Hundreds of political prisoners fast across the country to remember Martial Law

InterAksyon.com
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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—At least 385 detained political prisoners across the Philippines have participated in an eight-day-long fasting to commemorate the martyrs of martial law.

The fasting will culminate in time for the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law on Friday.

Alfredo “Ka Paris” Mapano—who is currently detained at the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail in this city—leads 10 other political detainees incarcerated in provincial jails in Northern Mindanao.

Mapano was nabbed while "on family integration leave" by combined personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, National Intelligence Coordination Administration and the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. He was arrested in a local apartelle in Barangay Carmen in on a Saturday night, August 1, 2009.

In an interview, Monday, Mapano, 58, said the fasting, which involves skipping breakfast and lunch, also aims to drum up support for their "general, unconditional, and omnibus amnesty."

"Now that the son of probably the most famous victim of martial law (President Benigno Simeon Aquino, III) is in power, he should be in the best position to empathize with the detained political prisoners all over the country," he said.

Mapano added that like them, the older Aquino was incarcerated for refusing to kowtow to the dictates of Marcos and his cronies.

The late senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., the President's father, was also arrested “under criminal cases like illegal possession of firearms, murder and conspiracy to commit sedition, among other trumped up charges.”

Mapano recalled that he was only 18 years old when Marcos proclaimed martial law and that he got the news from his school mates.

He was already a member of the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK)—an organization of student activists.

“It was a Saturday and I remember going to campus in military uniform because we were supposed to have our ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps). My classmates greeted me at the gates frantically and told me that some of my friends were arrested earlier and that some have gone into hiding,” he said.

He recalled that officers of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) who were roaming the campus that day failed to notice him because he was also wearing a fatigue uniform.

After three years in hiding, Mapano was finally caught in 1975 in his hometown in Davao.

“No one should experience what the PC-INP did to us while in detention at the PC Barracks in San Pedro street. If the government is punishing us for fighting for what we believed in then why were the military who committed all those atrocities during martial law never held accountable,” he said.

On September 21, 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under martial rule through Proclamation No. 1082. Marcos, however, made the now infamous live television broadcast of the proclamation, on September 23.

For their part, human rights lawyers and law students under the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) has also started a sympathy fast for political detainees and will be visiting jails to push for the release of the 385 political detainees across the country.

In an emailed statement on Sunday, NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia said that together with their members in Manila, they will visit political prisoners—some of whom are their clients—detained at Camp Crame, Fort Bonifacio, Camp Bagong Diwa, and the National Bilibid Prisons.

More than 300 lawyers and 200 law students and paralegals of its 18 regional and provincial chapters are participating in the sympathy fast, Olalia said. They will also be conducting jail visits in their respective areas. Lawyer-members of NUPL have been handling human rights cases on a pro bono basis since its founding date on September 15, 2007.

According to the Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights (Karapatan), “the same human rights violations and culture of impunity that was a trademark of martial law did not end with Marcos but continue up to the present.”

“Forty years since the proclamation of martial law and political dissidents are jailed for trumped up charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms, and other criminal offenses,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said in her statement during the 29th death anniversary of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.

To date, Karapatan has documented “170 political prisoners arrested and detained,” and “almost 30,000 individuals have become victims of forced evacuation” in the two years of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's presidency.

“Despite the opportunity to correct this practice and stop human rights violations, as he witnessed the suffering of his own father. Noynoy refused to release all the political prisoners. In fact, he has perpetuated the same forms of injustice inflicted against their family. Like the dictator Marcos, he declared that there are no political prisoners at present,” added Palabay in the same statement.

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