Makabayan bloc seeks release of 5 more activists
MANILA, Philippines — Progressive lawmakers in the House of Representatives have renewed their call to free five activists arrested on International Human Rights Day and other political detainees still in detention.
They made the call following the release of journalist Lady Ann Salem and labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago on Friday, a month after a Mandaluyong City court dismissed the charges against them.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate described their release as a “clear legal victory against the dirty war being waged by the government,” particularly the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, against progressive organizations, independent media, government critics and the opposition.
Defend Jobs Philippines members and trade union organizers Dennise Velasco, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate and Jaymie Gregorio Jr. were arrested on International Human Rights Day and have remained detained for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
“We hope that the other remaining five unionists … would be freed soon because the evidence used against them were also inadmissible,” Zarate said in a statement. Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said Salem’s release also drew attention to 100 women political detainees as the country observes Women’s Month.
‘Important legal foothold’
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago said the dismissal of the charges against Salem and Esparago exposed the government’s tactics as “nothing but attempts to intimidate and silence dissent.”
“This also sets an important legal foothold for the cases of those who suffered the same modus by the police,” she added.
The Makabayan lawmakers made the remarks after Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio of the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court Branch 209 junked the prosecution’s opposition to the dismissal of the charges against Salem and Esparago and ordered their release.
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