The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) and Rural Women Advocates urged the Supreme Court to immediately release political prisoners including elderly peasant women, pregnant and nursing mothers 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. Last week, the group, together with Selda and Kapatid, petitioned the high court to release political prisoners on humanitarian grounds of being vulnerable to the pandemic.

 “The Duterte government has locked down Luzon and carrying out physical distancing, but its jails remain as pandemic timebombs, due to over-capacity, poor sanitation, lack of health facilities and personnels, “Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

The groups said that most of the political prisoners belong to the peasant sector, such as activists asserting rights to land and livelihood. They are the usual victims of red-tagging perpetrated by government armed forces.

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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