As the Court of Appeals said in the case of Joanne Urbina (who was detained at Camp Crame for five years since 2007– until just recently ordered by the court to be released for having been detained that long without actual charges against her — and who was backed up by the Gabriela Women’s Party in her courageous, well-documented and successful resistance and complaint against attempts at sexual molestation by a high ranking Camp Crame police intelligence director): “More than five years of detention without a valid information filed in court, is unreasonable; it is intolerable; it is shockingly unimaginable… and what she had gone through smacks of persecution rather than prosecution… It conjures up images of Guantanamo Bay detainees who have never been allowed a speedy trial, a civil right…”
The injustice she went through for half a decade is not in any way a rare and isolated case in the country. In fact, thousands have gone through, and thousands continue to go through the same – and even worse.
Throughout the country, political prisoners most particularly have been going through even worse persecution in the hands of their arrestors, in jails and in courts. This, despite the Aquino regime’s barefaced denial of the fact that there are political prisoners – – actually, a great many of them – – in the country.
As the country’s leading human rights organization, KARAPATAN, has meticulously been identifying, monitoring, documenting and strongly protesting, there are at present more than 400 political prisoners in the country, more than half of them arrested and detained since the onset of the current regime and the rest assumed from the previous regime.
Most of these more than 400 political prisoners at present have been going through and suffering cold-hearted persecution, injustice and human rights violations, even worse than what Urbina had gone through. Practically all of these political prisoners comprise victims of unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, detention and swamping with numerous intentionally made-unbailable, trumped-up charges, following the ruling state’s long-standing institutionalized policy of suppressing and criminalizing political dissent and the advocacy and struggle for substantive and fundamental political and socio-economic-cultural reforms; and the arresting commands’ widespread practice of victimizing even ordinary community folk, just to be able to claim victories in “anti-terrorist” operations and “all-out wars” and collect huge bounties for the arrest of these victims.
Practically all of these victims have been arrested without warrants of arrest, and the supposed warrants were supplied to the jail authorities and the courts only after the arrests.
Most of these victims were arrested, detained and charged not as their real selves, but – – intentionally – – as different persons, and in many cases even just as aliases of different persons. There have also been several cases, where different victims arrested in different circumstances and In different places, have been detained at the same time or at different times in the same jails or in different jails, and charged in the same courts or in different courts. There have also been a number that may look funny but are actually deeply angering cases, where pairs of intentional “mistaken identity” victims detained together in the same jail are brought to court handcuffed to each other and made to stand together, whenever their supposed names are called out in court.
These victims of intentional “mistaken identities” have been arrested, detained and charged in court, just in order for their arrestors to be able to make big money from “wanted” lists of supposed “terrorists” with huge U.S.-funded bounties for the arrest and “neutralization.” None of those who have been collecting such huge bounties have been made to account, much less be penalized, for making intentional “mistaken identity” claims, as the collection of bounties for the arrest and “neutralization” of supposed “terrorists” are made confidentially.
There have also been a number of foreign (Indonesian) political prisoners forcibly and surreptitiously smuggled from imprisonment abroad (in Malaysia) and transferred to Philippine imprisonment through the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group PNP IG) under the tight direction and supervision of the U.S. FBI. The PNP IG provided fake Filipino identities for these U.S. rendition victims. As the victims were resisting, they were beaten up, injected with drugs to render them unconscious, straightjacketted, blindfolded, gagged, loaded into a private plane, flown into the country and brought straight to detention under PNP custody in Camp Crame, where they were hidden from the public for more than a year, and only after then (after a number of other detainees have seen them) were they surfaced and allowed to get in touch with their families through the Indonesian embassy. All the time, they kept on being subjected to pressure and interrogation by U.S. FBI and PNP IG operatives together in torture cells of the PNP IG headquarters in Camp Crame, and by U.S. FBI operatives alone in a secret U.S. FBI room right beside their cells in their detention area in Camp Crame.
It was only four years later when they were brought to court and swamped with trumped-up charges supposedly as Filipino terrorists (i.e., as Abu Sayyaf bandits) – who they never were.
