The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) urged President Rodrigo Duterte to heed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and immediately release political prisoners to prevent the impact of the pandemic in detention centers.

According to the rights watch group Karapatan, the congestion rate in the country is at 450 percent.

 “The Duterte government is implementing lockdown as physical distancing is necessary to avoid the spread of the virus. Thus, it should also look into the heavily congested prison cells, poor sanitation and lack of medical facilities and healthcare personnel to minimize vulnerabilities of COVID-19 infection in detention centers, “Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

“Most of the political prisoners are farmers and human rights defenders. They were targeted and falsely accused as they assert the people’s rights to land and justice,” Soriano added.

Soriano noted, “Political prisoners, especially the elderly, sick, pregnant women, nursing mothers, those who are due for parole or pardon, at least one spouse each of political prisoner couples and accidental victims of political arrests should be released for humanitarian grounds. The Duterte government should display that compassion is not just for a few but for those who actually need it.”

Among the peasant women and elderly political prisoners include:

– Azucena Garubat, 57 years old and a member of Naghiusang Naghiusang Mag-uuma sa Panubigan (NAMAPA). She was arrested on March 30, 2019 when joint forces of AFP and PNP held their tokhang-style operations in Canlaon City, Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental. Her brothers Edgardo and Ismael Avelino were both killed. She is currently detained at Canlaon PNP Station.

– Ma. Lindy Perocho and Imelda Sultan, both members of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) were arrested on November 1, 2019 for trumped-up charge of illegal possession of explosives. Both are suffering from different ailments. They are currently detained at Escalante City BJMP.

– Moreta Alegre, 73 years old, was arrested with his husband Jesus Alegre, 74 years old and their son on 2005 for trumped-up charge of murder after they refused to sell the land they were tilling in Negros. Moreta is currently detained at the Correctional Institute for Women. The farmer couple is suffering from hypertensive cardiovascular disease as well as hypertension and arthritis, respectively.  Other peasant women political prisoners include Marivic Colito, Mylene Colito, Corazon Javier, Armogena Caballero, Geraldine Pelobello, Margie Baylosis, Merlinda Abraham, Rea Casuyon, Melissa Comiso and Adelaida Macusang. ###

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