No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile – Article 9, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Political prisoners (PPs) are those who are arrested, detained and imprisoned for acts in furtherance of their political beliefs. As a consequence, they are arbitrarily denied their liberty and due process of law.
They may be charged with political offenses such as rebellion, sedition and variations thereof.
But more often than not they are charged with common criminal offenses in an effort to deny the political nature of their alleged offenses and to stigmatize them as plain criminals guilty of the most heinous crimes. Political prisoners are slapped with murder, multiple murder, frustrated murder, arson, kidnapping, robbery in band, illegal possession of firearms and others. Most of these are non-bailable offenses meant to keep the PPs incarcerated while court hearings proceeded at snail’s pace.
This is also in keeping with the Philippine government’s objective of keeping the true extent of illegal arrests and detention suffered by political/social activists, government critics, dissidents and ordinary folk, from being made public and leaving a black mark on its human rights record.
There are a total of 354 political prisoners reported to Karapatan as of end June 2011. The vast majority were arrested under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, they being among the most determined in opposing the corrupt, repressive and puppet Arroyo regime. There are 27 who were arrested before Arroyo’s time and 47 under the current president Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Thousands more continue to be targetted for illegal arrest and detention under the existing repressive laws, jurisprudence and in line with government’s counterinsurgency programs. Some of them, with warrants of arrest, have already been forced to go underground to avoid arbitrary arrest and illegal detention.
A big number are ordinary folk, suspected of being supporters of the national democratic and Bangsa Moro movements, just because they reside in communities where these revolutionary movements are said to be strong.
They are all victims of political repression which is the state’s reaction to dissent, criticism, political activism and defense of human rights.
Political prisoners, their families, people’s organizations, human rights organizations, lawyers’ groups and legislators persist in their efforts to rectify the injustice against political prisoners and other victims of human rights violations. We join them in their legitimate demand for freedom for all political prisoners!