Kin of Dela Peña, oldest political prisoner seek his release

Kin of oldest political prisoner seek his immediate release

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:00 AM May 07, 2024

Gerardo dela Peña —PHOTO FROMKAPATID

Gerardo dela Peña PHOTO FROM KAPATID

MANILA, Philippines — The family of Gerardo dela Peña, the country’s oldest political prisoner at 85 years old, has turned to Congress in a desperate attempt to secure his immediate release, saying their sickly father has already served more time than his commuted sentence.

In a press conference held last week at the House of Representatives by members of the Makabayan bloc, Melchor, the oldest son of Dela Peña or Tatay Gerry, as inmates refer to him, asked lawmakers for help so that his father could come home to his wife, 81-year-old Pilar.


According to Melchor, Pilar, who lives in Vinzons, Camarines Norte, was too frail to travel to New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa, where Dela Peña has been imprisoned for over a decade. Her memory is also failing.


READ: Group calls for ‘fair’ implementation of clemency rule for elderly PDLs

“When she visits me in our house, she would always ask us, ‘When will your father come home? The rice I have been setting aside for him will be gone soon, but he has not returned yet,’” he said.

Dela Peña celebrated his 85th birthday on April 23 at NBP, making him the oldest among over 800 political prisoners nationwide.

He was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly shooting his nephew, also named Melchor, on April 21, 2001. Convicted for murder by a Daet, Camarines Norte regional trial court in February 2014, he was supposed to serve a jail term of 20 to 40 years.

The prosecution had presented testimonies from witnesses who claimed that Dela Peña and his brother, Armenio, were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who suspected Melchor of being a military intelligence asset.

‘Wrongfully convicted’

The NPA later claimed responsibility for Melchor’s killing, while Dela Peña denied he was an NPA member and insisted he was merely a “scapegoat” who was “wrongfully convicted.”


Before his arrest, Tatay Gerry headed the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto and was also a member of the human rights group Karapatan.

According to Fides Lim, spokesperson for Kapatid, a support group for political prisoners that has been calling for the release of Dela Peña for years, he had already completed the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) for executive clemency issued on March 11, which commuted his prison term to 12 years.

Based on the BPP’s report to the House appropriations committee in August last year, plus the months that had passed since then, Lim said that as of May 2, Dela Peña had served exactly 12 years and 30 days of his commuted sentence, aside from the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) he accrued.

Time is not on Dela Peña’s side, according to Lim, who regularly visits him and other political prisoners. During her visit last month at the NBP minimum security compound, she said he looked “more frail” after a bout of stomach flu. He also complained of coughing up blood, and his sight and sense of hearing are failing.

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“We ask President Marcos to promptly free him, as he has freed many other [persons deprived of liberty] to decongest prison facilities. Tatay Gerry’s advanced age and declining health make his release not just a matter of justice but also a humanitarian imperative,” Lim added. According to Kapatid, the Department of Justice last month informed them that Dela Peña’s petition for clemency had been approved by the BPP and was pending with the Office of the President through the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs for approval.

TAGS: Board of Pardons and Parole, GCTA, Gerardo dela Peña, Makabayan bloc, NBP, NPA

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