By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Political prisoners are also most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and should be released on humanitarian grounds.
This was the call made by Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas as the country recorded a total of 3,870 COVID cases with 182 deaths and 96 recoveries on Wednesday afternoon.
“Human rights defenders who were imprisoned on trumped-up charges based on planted evidence are now faced with an unprecedented risk to their health,” she said in a statement.
She said among the political detainees who are at risk are Reina Mae “Ina” Nacino of Bayan-Manila, who is currently on the sixth month of her pregnancy; and Moreta Alegre and her husband who are elderly and suffering from ailments.
The Alegres are farmers from Sagay City in Negros Occidental.
Reports said Nacino is currently detained at the Manila City Jail – Female Dorm.
“The government should release political prisoners who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, such as women, pregnant, elderly and those who are immuno-compromised,” Brosas said.
She reminded that under international human rights law, the government is obliged to adhere to its commitments as far as the welfare of the political prisoners is concerned.
“These human rights defenders are behind bars for simply exercising their rights. And now, they are at risk in prison from a rapidly spreading pandemic in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions,” she said.
Brosas said all political prisoners should be granted omnibus amnesty and be urgently released on “just and humanitarian grounds.”
Human rights group Karapatan earlier sought the release of political prisoners, especially the elderly, pregnant, and those with chronic, debilitating or terminal medical conditions.
Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Romeo Clamor said considering the congested conditions of detention facilities in the country, the government should release political detainees.
“Social distancing and self-quarantine measures imposed as part of the ‘enhanced community quarantine’ cannot be properly implemented inside the detention facilities, because of overcrowding, poor sanitation and nutrition, lack of medical facilities and health personnel, placing the most vulnerable among the prisoners at greater risk of contracting the virus,” he said in a statement posted on Karapatan’s website.