Political prisoners ask Pope to help in appeal for release

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Jan) – Political prisoners in the region have appealed for their release in time for the arrival of Pope Francis, according to a statement sent by the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA-SMR).

In a statement sent to MindaNews, 16 political detainees at Compostela Valley provincial jail stated that they plea for Pope Francis to join their fight for justice. Upon the Pope’s arrival today until his departure on the 19th, the detainees would fast together along with other political prisoners in the country.

In Southern Mindanao region, Karapatan documented 35 political prisoners who endured jail time for “fabricated” cases.

“Kami nagpa-abot ug nagahangyo sa imong malumoong kasing-kasing nga mabati nimo among kahimtang sulod sa bilangguan nga mahatagan una ug pagtagad ang among tagsa-tagsa ka mga kaso,” (We ask from your merciful heart to be one with us in our struggle that justice will be served in our cases),” the prisoners said.

A different letter from the political detainees at Malaybalay City, Bukidnon jail said: “It has been our firm stand that to serve the people is not a crime but rather a conviction to persevere.”

Dominiciano Muya, a staff and agriculturist of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao Region (RMP-SMR) who was arrested October 16 last year in Tagum City, is one of the eight political detainees in the said jail.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) accused Muya to be a high-ranking NPA official, with a P4.8-million reward on his head.

Muya also serves as a consultant of the RMP’s community-based school for Lumad children in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

“Muya is just one of the 491 political prisoners in the country who actively worked in different people’s organization to fill in for the government’s failure to provide basic social services to Filipinos,” said Hanimay Suazo of Karapatan-SMR.

“We have been slapped with several trumped-up charges and projected in public as common criminals. Like other political prisoners, our basic human rights have continuously been violated day by day. Detention itself and the slow pace of justice proceedings in our country are witnesses to this prolonged agony inflicted on ourselves as well as to our families and relatives,” the letter stated.

Fe Salino, Selda secretary-general, said that the Aquino administration has not only failed to recognize the legitimate demands of the people but is “insensitive to even filing criminal cases as a mask to hide the existence of political prisoners.”

“Should the Pope take heed, it would be a very important statement and thrust the Philippine government into action to recognize and free all political prisoners,” Salino concluded.

In the 1981 and 1995 papal visits of then Pope John Paul II, several political detainees were released by the government after the Pope expressed his concern.