By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – In this era of modern technology, what is the worth of a typewriter?
For detained consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), it is a valuable tool for their continuing participation, however limited, to the peace talks between the NDFP and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). It is also an important tool to expose the ill treatment of fellow prisoners.
On February 23, custodial forces led by the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Camp Crame Custodial Center, P/Supt. Cesar Magsino conducted a sudden search operation into the detention cells. The jail guards confiscated the typewriters of Alan Jazmines, Eduardo Serrano and Eduardo Sarmiento, all are NDFP consultants who had been arrested in separate incidents. Magsino said prisoners are not allowed to use typewriters.
In a joint statement released to the media, the three political prisoners debunked Magsino’s statement. Serrano, for one, had been using his typewriter since he was first detained in a detention center in Mindoro in 2004. When he was transferred to the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame, he was allowed to bring it with him. When Jazmines was arrested in February last year, he requested for a typewriter to be used inside the jail.
“The typewriter was sent for our use here, so as to be able to continue somehow with our work as peace talks consultants even in a very limited manner as we remain under detention, especially as we are even more not allowed the use of computers,” Jazmines said.
The three political prisoners said that right at the onset of the search operation, the officer on duty for the day informed them that their typewriters were specifically ordered by their commanding officer to be seized. “The typewriters were in fact the very first things to be confiscated in the operation. Just to make an appearance that they were conducting a general search operation, they also perfunctorily, arbitrarily, and inconsistently seized from other prisoners at random a few empty bottles, empty cans, metal eating utensils and a portable DVD player,” they said.
The detained NDFP consultants added that practically everyone at the detention center, except for the chief, appreciated the availability of the typewriters. Many of the other political prisoners and even non-political prisoners have also used the typewriter for some formal letters and papers. Occasionally, custodial center guards, officers and even the chief’s own office staff would even borrow the typewriters.
Before the confiscation of the typewriters, Magsino had wanted to constantly monitor and censor all documents and communications that the three political prisoners produce with the use of the typewriter. Jazmines asserted that “the confidentiality of their communications and other documentary exchanges with the NDFP peace panel and others in relation to the peace talks should be respected.” Before that time, the chief of the custodial center allowed them to bring in and use the typewriter without any monitoring.
“The chief of the custodial center now, however, insists that such talks did not take place at all and that he never at all allowed the typewriter to enter the detention area and be used by us,” the three said in a statement.
What us the reason behind the custodial chief’s recent act of prohibiting typewriters and ordering its confiscation? The political prisoners deemed it has something to do with their documentation of the cases of unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, prosecution and detention of practically all political prisoners there.
“From communications we had earlier sent out about our findings, the chief of custodial center has already had a preview of the content of the study and documentations, and has become extremely apprehensive of the possible repercussions on him,” they said.
“The confiscation of our typewriters and all the surrounding and related efforts to gag and repress us further are violative of our human, political, legal, and other rights. They seek to hamper our work in seeking redress of the injustices and other violations against us, including those being continually inflicted on us by the custodial center command. They hamper a lot our work and efforts for the release of all political prisoners and for progress in the peace talks,” they added.
The three sent a complaint letter to the NDFP peace panel, Office of the Presidential Assistant to the Peace Process (OPAPP), Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Sec. Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Jazmines said the custodial center command has several times made moves to get rid of him by having him transferred to another detention center where restrictions are harsher. “Having failed, however, in already several attempts at such, the move has now been shifted to disarming us by confiscating one of our perceived main arms—our old fashioned typewriters.”
On Dec. 26, the political detainees in Camp Crame also complained that reading materials brought to them by their visitors were confiscated “for censorship by the custodial center.” The materials, particularly copies of the Karapatan primer on Oplan Bayanihan, said Jazmines, “have since remained in his (Magsino) hands, as according to him those materials are critical of government.”
“Magsino’s attitude and action reveal the absence of any consideration on his part to whatever work for the peace process the NDFP consultants detained here need to do for the peace talks and the tasks related to it,” Jazmines said.