By JONATHAN M. HICAP
Manila, Philippines – The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) has called on the Aquino government to free at least 76 political detainees who are old and sick in light of the release from prison of former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste last week.
“As former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste walks out of prison, 449 political prisoners, who were wrongfully accused of criminal offenses because of their political beliefs, will have to spend Christmas again in jail. Some 28 of them are elderly like Leviste. They, too, deserve to be out of prison,” claimed Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of SELDA and Karapatan, in a statement.
Political prisoners held a two-week fasting and hunger strike “precisely to call attention to the demand to immediately release all political prisoners.”
Hilao-Enriquez said prisoner Alison Alcantara, 55, died of fatal arrhythmia, sepsis and health-care associated pneumonia last September.
“There are at least 48 others who are similarly suffering from various ailments without proper medication,” she said.
SELDA said other detainees who passed away while in prison were Intong Amirol, 70, who died this year following a stroke and other medical complications; and Mariano Umbrero and Crisanto Fat who died in 2011 of cancer and heart attack, respectively.
Leviste was released from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa last Dec. 6.
NBP Supt. Venancio Tesoro said that Leviste had already completed his minimum sentence of six years, which included his Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).
Leviste is also 73 years old, which qualified him under special factors that a parole can be granted.