The prison system of the Philippines under Duterte has continued to be a mire of corruption and dehumanizing misery. Capitalist & neo-colonial incarceration worldwide is a tool of class warfare, and this is no different in the Philippines, where the majority of prisoners are poor peasants, indigenous peoples, and the urban poor, many of whom are victims of the years of community neglect, land seizures, evictions, political corruption, and the vicious war on drugs that has destroyed thousands of lives. The prisons of the Philippines are notorious for their destitute, overcrowded conditions, with government agencies reporting a total of 215,000 prisoners incarcerated within a total national capacity of only about 40,000 spaces – a 500% overcapacity. These conditions often result in a lack of places for prisoners to sleep, meager amounts of food and supplies, and rampant infectious illnesses. On top of this, the Duterte regime has allowed the COVID-19 pandemic to rush unchecked through the prison system, ravaging incarcerated populations with disease, disability, and death – a deeply politically-charged action intending to allow the regime to violently dispose of those it believes to be political opponents or “socially undesirable”.
Regional activists and progressive leaders representing the voices of peasants, indigenous people, the urban poor, and the working-class masses, are continuously targeted by the Duterte regime and the institutions of the semi-feudal capitalist state it upholds. Activists and leaders are red-tagged and turned into political prisoners, with the police crafting trumped-up charges and false claims around “discovering” hidden stocks of ammunition and explosives to justify the incarceration of innocent progressive voices. These political prisoners are often moved between prisons with no information shared about their whereabouts and denied the ability to acquire basic goods, and bare-minimum demands by political prisoners for separate quarters to allow basic standards of safety & well-being – specifically citing the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners – are ignored. This comes as little surprise when it is understood that this entire process – the red-tagging, the creation of false charges, the maintenance of dehumanizing imprisonment institutions, and the shuffling of political prisoners between prisons while denying them basic goods – is a central mechanism of the Duterte regime’s systematic attempt to eliminate any progressive opposition to its rule and allow the continued enrichment of its national capitalist, landowner overseers – the local managers of the West’s imperialist exploitation of the people and wealth of the Philippines – to continue unimpeded.
John Griefen Arlegui and Reynaldo Remias Jr, two young activists campaigning with the Makabayan Partylist for the upcoming election, have become the latest victims of this callous system of political imprisonment. The two activists – collectively known as the Angat 2 – have for years fought for the rights and welfare of the urban poor, and their capture by the Duterte regime is the latest iteration of its violent class warfare upon the oppressed classes of Filipino society and its targeting of activists in Kadamay, a movement of the urban poor seeking to reclaim housing and fight illegal eviction through occupation and mutual aid. CPSO joins other human rights organizations inside and outside of the Philippines in demanding the immediate release of the Angat 2 and the freedom of all political prisoners entombed in the hellish maze of the Filipino prison system.
Please join CPSO in a letter-writing workshop that will discuss the conditions of prisons in the Philippines, the Angat 2, the urgent necessity for the release of the wrongly incarcerated, and concrete actions you can take to help!