In anticipation of the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines next year, the mothers of the two University of the Philippines students abducted in August wrote to His Holiness for him to “intercede in the quest for freedom” for their sons Guiller Martin Cadana and Gerald Salonga.
Marita Cadanao and Rowena Salonga, mothers of the two UP students, said their sons, both 23 years old and new graduate of the University of the Philippines in Pampanga, volunteered as researchers and organizers of the Kabataan Partylist, as “a way of giving back to the people,” “to uplift their lives” and “to make it a worthy place to settle in the future.”
Guiller and Gerald were gathering data regarding the displacement of farmers caused by government projects in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija, when they were abducted by the military from the 3rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in August 9, 2014.
“They were subjected to mental torture for more than ten (10) hours before they were turned over to the police in the morning of August 10, 2014. They were subjected to warrantless arrest and were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” the mothers stated in their letter.
“They are now languishing in jail in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, waiting for justice. The truth is, our children were abducted to instill fear and set as an example to the people that whoever will fight for equality and justice will suffer the same fate,” the mothers added.
Guiller and Gerald are among the 491 political prisoners under the Aquino administration. From this number, Karapatan documented 220 individuals illegally arrested and are still detained under the BS Aquino regime.
“Aquino seeks to hide the political nature of arresting and detaining them, by filing criminal charges against them. This is borne out of an unjust societal structure that is propped up by counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan. We support the political prisoners’ appeal to Pope Francis to put an end to these structures that breed injustices,” said Jigs Clamor, national coordinator of Selda.
The political prisoners will launch a nationwide fast during the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January.