Rights group calls on courts to release sick and elderly political prisoners

Lagtapon (left) and Fernandez (right) at the cancelled arraignment last April 22 in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. (PILC photo)

According to Karapatan, these political prisoners were wrongfully arrested and rights have been violated in the course of their arrest.


MANILA – As cases of political prisoners are set to be promulgated, human rights group Karapatan is hoping that the courts will decide in favor of political prisoners who were arrested based on planted evidence.

The court is set to decide on the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges of peace consultant Frank Fernandez, Cleofe Lagtapon and Ge-Ann Perez on Feb. 27.

Also set to be decided by the court is the case of trade unionist Ernesto Jude C. Rimando Jr. who was arrested at his rented apartment in Quezon City on Jan. 6, 2021.

These political prisoners were wrongfully arrested and rights have been violated in the course of their arrest, according to Karapatan.

Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez were arrested in March 2019 in Liliw, Laguna while they reportedly were seeking medical treatment.

Karapatan asserted that charges were trumped up as the three were brought to various places after they were arrested at around 12:30 a.m.

Read: Police surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

Based on Karapatan’s documentation, the three were brought to a medical facility in Bay, Laguna and at a place where they met Moises Padilla town Mayor Magdaleno Peña.

“Hospital records and a Facebook post by Mayor Peña prove that they had already been in custody long before 5:30 a.m., the time the police claimed the three were arrested,” the group said.

At 5:30 a.m. Karapatan said that Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez were brought to a house, where the supposed evidence – firearms and explosives were laid neatly on a table, ready for “inventory” and “photo-ops” (photo opportunity).

“The five hours that had elapsed between their arrest and the photo-ops was ample time for the arresting operatives to plant guns and grenades,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

The three were also subjected to interrogation without benefit of counsel, and deprived of food and sleep which qualify as torture, she added.

But the group expressed high hopes as the arresting team failed to identify Perez during the last hearing.

“The police also provided vague and conflicting narratives of what transpired during the arrest, thus rendering their version of events even more doubtful,” said Palabay.

“We call on the court hearing their case to serve the interests of justice and acquit Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez, who have already suffered one injustice after another, and whose release on humanitarian grounds is well deserved,” Palabay said.

The three also have existing health conditions. Fernandez, 71 is hypertensive. He also suffers from chest pains and low sodium levels. Lagtapon, 66, meanwhile is pre-diabetic. They also both suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Perez, on the other hand, was suffering from Hansen’s disease or leprosy.

Fernandez, Lagtapon, and Perez were included in a petition to the Supreme Court seeking the release of sick and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds during the height of the pandemic in April 2020. The petition was denied.
Meanwhile, Rimando, 57, also had health conditions when he was arrested.

Based on Karapatan’s documentation, Rimando was arrested by six armed men in plainclothes who used a warrant for a certain “Allan Morales Rimando.”

“The armed men who came to arrest him blindfolded him, bound his wrists with duct tape and began interrogating him and assaulting him physically at his apartment. They stopped only when they heard police sirens. Rimando’s neighbors, who witnessed the assault, had apparently called the cops,” Palabay said.

The arresting team brought Rimando to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group headquarters in Camp Crame where the second group of police officers presented themselves as Rimando’s arresting team. This, even if they were nowhere near his place of arrest, Palabay said.

Palabay said that in Rimando’s judicial affidavit, he said that when he was brought to the inquest proceedings on Jan. 8, 2021, he noticed that his black backpack containing his personal effects and medical records were brought along. Later on, he said that he was being charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives on the basis of “evidence” that the police purportedly found in his backpack.

“Despite standing trial for two years, he has yet to see these pieces of ‘evidence,'” Palabay said.

Rimando, 57, is a researcher for the Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo. Palabay said he had been renting his apartment for a year and was in Manila to seek treatment for sepsis and liver cirrhosis, both life-threatening ailments.

She decried how Rimando’s rights were violated multiple times.

“He is a victim of false arrest, since he is not the person named in the warrant used to arrest him. None of the so-called evidence in the illegal possession of firearms and explosives case he is facing was marked in his presence. He never signed an inventory of seized items. He was interrogated several times without benefit of counsel. On top of this, he is seriously ill and has had to be hospitalized a number of times during his two years in detention,” Palabay said.

“Rimando deserves to be released on just and humanitarian grounds,” she added. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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