On February 12, Karapatan Metro Manila launched a network of relatives, friends and supporters of political prisoners. The group, called Kapatid Metro Manila, united to demand for the release of all political prisoners. The launch was held at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City.
Families and friends of political prisoners Cora Agovida, Michael Bartoleme, Ram Bautista, Alma Moran, Reina Nacino, Bob Reyes, Ferdinand Castillo and Esterlita Suaybaguio were present.
During the event, families and friends shared stories about their detained loved ones and gave updates on the cases of the political prisoners.
Bob Reyes’ wife Meri shared that her husband was arrested after attending a workers’ group meeting in June 2018.
Bob and another union organizer were taken inside a van by men in civilian clothing who told Bob that he has an arrest warrant. The warrant was only shown to Bob after he was taken inside the van. His companion was later unloaded at a street after the abductors confirmed “he was not a target.”
Meri assailed that the cases filed against her husband were all trumped up.
“Si Bob ay hinuli sa bisa ng isang warrant galing Agusan, na ni minsan hindi po niya napuntahan,” said Meri.
[Bob was captured on an arrest warrant from Agusan, where he never set foot.
She also gave an update that one of the cases was dismissed.
Meri added, “Yung illegal possession of firearms ay na i-file sa Quezon City RTC, noong birthday niya yun siguro yung pinakamaganda na pa-birthday sa kanya, yung kaso na yun ay na-dismiss.”
[The illegal possession of firearms filed with the Quezon City RTC was dismissed on his birthday and that may be the best gift he got that birthday.]
Bayan Metro Manila said that the group was formed because it is important that the relatives of political prisoners have a support group for emotional, material and legal support. The group said there are more than 500 political prisoners in the country today, and most are undergoing the same situation and are arrested and unable to post bail because of the usual “planting of evidence” leading to the non-bailable illegal possession of firearms (and explosives) charges.
They mentioned that the cases of Bob and Raffy Baylosis, where the illegal possession of firearms charges were dismissed, attests to the police scheme of planting evidence to justify the arrest and ensuring bail will not be an option. These successful case dismissals also proved that the government continues to weaponize the law against its critics and to criminalize political offenses, which is against the Hernandez doctrine.
The Hernandez Doctrine came from the Supreme Court decision in the case People vs. Amado Hernandez that ruled that rebellion cannot be complexed with other crimes, such as murder and arson and that rebellion in itself would include and absorb the said crimes, thus granting the accused the right to bail. Labor leader Hernandez, who would later be named National Artist for Literature by the Philippine government, was acquitted by the Supreme Court in 1964.
However, the group said, police and military have not filed rebellion charges as it is hard to prove. They also said the proposal for the revival of anti-subversion law would fill in that gap for authorities who want to go on a witch hunt, possibly without the need to plant guns and they could still arrest and detain.
They said that families also need to understand why governments, past and present, continue to harass activists and political organizations with red-tagging, office raids or legal charges and that fighting for rights of the people and social change is not wrong.
Kapatid Metro Manila said they will campaign for the release, not only of their own kin, but of all political prisoners.