Political detainees press humanitarian release

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    FIVE months after filing a petition for the humanitarian release of their loved ones amid the COVID-19 pandemic, relatives and friends of 22 political detainees yesterday pressed the Supreme Court to already act on their plea.

    Holding black candles with blue ribbons, Fides Lim, spokesperson of the Kapatid, a group helping the families of the detainees, said: “The black candles symbolizes the agony of waiting experienced by the families and the miscarriage of justice while the blue ribbons symbolizes the Marian color of hope and compassion.”

    Lim is the wife of detained NDF peace panel consultant Vicente Ladlad.

    “We are knocking on the doors of the justices to look at our loved ones as part of humanity even though they are detained who deserve a chance to survive,” she added.

    She said her husband, aside from being a senior citizen, is also suffering from chronic pulmonary disease.

    Ladlad’s co-petitioner in the plea filed last April 8 are family members of persons deprived of liberties (PDLs) who are either senior citizens or have health conditions who are already vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 inside their detention cells.

    Lim said if President Duterte could grant pardon to US Marine LCpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, then it behooves that their loved ones should also be granted some leniency considering that their cases remain pending and, for the most part, are still on the trial stage.

    “Our loved ones are at risk of being infected with COVID-19 because of the Court’s inertia, while Duterte has overturn the entire justice system by granting pardon to Pemberton,” Lim said.

    Marites Asis, the mother of activist Reina Mae Nasino who gave birth last July to a baby girl, was among those who rallied infront of the high court.

    Asis pleaded with Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta to take pity on her daughter and her two-month old baby. “Hindi ako titigil hanggang di siya lumalaya. Ayaw ko isipin niya na pinabayaan ko sya (I will not stop until she is freed. I do not want her to think that I have given up on her),” Asis said.

    It will be recalled that Manila RTC Branch 20 Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali last month ordered Nasino separated from her child, ruling that the Manila City Jail was not the best place for her baby to stay, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Nasino was arrested in November last year when she was one month pregnant. She is facing firearms and explosive charges, which she has since denied.

    Nasino was among the 22 signatories to the SC petition.

    The government through Solicitor General Jose Calida has opposed the petition saying that while congestion is indeed a problem in the country’s detention facilities, it is not among the grounds to cause their release.

    Calida said most of the petitioners cannot be released on bail or cognizance since they are facing charges punishable with life imprisonment, which are non-bailable.