MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DoJ) has ordered the reconvening of a committee that will review the status, and the eventual release, of political prisoners in the country.
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday ordered the reconvening of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Pardon (PCBREP) to study the case of political prisoners.
The group said there are 306 political prisoners as of August in different jails nationwide.
"We welcome DOJ's decision to reconstitute PCBREP as a concrete mechanism to act on the releases of political prisoners in the country. It was one of the concrete actions from the government to look into the plight of the political prisoners which the hunger strikers have been calling for," said TFDP Executive Director Emmanuel Amistad in a statement.
Political prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison have been on hunger strike for days now. They suspended the strike on August 17 to give way to dialogues.
"The hunger strike has paved the way for government's prompt action and we commend DOJ for immediately acting on our appeal. The political prisoners can now hope that they be given attention and their freedom be acted upon by the government. We don't want another Tatay Umbrero who suffered government's inability and failure to act immediately,” TFDP Deputy Executive Director Crescencia Lucero said.
Mariano Umbrero died days before he was given executive clemency.
The group also expects that the dialogues would pave the way for a review of Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) guidelines on granting executive clemency and other matters like prison reforms.
"The political prisoners know this will not be the end of our continuous struggle for their freedom. We need to persevere and closely monitor the process of PCBREP. The human rights community, supporters and their relatives will be more active in pursuing justice and freedom for all victims of political detention in the country and assert that the government must be sincere in acting on their concerns," Amistad added.