Today marks the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War.
Political prisoners are activists, freedom fighters, human rights defenders, and people deprived of their liberty. They remain in detention due to their political beliefs, aspirations and struggles. Many imperialist countries around the world brutally detain people resisting state terror and fighting for their basic human rights. Some of the most salient in our minds today are the over 10,000 Palestinians currently jailed in Israeli custody. Under imperialist repression, all prisoners can be defined as political prisoners.
As of June 2023, Karapatan reported a total of 778 political prisoners in the Philippines. Today, Kapatid (an organization composed of political prisoners’ families and friends) released a statement noting that there are now over 800. The increase is unsurprising, knowing that over two-thirds of the prisons in the Philippines are running at more than three times their recommended capacity, with as many as 70% of those detained not convicted of any crimes. Quezon City Jail, one of the most overcrowded, is operating at a startling 1,330% capacity.
Political prisoners in the Philippines range in age, with some being kept in jail despite being sick or elderly. The oldest political prisoner, Gerardo Dela Peña, is now 84 years old. He’s been held at New Bilibid Prison for more than a decade on trumped-up charges. Dela Peña is finally being considered for pardon as his health has deteriorated in the subhuman conditions, but he still has not received a decision regarding his release.
On the other hand, young political prisoners also reside in overcrowded jails. Amanda Echanis was 32 years old when she was arrested and detained in December 2020, along with her one-month-old son, Randall. She and her now-three-year-old remain in jail to this day. Randall is named after his father who was a peace consultant imprisoned during Martial Law. He was murdered by state forces in his home a mere five months before Amanda was arrested.
Dela Peña and Amanda’s stories are not isolated incidents. Thousands of peasants and activists have been and continue to be either arrested and imprisoned or outright murdered by the Filipino government under the false pretences of their “war on drugs” and “war on terror”. People who are critical or not fully supportive of the actions of the government are quickly “tagged” as communists, terrorists, or both, regardless of their actual political beliefs or affiliations.
Kapatid announced today that detained consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), together with other political prisoners, expressed their full support for the resumption of the peace talks. Kapatid noted that it, too “support[s] the NDFP’s avowed commitment to work for the necessary safety and immunity guarantees for the protection of all those involved in the negotiations, the immediate release of all detained peace consultants, and the general, unconditional and omnibus release of all political prisoners”. Kapatid also said that although the peace talks are likely to be a long and arduous journey, they are “hopeful that the two Parties shall stay the course and persevere in creatively resolving differences and crafting agreements with concrete gains and benefits for the people along the way”.
Canada-Philippines Solidarity Organization stands with all political prisoners and unequivocally demands their immediate and unconditional release! We call for an end to red-tagging people who stand up for their communities!
#LongLiveInternationalSolidarity #FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners #SetThemFree