Last September, just as a week-long hunger strike of political prisoners was nearing yet another frustrating ending, some unconfirmed and cryptic piece of news had filtered out of the Palace, alleging to the effect that Philippine jails were now being divested of political prisoners. But the President had not in fact made any announcement acceding finally to the strikers’ call for a general, unconditional and omnibus declaration of amnesty to free all political prisoners in the country – it turned out that it was just the Presidential Spokesperson giving official word that in the first place, as far as the administration was concerned, political prisoners simply did not exist.
It was not however your usual fare of Malacanang farce; Edwin Lacierda this time was not at all the stammering, choking bureaucrat screwing up on an otherwise perfect lie. It was, rather, a highly ingenious and studied performance which, for all its supposed terseness and indifference, still managed to come across as a perversely powerful warning – that as a matter of state principle, political dissenters shall invariably treated in no other context except in relation to common, even heinous crimes. Instead of general amnesty, what government had in essence declared was general policy.
The unabated incidence over the last couple of years of government critics, activists and revolutionaries being arbitrarily arrested or abducted, tortured and slapped with fantastic non-bailable criminal charges, attest to how seriously such policy of political persecution has so far been put to actual practice by the present dispensation. Indeed with the full repressive force of existing laws and state machinery thoroughly committed to the purposes and methods of the current Pentagon-designed counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, the US-Aquino regime is building its own legacy of human rights violations and state terror – now with a record 99 documented cases of extra-judicial killings, 10 enforced disappearances, and 107 political prisoners arrested under its watch. The military, police and prison systems have likewise recently conspired in a number of separate attempts to carry out the transfer of certain political prisoners from civilian jails to military camps to further punish and break their militant response to the debilitating conditions of their incarceration.
Hundreds of political prisoners nationwide including myself, are once again on a hunger strike to condemn the continued prevalence of illegal arrests and detention, and the heightened repression and “custodial militarization” of political prisoners. Under the US-Aquino regime, general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty for political prisoners can be granted only through the strength of people’s clamor and widespread support. Freedom can only be achieved through unrelenting struggle.
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
Ericson L. Acosta