Manila, Philippines – The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women called for justice for the 75-year-old political prisoner Jesus Alegre, who died in detention last June 13, 2021. The peasant women organization said that jail authorities should be held accountable for the lack of adequate medical and humanitarian response to Alegre’s deteriorating health while in custody at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

“We express our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Jesus Alegre. His death is an addition to the long list of injustices committed by the Duterte government against land and human rights defenders,” said Zenaida Soriano, national chairperson of Amihan. 

Alegre, a farmer from Barangay Taba-Ao in Sagay, Negros Occidental, had been jailed for 16 years. He was arrested on April 14, 2005 along with his wife Moreta now 74, and son Selman, 47 and convicted on a trumped-up murder charge meant to remove him from the small plot of land he tilled. Moreta is currently detained at the Correctional Institute for Women while Selman is also detained at the New Bilibid Prisons.

In February, Alegre was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes type 2, ischemic heart disease, and possible chronic kidney disease. On June 11, he displayed severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, swollen lower limbs, and physical weakness. He was only brought to Ospital ng Muntinlupa the morning of June 13, where he died soon after arrival. It remains unclear if he was tested for COVID-19. The organization Kapatid shouldered all medical expenses. 

“There must be a full investigation into the clear circumstances of neglect surrounding his death. He was not only a senior citizen but gravely sick long before he died. The repeated call for his and his wife Moreta’s immediate release based on humanitarian grounds along with other elderly and sick political prisoners were also ignored,” Soriano said.

Alegre is the third political prisoner to die this year due to medical neglect, after peasant leader Joseph Canlas and Maximo Redota.

“We reiterate our demand for the immediate release of all political prisoners especially the sick, elderly, pregnant and nursing mothers. Jesus Alegre should be the last victim of needless deaths. The Duterte government should not use detention centers as an excuse for negligence and inhumane treatment,” Soriano ended. ###

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