As prison protests spread, T5 escalates hunger strike

March 7, 2007 at 12:07 am | Posted in Campaigns | 1 Comment

A large prairie fire, which started with a single spark in Camp Vicente Lim Detention Center, is threatening to engulf the inhumane and cruel prison system and slow, deceptive justice system for political prisoners in the Philippines.

Today, we, the Tagaytay 5, detained for more than 10 months now at the Base Police Detention Center of the Philippine National Police Regional Office-CALABARZON (PNP PRO4A) headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba City, Laguna, shall escalate our indefinite fast –hunger strike to underscore the need for an honest-to-goodness dialogue between the fasting political prisoners and our police custodians so as to decisively resolve the issues we raised when we began our indefinite fast last February 20, 2007.

Beginning March 6, 2007, three of us, namely, Riel Custodio, Axel Pinpin and Aristides Sarmiento, shall forego all regular meals and shall subsist on biscuits and liquids. Due to health considerations, Enrico Ybañez will continue to forego his regular lunch and subsist on regular breakfast and supper. Again, due to urgent health considerations, Michael Masayes, who has a history of bleeding intestinal ulcers and whose blood pressure shot up to 130/80 last March 4, has returned to regular meals, upon advise of our doctors and fellow detainees. Masayes fasted for 12 days from February 20 to March 3, but was constrained to return to regular meals to avert a debilitating impact of the Fast

Let it also be known by all that the prison struggle, which the Tagaytay 5 had started, has already spread out to two other detention facilities:

  • On February 21, 2007, Eduardo Serrano, political prisoner detained at the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Jail, Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, and alleged NDFP spokesperson for Mindoro but was charged with assorted common crimes, began his protest fast in sympathy of the Tagaytay 5 protest and to demand a faster resolution of his case with several motions pending at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for almost three years now. “Edik” now subsists on biscuits and liquids since February 21.
  • On February 27, 2007, Sandino Esguerra from Mulanay, Quezon, political prisoner detained for 6 years now at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila, and charged with murder, commenced his protest fast demanding better treatment of prisoners and release from prison. Sandino now also subsists on biscuits and liquids since February 27.

Despite their initial anxieties and apprehensions over the possible debilitating effects of a prison hunger strike, we have also received warm sympathy and widespread moral support from among other political prisoners in various detention and prison facilities, religious personalities, human rights organizations, and various people’s organizations – for our just demands that is due to us from the very start: our unconditional and immediate release from prison and less oppressive treatment of political prisoners.

Given the justness and timeliness of our demands, which cuts across the entire judicial and prison systems, we expect that more political prisoners, not only in the CALABARZON and MIMAROPA regions, but all over the country, will be enjoined to confront Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s oppressive judicial and prison systems through various forms of prison protests, legal actions and street protests. And a more encompassing and more raging prison protests will further engulf our oppressors, as further exposed by the utter hunger of some 200 common crime detainees at the Catbalogan, Samar Provincial Jail, which struck and staged a noise barrage last March 3 and 4 due to lack of funds for food rations, which were pilfered by the Provincial Government in Samar.

There is no way for the judicial, jail and police authorities to evade our demands but to resolve them decisively and expeditiously. Transferring detainees to other camps or jails to escape bad publicity and shirk culpability to charges of inhumane treatment of prisoners, as proposed by the CALABARZON police officials, will not resolve our demands. Nor yielding to ‘small’ detainees demands in trickles would end all the pains, anguish and financial hardships that we and other political prisoners suffer.

Although the Tagaytay 5 may appreciate the very belated of sunning and outdoor exercises, and the right to physicians of our choice implementation by the PRO-4A officials, it was done so only in reaction to our prison protest, as a knee-jerk response to Commission on Human Rights petition to the Tagaytay RTC asking respect for prisoners rights, and, in response to CHR’s scalding criticism of PRO4A’s inhumane treatment of political prisoners. Of course, we have all the reasons to “rejoice” over these small victories. These rights were deprived of us for the past 10 months to a point that endangered our health even before our indefinite fast-hunger strike began.

The little concessions grudgingly yielded by PRO4A officials were meant to deodorize the cruel prison system and evade possible legal sanctions after complaints of torture, kidnapping and robbery were filed against our abductors at the CHR.

As we appreciate the CHR’s attempts to safeguard human rights of political prisoners, we call on our police custodians and other concerned government agencies to resolve our demands expeditiously and decisively in a thoroughgoing manner, not in trickles, not piecemeal.

We also call on political leaders who intend to be “servants of the people” to visit the political prisoners in their jails, see their conditions, feel their pulses. This may be more worthwhile than debating in Manila Hotel to cater to big business.

And, finally, we call on our brethren and leaders in various Churches and religious denominations to live their Biblical and Holy missions as leaders of their flocks, especially during this Lenten Season:
“… to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed…” (Lk.4: 18-19)

The Tagaytay 5
Riel Custodio, Michael Masayes, Axel Pinpin, Aristides Sarmiento, Enrico Ybañez
March 7, 2007
16th Day of Indefinite Fast, 313th Day of Abduction and Illegal Detention


1 Comment »

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  1. I support you! God bless you and I hope you don’t lose hope. There are those of us who think of you, and pray for your well-being. Take care, as much as you can. (Odd in the context of a hunger strike. Let me rephrase that: do what you think is right, insofar as possible under the conditions you are suffering.)

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