In the case filed against one of them (Ahmad Saifullah Ibrohim), the case had actually already long been decided by another court, and the original one accused (Ibrahim Ali) in the same case had already been convicted for life and is now serving sentence in a regular penitentiary for convicted criminals. And yet the same case is again undergoing trial, where the accused is another person from another country and is absolutely innocent of the charges.
In the meantime, these U.S. rendition victims have been detained in the Philippines under intentional “mistaken identities” for eight years now. For up to seven of those eight years, they were detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame. One was transferred earlier (in 2010) to the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) jail for “high risk” prisoners, at Camp Bagong Diwa. The others were also transferred to the SICA jail one-by-one, after their ala-Guantanamo detention, the U.S. FBI intrusion into their cases and that of other political prisoners and the existence of a secret U.S. FBI room right in their detention area in Camp Crame were documented and exposed in the mass media last year.
Malacanang at once had to lie and deny all these, and order the immediate clean-up of the exposed ala-Guantanamo detention area in Camp Crame, and the getting rid particularly of the one responsible for the exposé. A political prisoner and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) peace consultant, who had been detained together with these U.S. rendition victims for more than a year and was then able to document and expose the injustice, falsifications and other anomalies and human rights violations against these U.S. rendition victims and other political prisoners in Camp Crame, was – – on order of Malacanang – – transferred surreptitiously and in a rush within a week after the mass media exposé.
Many other political prisoners have been arrested and detained as minors, or as elderly/sickly – – without any humanitarian concern in regard to their ages and medical conditions.
Many of the elderlies/sickly have suffered severe ailments and further deterioration of their health, because of the poor, cramped conditions; poor food rations; lack of medical attention; and the indifferent treatment and severe restrictions they have been undergoing in jail. A number of these have died in prison.
One of the latest death in prison (last Good Friday, March 29, at the SICA jail) was that of Intong Amirol, past 70 years, who suffered a hypertensive stroke more than two years ago and became totally paralyzed and bedridden since then. He was not brought to any hospital or given adequate medical attention, and had to totally rely on his cellmates for full-time caregiving, feeding him, helping him with his toilet functions and washing him – – all in bed. His family could not assist him at all or even just visit him, as they are poor and too far away. State authorities were asked to release him, as his precarious health condition would surely only deteriorate much further in jail, and as his further detention was not only inhuman, but illegal, since he was totally innocent of the charges against him. But the indifference finally killed him. He was just a Muslim Imam, who depended mainly on coconut farming and copra production for a living in his farm in Lumbang, Isabela City, and also devoted time to actively assisting Christian priests administering and teaching at the Claret High School in Tumahobong, Sumipsip, Basilan. He was in no way connected with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist bandits operating in the mountain areas. But he was arrested as “Intong Aninol,” a full-time Abu Sayyaf Group bandit. A huge bounty was collected for his arrest in the name of that other person.
He had been detained for more than a decade. But, since then, his case hardly moved at all and was totally at a standstill for more than a decade until his death.
Intong Amirol was just one of hundreds of ordinary community folk arrested arbitrarily and erroneously, with huge bounties paid to arrestors, tortured in an effort to force them to admit to crimes they did not commit, detained indefinitely and swamped with trumped-up criminal charges attributed to them as other persons or as some aliases in the lists of those “wanted by law” for “terrorist acts.”
Stretching further the injuries to practically all of more than 400 political prisoners at present in the country, justice has crawled exceedingly slow – – actually one of the slowest in the world – – and, in many cases, has not moved at all for years and even up to a decade or more, rampantly and gravely violating human rights and the law on speedy trial.
The mendicant, rotten, aloof and repressive character, attitude and practice of the ruling state, its military, police and jail authorities, and its justice system, have been at the root of all these problems victimizing not only political prisoners and those aspiring and struggling for socio-economic, political, judicial and other basic reforms, but also victimizing many innocents and, more broadly, the great mass of the Filipino people.
In the face of all this, the need for decisive, radical, fundamental reforms in the state, government, justice system and the whole of society has been all the more urgent.
NDF Peace Consultant
detained at the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA)
Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan,
10 July 2013