#DearPope | Lawyers’ group to file case vs ‘heartless’ jail guards

“The Pope is here. Mercy and compassion, not cruelty and hypocrisy should infect us all, especially the high and mighty.”

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A group of human rights lawyers are set to file charges against jail authorities in Camp Bagong Diwa who have tightened security and clamped down on political detainees who went on hunger strike in time for Pope Francis’ visit.

Meanwhile, the political prisoners have been getting death threats from other inmates who blamed the hunger strike as the reason jail authorities imposed stricter measures and banned all visits.

“Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-Special Intensive Care Area (BJMP-SICA) warden J/Supt. Michelle Ng Bonto and her vassal guards are heartless in denying doctors to see ailing and weak political prisoners on hunger strike,” Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said.

“Are they exempt from any modicum of mercy and compassion?” he added.

Olalia said jail authorities continue to block doctors of choice of political prisoners who are “starting to get weak and ill, pontificating on security overkill.”

Nikki Gamara, daughter of political prisoner Renante Gamara, has high hopes that her "Lolo Kiko," referring to Pope Francis, will intercede for the release of political detainees. (Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
Nikki Gamara, daughter of political prisoner Renante Gamara, has high hopes that her “Lolo Kiko,” referring to Pope Francis, will intercede for the release of political detainees. (Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

“Hell hath no fury like a people scorned. She (Bonto) is going to get it. It is unmatched callousness to impose repressive measures against people who are fighting for a cause and who share principles not dissimilar to the Pope of the People even while he is in town,” he said.

The NUPL is currently preparing the criminal, civil and administrative charges to be filed next week.

Human rights group Karapatan earlier said that apart from depriving political detainees of doctors of their choice, they were also denied their sunning rights.

On Jan. 13, Dr. Julie Caguiat of the Council for Health and Development and paralegal Bernard Zamora were barred from entering the SICA-1 in Camp Bagong Diwa. Though both are frequent visitors, they were told that they were not in the prisoners’ list of visitors and doctors, and should secure a permit from the BJMP.

Political detainees in Camp Bagong Diwa began their hunger strike on Jan. 10 and will end it on Jan. 19.

There are 491 political prisoners in some 50 detention facilities in the country, and they have started fasting and hunger strike since Pope Francis arrived on Jan. 15, Karapatan said.

Olalia said he found it ironic that as President Aquino “genuflected” before Pope Francis, known for his pro-people pronouncements, he “has not taken his ear plugs and blinders off to political prisoners on hunger strike.

Olalia said that compared to Aquino, strongman Ferdinand Marcos “would have looked benign.”

He said, “the Pope is here. Mercy and compassion, not cruelty and hypocrisy should infect us all, especially the high and mighty.”

Death threats

Amid the tightening measures at Camp Bagong Diwa, political prisoner and peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Alan Jazmines said in a statement sent to the media that they are receiving threats from other inmates as their visitors were refused entry by jail guards.

Other inmates, he said, have blamed the hunger strike by political detainees as the reason why their relatives were also being barred from visiting.

Jazmines said the other inmates were “threatening to kill us, political prisoners, especially the senior leaders among us. We worry a lot that those, who have been shouting their threats on top of their voices, have actually already been involved in murders of fellow inmates in jail.”

“Now, supposedly because of such threats to our lives, jail authorities have been padlocking additional gates at the corridor to our cells, and have further been limiting our movements. We are the ones being made to suffer for the foul threats to our lives,” he said.

Political detainees demand that they be transferred to another detention facility while they await their release.

Jazmines said, “we maintain our demand that we, political prisoners, should be returned our freedom.” ()

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