Davao City councilor asks colleagues to support calls for political prisoners' freedom

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 December) — A city councilor today urged her colleagues to speak up for women victims of state violence and join calls for the release of all political prisoners.

Councilor Leah A. Librado, chair of the city council committee on women and children, issued the call in a privilege speech at the city council’s regular session today, two days before the 62nd anniversary of International Human Rights Day.

Librado mentioned in her privilege speech the names of lawyers Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo, two women human rights defenders who were among the 58 victims of the massacre in sitio Masalay, barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23 last year.

She also cited student activist Beng Hernandez who was killed in Arakan Valley by paramilitary forces in 2002, and Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army leader Leoncio Pitao also known as ”Kumander Parago.”

Rebelyn was abducted, tortured and killed on March 4 last year.

Librado also mentioned Marjorie Reynoso and Laya Villanueva, whose ”innocent lives were snuffed out by either military agents or their paid minions.”

The councilor likewise said that among the Morong 43, or the 43 health workers arrested during a medical training in a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal, were six women, two of them pregnant at the time of the arrest and who are now ”nursing mothers still under hospital arrest.”

”Until this day, they see their babies growing inside detention cell,” she added.

She said the Morong 43 were ”tortured and [are] still in detention.”

Of the 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings during the term of former President Arroyo, 153 were women and 476 were human rights defenders, Librado noted.

Of the 206 victims of enforced disappearances, 31 were women, and of the 2,059 victims of illegal arrest and detention, 343 have remained in jail, 63 of them women, she added.

Librado cited the reports of Prof. Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who earlier linked the killings under Arroyo to the counterinsurgency strategy Oplan Bantay Laya.

Librado said she had expected the new administration to usher in urgent reforms and actions to solve the extrajudicial killings but instead, she said, the killings continue up to this day.
She described the counterinsurgency program of the new administration to have ”no substantial departure from the policy that breeds human rights violations.”

Citing statistics from the human rights groups Karapatan and Tanggol Bayi, she said that in the first six months of the Aquino administration, there have been 22 victims of extrajudicial killings, two of them women; two victims of enforced disappearances; 16 victims of torture; 23 victims of illegal arrest and detention; and 3,280 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation.

”Let us call for the immediate release of all political prisoners and those detained or incarcerated in many parts of the country,” Librado told the city council.

”Let us strengthen the campaign to make the state perpetrators of all human rights violations accountable both at the domestic and international levels,” she said.  (Germelina Lacorte/Mindanews)