The Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao welcomes the dismissal of criminal charges and the subsequent release from detention of Angelina Bisuña Ipong, the country’s oldest woman political prisoner, on February 17, 2011 from the Misamis Occidental Provincial Jail in Oroquieta City.
February 17 marked the third day of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Oslo, Norway.
Through the able representation of her counsel, UPLM vice chairperson Atty. Emiliano Deleverio, Bisuña’s cases of double murder, double frustrated murder, and arson were dismissed by Presiding Judge Bernadette S. Paredes-Encinareal of the Regional Trial Court Branch 36, Calamba, Misamis Occidental. Encinareal signed the order on February 14, 2011.
The said cases are the last in a string of cases fabricated and filed against her by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, all eventually dismissed.
The release of Bisuña comes a few weeks before March 8, the commemoration of International Women’s Day, the same day she was arrested almost 6 years ago in 2005, in Aloran, Misamis Occidental. She was blindfolded by elements of the 1st Tabak Division of the Philippine Army and held incommunicado for a week; she was also tortured and sexually molested.
Atty. Deleverio was also copy furnished a letter from Atty. Pablito Sanidad, a member of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) peace negotiating panel, sent to Judge Encinareal purportedly asking to expedite the decision on Bisuña’s cases.
UPLM hails the dismissal as a victory in the fight against massive human rights violation committed by state forces, as the cases were fought mainly on the merits by Bisuña and her counsel in the past 6 years. In fact, the repeated calls, both by local and international groups and individuals, for her release on humanitarian grounds were largely ignored, particularly during the time of the disgraced regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
UPLM, however, acknowledges the critical importance of Atty. Sanidad’s letter to the court, and the overall significance of the peace process in her eventual release.
UPLM continues to advocate for the release of all remaining political prisoners and the decriminalization of political offenses.
Political prisoners are prisoners of conscience for any repressive administration. Anyone espousing a political belief should not be imprisoned.
Thus, we call on the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, as a further goodwill gesture to the ongoing peace process, to also order the unconditional release of all political prisoners all over the country, many of whom were unjustly incarcerated during the time of the hated Arroyo regime.
Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate