Gov’t urged to release ‘country’s oldest political prisoner’
MANILA, Philippines — A support group for political prisoners on Thursday called for the release of the “country’s oldest political prisoner.”
Citing “humanitarian considerations of advanced age and deteriorating health,” support group Kapatid wrote to the Bureau of Corrections, Department of Justice, the Supreme Court and the Commission on Human Rights to expedite the release of 83-year-old Gerardo Valencia Dela Peña from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
Fides Lim, the group’s spokesperson, said that Dela Peña has been in jail for nearly ten years.
Dela Peña was arrested in Vinzons, Camarines Norte on March 21, 2013 and was convicted at age 74.
Lim claimed that he was “wrongfully convicted” and “a scapegoat for a killing the [New People’s Army] had claimed responsibility for.”
Born on April 23, 1939, Dela Peña, a poor farmer from Camarines Norte, is the oldest of the 824 political prisoners in the country, according to the group.
The group said Dela Peña is also sick and that the prison conditions have “aggravated” his high blood pressure, and that he is long overdue for a cataract operation.
In late 2022, Dela Peña was transferred from the NBP Maximum Security Compound to the Minimum Security Compound.
But Lim said his fellow political prisoners want Dela Peña to be transferred back to Building 11A at the Maximum Security Compound “so they can continue taking care of him better.”
Built to segregate political prisoners for mutual support and protection at the Maximum Security Compound, the Building 11A is a small facility created in 2004 through the joint sponsorship of former speaker Sonny Belmonte and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo.
According to Kapatid, the BuCor should assess that it may be a better option to keep old and sick political prisoners due for release at their current brigada where care and support are at least provided and to release them from there.
“Time is of the essence as he grows weaker by the day. Let’s bring him home, alive,” Kapatid said.
‘Longest-held political prisoner’ now home
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