Palatino to Aquino: Honor your father
On former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.’s 29th death anniversary, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino called on President Benigno Aquino III to “honor” his father by granting a “general, unconditional omnibus amnesty” to all political prisoners in the country and addressing the worsening human rights situation in the country.
“The president must remember that his very own father was a political prisoner, a victim of human rights violation during the Marcos dictatorship. It is appalling that Ninoy’s own son is not only ignoring the worsening human rights situation in the country, but is even denying the very existence of political prisoners in the Philippines,” the youth solon said.
In a press statement last September, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda denied that there are political prisoners in the country. “I think we need a better definition of terms and maybe clearer terms of reference with respect to human rights,” Lacierda was quoted as saying.
“Outright denial of a problem doesn’t make it disappear. It is disappointing that Ninoy’s own son acts in a manner more reminiscent of the late dictator than his own father,” Palatino said.
Despite the government’s denial, there are around 385 political prisoners in the country, 107 of which were incarcerated under Aquino’s term as president, according to Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.
Political prisoners are defined as citizens incarcerated for their political beliefs, who are usually arrested due to fabricated cases. Such cases include the arbitrary arrest of cultural activist Ericson Acosta and the recent case of Agnes Tadeo-Mesina, a former member of Migrante Australia who returned to the Philippines to work as a community worker.
“Every year, Aquino promises to resolve human rights violations, to no avail. His promises ring hollow, as his very regime continues human rights abuses by promoting the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Palatino said.
According to Karapatan, there are now over a hundred cases of extrajudicial killings and 11 cases of enforced disappearances recorded under Aquino’s term as president. Majority of victims are farmers, indigenous peoples, and activists, including Italian priest Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and Dutch missionary Wilhelmus Lutz Geertman.
“The government’s lack of policy to address human rights violations is in itself a policy of inaction. Considering that Noynoy’s family has experienced first-hand the suffering and hardships brought about by such injustice, it is puzzling that this government is ignoring the pleas of families and human rights groups,” Palatino said.
The youth solon called on the Aquino administration to scrap Oplan Bayanihan and resolve human rights violations in the country. “It is ironic that people who are defending their rights are killed and imprisoned while the likes of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and former President Gloria Arroyo run free,” Palatino said.
“Mr. President, there is no more fitting way to honor your father’s death than by granting a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners and swiftly address the growing number of human rights violations in the country,” the youth solon called.###