Political prisoners charged that a jail warden had put their lives and security at risk.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Political detainees in Camp Bagong Diwa filed a complaint against the jail warden, asking her to explain the withholding of their visiting rights and other violations during their hunger strike in time for the Papal visit in January.
The Public Interest Law Center, in behalf of political prisoners, filed a joint manifestation against Warden Senior Superintendent Michelle Ng Bonto of the Special Intensive Care Area 1 (SICA-1) for violating Republic Act. No. 7438 or the Rights of Detained Persons and other international human rights conventions.
The complaint was filed before the Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 266 and 277 on Jan. 27.
“By blaming the political prisoners for the suspension of the right of the detainees to visits and thereby provoking violent division among all the detainees of SICA-1, Warden Bonto is putting the life and security of the political prisoners in danger,” the complaint read.
In their complaint, political prisoners decried how Bonto ordered to put down a streamer they hanged on their wing, declaring their hunger strike.
Their physician, Julie Caguiat, a frequent visitor of political prisoners, was also barred from entering the premises.
Caguiat of the Council for Health and Development, along with paralegal Bernard Zamora were barred from entering the SICA-1 in Camp Bagong Diwa on Jan. 13. Both were told that they were not in the prisoners’ list of visitors and doctors, and should secure a permit from the BJMP.
Detainees, said the human rights group Karapatan, needed medical attention as they were already weak due to the hunger strike.
Right to daily exercise and sunning privilege were cancelled and suspended for all detainees. Visitors for other detainees were also barred, which got the ire of other detainees, such as members of notorious gangs who “blamed the political prisoners for the prohibition of the visits to them.”
“We will kill you. Don’t go down here or else we will kill you, especially the elderly,” one member of a gang was quoted saying in Filipino. Such threats, the complaint read, were instigated by Bonton.
Karapatan said the PILC informed jail authorities of the planned fasting and hunger strike as they press for their release in time for the visit of Pope Francis, who had called for “mercy and compassion.”
Political detainees had informed jail officials that they were foregoing their meals, and requested their food allowance be instead donated to victims of Typhoon Yolanda. However, they said, the food rations continued.