PENANG, Malaysia – Consistent with our advocacy to defend and promote human rights – including the people’s right to land – we support our friends and allies in the Philippines as they call on their national government to immediately release all political prisoners.
As noted by one of our partners, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), majority of these political detainees “are farmers and land reform advocates who were arrested, charged with fabricated cases and jailed because of their struggle for land and democratic rights”.
We believe that the appeal for their release through a general amnesty is a fair and legitimate demand. Their prolonged detention is a form of continuing repression, aggravated by the fact that their imprisonment was caused by merely asserting their rightful claim to land and rights, and standing up for what is just.
We also note the urgency of the call as bitterly demonstrated by the recent death of peasant political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla due to cardiac arrest and lack of proper medical attention because of his continued detention. Twelve other political prisoners have already died under similar circumstances since 2010.
The criminalization of the struggle for land of peasants and indigenous people is a scheme that is prevalent not only in the Philippines but also in the region. Along with other forms of human rights violations, the filing of trumped up charges and detention of land rights activists and members of local communities are happening as well in other countries.
But Filipino activists, including those who are involved in land struggles, are among who suffer most from the filing of fabricated cases. Based on our monitoring, 19 Filipino farmers, indigenous people, and land activists have been filed with trumped up charges in the last two years alone. That’s almost 20% of the total number of victims of trumped charges related to land struggles and conflicts that we have monitored in Asia Pacific and other regions during the said period.
We respectfully urge the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte to heed the people’s appeal for the release of all political prisoners. We hope that like the theme of this year’s International Human Rights Day on 10 December, Mr. Duterte will stand up for the rights of Filipino political prisoners who did not commit any crime but merely served and fought for the poor and landless. ###
Reference: Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Support and sign the online petition by Pilgrims for Peace, Release Political Prisoners in the Philippines: Support the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks! You may access the petition through: https://www.change.org/p/release-political-prisoners-in-the-philippines-support-the-grp-ndfp-peace-talks.