Pope Francis has already left the country, but the Aquino government has yet to release a single political prisoner.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
RIZAL PARK, Manila — Amador Cadano initially kept his son Guiller Martin from becoming a youth organizer for Kabataan Partylist. He was a consistent top student from elementary to high school and graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines in Pampanga.
His son, he added, has lots of potential and could go a long way should he take the corporate ladder. But Guiller always told him that he needs to give back to the people and help them.
“There are various ways you can help them,” Cadano once told his son.
Eventually, they allowed their only child, Guiller, to have his way. His son, he said, grew up in a sheltered home and his needs were well provided. But Cadano said his son was a curious child who would always compare his situation to others who are suffering.
“Are we rich?” a young Guiller asked his father.
Guiller was one of the two UP graduates who were abducted on Aug. 9, 2014 in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija. The two were later surfaced in a police detention facility in Cabanatuan City.
“I was very afraid and angry at the same time. He did not do anything wrong. It is not illegal to organize. It is our right,” he said.
Cadano is among the relatives of political prisoners who arrived during the concluding mass of Pope Francis’ visit in the country. They have been calling on the Pope to intercede for the release of political prisoners, similar to his efforts to free the remaining members of the Cuban 5.
Human rights group Karapatan said there are 491 political prisoners in some 50 detention facilities in the country.
Nikki Gamara, daughter of political prisoner Renante Gamara, said she was a bit sad that the Pope visit has come to an end.
Gamara said though they could not go near the Pope in Quirino Grandstand due to the big number of people who arrived to see him she is not as frustrated compared to last Jan. 16 when they joined a protest action and were barred by the police. This, she added, was a deliberate effort of the government to hide the redress of the people from the Pope.
Activists were supposed to greet Pope Francis along the route of his motorcade near Ayala Bridge right after their program in Mendiola. The police, however, blocked them because they brought with them placards that read, “against.”
Among the calls on the placards, however, only read “Pope Francis, stand with the poor and the oppressed” and calls to intercede for the release of political prisoners. Pope Francis is known for his pro-poor pronouncements.
“Even so, this is not the end of it. We will continue the efforts we started before his visit until they are finally released,” she said.
Cadano, for his part, said his fight to free political prisoners is not just about his son but also for the rest of who are innocent yet languishing behind bars. Cadano stressed that it is the government who would benefit from releasing political prisoners as it would show his resolve to pursue peace talks.