Gabriela calls for release of political prisoners

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2016 03:56 PM

MANILA - After the camp of presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte announced he is open to reviewing the status of "political prisoners" for the possible release of ailing detainees, women's rights group Gabriela picketed the Department of Justice (DOJ) main office in Manila Wednesday to call for the release of its former public information officer, Sharon Cabusao, and all other political prisoners.

Led by Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus, the small group of protesters lambasted Cabusao's arrest on June 2, 2015 for being an "unjust" warrantless arrest.

Cabusao was arrested along with her husband, Adelberto Silva, who faces charges for 15 counts of murder, and their aide, Isidro de Lima, in Bacoor, Cavite.

The three were later charged for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, charges that Gabriela claims were trumped up.

Gabriela also insists that Silva is a consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) which is set to resume peace talks with government under the Duterte administration.

"Malaki naman ang pag-asa namin na magkakaroon ng positibong hakbang ang bagong dispensation ni president-elect Duterte at nasa proseso kami ngayon ng panggigiit ng aming paninindigan para makatulong. At kung kinakailangan yun namang mga mali ay tunggaliin namin, itutuloy namin ang aming ginagawa," De Jesus said.

Gabriela said Cabusao is one of 48 women political prisoners detained under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The group called on Duterte to prioritize the release of women political prisoners, as well as those who are elderly, ill, and minors, and demanded for the DOJ to immediately initiate the action.

READ: Duterte to grant amnesty to political prisoners: NDF

"Ito ay human rights violation na sila ay pinabayaang makulong ng ilang buwan, ilang taon. Sa panahon ni Pres. Noynoy Aquino, ang mga kababaihan na naninindigan sa kanilang karapatan ay dinadakip at sinu-suppress ang kanilang kalayaan at sa kanilang pampulitikang paninindigan ay ginagawan ng mga kaso," De Jesus said.

De Jesus added that freeing political prisoners will be a "generous gesture" on the part of the Duterte administration for the resumption of peace talks with the Reds.

Gabriela, meantime, opposes Duterte's move to restore the death penalty for heinous crimes even as the group continues to fight for women victims of crimes such as rape and domestic violence, among others.

"Matagal na kasi naming paninindigan ang [anti-death penalty] bilang kaparusahan, hanggat hindi nagbabago ang sistemang pampulitika sa ating bayan. Kasi alam naman natin kahit ang justice system natin napaka-unfair lalo sa mga biktimang mahihirap... mabigat na issue ito at kailangan talagang ipakita ang batayan.

"At this point in time, tutol kami sa death penalty," De Jesus said.