As the number of political prisoners in the Philippines steadily climbs toward 700, the situation in the Philippines is a case of “one step forward, two steps back.”
A step forward: on February 5, 2020, Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio dismissed the cases against journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago. The judge granted a motion nullifying the search warrant issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio gave a “stern conclusion” that there was no probable cause to issue it in the first place. All evidence from the search, including the alleged firearms and explosives, as well as cellphones and laptops seized by police, are inadmissible.
At the same time, four progressive civilians have been arrested on trumped-up charges in Canada. Vilma Dalangin Yecyec, a 72-year old church and community health worker was arrested in Surigao del Norte. Despite her age and infirmity, she has been charged with the murder of Garito Malibato in Davao del Norte, the same false charge faced by Cordillera IP leader Windel Bolinget. Isaias Ginorga, 72-years old, PISTON-Caraga trade union spokesperson, Gina Tutor, coordinator for Gabriela Women’s Partylist-Agusan del Norte, and Greco Regala, member of PAMALAKAYA-Agusan del Norte (union of fisherfolk) were all arrested in Butuan City.
All four have previously faced red-tagging, with Ginorga and Tutor having NPA-related charges against them dismissed last year.
Meanwhile, imprisoned artist and peasant activist Amanda Echanis, formerly the youngest political prisoner in the Philippines and daughter of slain peasant activist Randy Echanis, is still in jail alongside her infant child.
CPSO-Toronto repeats our call for the immediate release of all political prisoners. Most urgently, we call for the release of elderly, pregnant/nursing, and infirm prisoners due to the risk posed by the SARS-Cov-2 virus in prisons.