved ones and others who are much prevented from visiting them, or have to sacrifice a lot just to be able to visit. This is especially so in the case of those who want to at least be able to visit the distantly-detained political prisoners, but encounter so many problems in cost, time, and other hassles caused by the distance.
And then there are also many problems caused by the overly tight security measures – – at time with accompanying hostility – – exerted by jail authorities and their guards in the process of scrutinizing visitors and the documents, food and other goods being brought by visitors to “high risk” political prisoners, even as the visitors of very rich nonpolitical prisoners who pay very well are always treated with total leniency and allowed to bring in anything.
All these and other problems of political prisoners and many other human rights, political and socio-economic problems of the people have long been in the agenda and now and then specifically taken up in the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GPH. The NDFP-GPH peace talks have in fact already came out with a Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the first substantive agreement between the NDFP and the GPH signed on 16 March 1998 in the Hague, the Netherlands.
Particularly in regard to political prisoners, the NDFP and GPH peace panels had time and again even come out with specific agreement for the ensurance of respect of human rights and the review and evaluation of the cases of all political prisoners documented by KARAPATAN, for the immediate release by the GPH of “those found to have been arrested, detained, charged, tried or convicted of common crimes contrary to the political offense doctrine in the Amado V. Hernandez case (18 July 1956).”
In peace talk held in Oslo, Norway in April 2004 during the GPH regime of Gloria Arroyo, the NDFP and the GPH even came out with a specific list of 32 minors, sick, elderly and women political prisoners who were promised to immediately released by the GPH. A problem, though, is that some of these (including four minors and one sick and elderly) were never released by the Arroyo regime, nor up to now by the regime of Benigno S. Aquino III.
In truth, the Benigno S. Aquno III regime has been the worst (since the end of Martial Law) in adamantly refusing to release unjustly, arbitrarily and illegally held political prisoners, except for a mere handful who actually won court victories proving their innocence over the trumped-up criminal charges against them. KARAPATAN has time and again been coming out with updated lists and documentations of now more than 400 political prisoners – – more than half of whom have been arrested and detained under the regime of Benigno S. Aquinio III. The present regime has, however, been deaf to all these.
The Benigno S. Aquino III regime’s gross deafness in the face of numerous cases of injustice, arbitrariness and illegality in the arrest, detention and charging of political prisoners with trumped-up criminal cases, and in the face of widespread and loud demands for the urgent release of all political prisoners have resulted not only in the further indefinite and worsening sufferings of the political prisoners, their legitimate constituencies, their co-workers and their loved ones. It has also caused the peace talks between the NDFP and the GPH to again be indefinitely stalled.
This, especially as the NDFP has been correctly demanding, as a matter of principle, that the GPH stop grossly and adamantly violating standing peace agreements, and instead immediately release all political prisoners, including all detained-NDFP peace consultants and staffs in the peace process.
Particularly in the case of peace consultants and staffs in the NDFP-GPH peace process, an agreement (the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG) was signed by the NDFP and the GPH on February 24, 1995 in Nieuwegein, the Netherlands. This agreement guarantees the immunity of peace consultants and staffs from surveillance, arrest, prosecution or any other sinister punitive actions especially as these may obstruct their involvement and work in the peace process.
The GPH has, however, blatantly and arrogantly been violating this agreement. Up to now the Benigno S. Aquino III regime has stubbornly been refusing to rectify the GPH’s violation of the agreement and even goes to the foul extent of calling the NDFP’s demand for the immediate implementation of the agreement as making a “precondition” to the continuation of the NDFP-GPH peace talks. The NDFP has rightfully been clarifying that the implementation of the agreement, the rectification & violations to it, and thus the immediate release of all arrested and detained NDFP peace consultants and staffs involved in the peace process are, in fact, obligations of the GPH.
Still remaining under detention and continuing to be swamped with trumped-up criminal charges in violation of the JASIG and the CARHRIHL and other agreements are the four of us NDFP peace consultants here at the SICA (Alan Jazmines, TirsoAlcantara, EmiterioAntalan, and LeopoldoCaloza) and nine more in jails (Ramon Patriarca, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento, ReynanteGamara, Kennedy Bangibang, Pedro Codaste, Alfredo Mapano, and EdgadoFrigal). Jaime Soledad was previously released due to court victory, but was rearrested and is again detained.
Aside from these, the GPH still has to account for the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of other NDFP peace consultants namely Sotero Llamas, Leo Velasco, PrudencioCalubid, Rogelio Calubad and others, including their families and staffs.
The continuing stubborn refusal of the GPH to implement the JASIG, CARHRIHL and other peace agreements reached with the NDFP, rectify its violations, immediately release the detained NDFP peace consultants and staff, account for the othermissing NDFP peace consultants and staffs, and also release soonest all other political prisoners have only been serving to adamantly block the continuation of the peace talks.
Behind the lack of interest of the Benigno S. Aquino III regime in continuing with the peace talks with the NDFP is its lack of preparedness – – actually, absence of interest – – in discussing in depth the remaining substantive agenda in the program of the NDFP-GPH peace talks, especially the next substantive agenda on socio-economic reforms. The ruling regime wants to immediately bar and throw away key issues in regard to socio-economic reforms – – national industrialization and agrarian reform, which the ruling regime calls “ideologically charged.” The ruling regime has also announced that it refuses to talk about its particular programs that the NDFP has been fundamentally critical of, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer and PAMANA dole-out programs and the OplanBayanihan counter-insurgency program.
In the meantime, the sufferings of the people brought about by the worsening socio-economic malaise, gross human rights violations and other basic problems in the rotten, bankrupt, deteriorating semicolonial and semifeudal society that continues to prevail in the country, awaits decisive fundamental changes.
NDFP peace consultant
detained at the SICA
Camp BagongDiwa, Taguig City