In a press conference at Mendiola on December 7, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that political prisoners are holding a hunger strike to appeal to the government to fulfill its commitment and obligation to release political prisoners.
“This (release of political prisoners) is their commitment and obligation, not a charity case, nor a favor, neither a gambling game where political prisoners can be used as bargaining chips for any bilateral ceasefire agreement,” said Palabay.
A peace booth was set up by Karapatan in Mendiola where relatives and supporters of political prisoners are holding a fasting to support the hunger strike of political prisoners in various detention centers around the country since December 2 to call for their release. As of December 7, 76 political prisoners are on hunger strike while 122 who are elderly and sick and cannot participate in the hunger strike are fasting in different detention centers across the country.
However, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza is distressed with the ongoing protests and calls to release political prisoners.
“We are appalled why some sectors are now even publicly attacking government for “not delivering enough” and for the perceived delay. Those mass actions and media attacks serve as good reminders for us in government that we need to do more. But putting undue public pressure on the government which has already taken unprecedented steps may not yield their intended results,” said Dureza in a statement.
Karapatan, on December 6, responded to Dureza: “If it’s the fasting of the political prisoners, their relatives and peace advocates is considered the ‘undue pressure on the government,’ we remind Sec. Dureza that every mass action, in all its forms are well within the bounds of the rights of citizens to demonstrate. Dureza has to understand that we will not sit down and wait for his office to do something. As long as there are political prisoners, we will continue to call for their release, in every way possible,” Palabay said.
Sharon Cabusao of Gabriela and a former political prisoner, also assailed Dureza’s statement.
“We, supporters and relatives, have all the right to seek redress for our grievance on the delay of the release of political prisoners, he should not be insensitive with regards to justice for the many political prisoners who are being held hostage for the peace talks,” said Cabusao.
Cabusao added that the government should not be sensitive to criticisms from the people.
In Congress, Gabriela Women’s Party-list Representative Arlene Brosas delivered a privilege speech on December 6 in the House of Representative calling for the release of political prisoners through General Amnesty.
Brosas said they have filed House Resolution 198 for the General Amnesty for Political Prisoners.
“Giving political prisoners General Amnesty is just and necessary to show that the government is sincere in the peace process,” said Brosas.