Bishop appeals for release of 74-year-old widow, son
ILOILO CITY—San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza has implored President Duterte and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to release the widow and son of a Negros Occidental farmer, who died after 16 years of imprisonment due to a land dispute-related killing.
Alminaza appealed for executive clemency, a review of the conviction, and the release of Morita Alegre, 75, and her son Selman, 47, saying they were “unjustly convicted” and “continue to languish and suffer in jail.”
Morita’s 75-year-old husband Jesus died on June 13 at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa from various illnesses, including uncontrolled diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
They were allowed by the Department of Justice to visit his wake and attend the funeral Mass on June 18 at the National Cathedral of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. It was the first time that Morita was able to see her husband after 16 years.
The Alegres were coconut farmers and fisherfolk in Barangay Taba-ao in Sagay City, according to Kapatid, an organization of families and friends of political prisoners.
They were involved in a land dispute in 1994 after a town official applied for a title for a 15-hectare land, which included the 1.12 hectares of inherited land of the Alegres.
One of the seven children of the Alegres, Romeo, died on Sept. 8, 1994, after their family was attacked by armed men. In one of the succeeding attacks on the Alegres, unidentified persons killed one of the armed men, Rogelio Tipon, according to a Kapatid statement.
The three Alegres were subsequently arrested for the murder of Tipon and on April 14, 2009, they were convicted and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years imprisonment.
Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said the Alegres were convicted “although the principal witness, the wife of a bodyguard, who was killed during a firefight with a group of unidentified men, submitted an affidavit of desistance effectively recanting the involvement of the Alegres.”
Alminaza said the Alegres should be freed as well as “the many poor who are similarly situated as the Alegres.”
“Land grabbing is an old and persistent problem in Negros, where the wealthy and powerful families have used both private and government instrumentalities to defeat the poor’s rights over their small parcels of land,” he said.
He appealed for compassion and justice.
“With his death, Jesus Alegre is now free at last from worldly greed, oppression, and injustice. But his widow and son, both unjustly convicted and imprisoned for the last 16 years, continue to languish and suffer in separate jails,” Alminaza said.