April 25, 2017
Reference: Jigs Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, 0999-7721233
After 32 years, longest-detained political prisoner freed – Karapatan
“After 32 years, political prisoner Jose Ceriales was finally freed on April 19, 2017, after he has served sentence for false charges of multiple murder and double frustrated murder. Ceriales was arrested on May 3, 1985 in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental when he was only 22 years old. Now, he is 54 years old. That is 32 years of injustice which spanned across different regimes,’ said Clamor on the release of the longest-detained political prisoner in the country.
(Photo: Jose Ceriales finally freed after 32 years in prison. He was only 22 years old when he was arrested; he is now 54 years old)
Ceriales was arrested in Dumaguete, Negros Occidental and was detained for 8 years at the provincial jail, before he was convicted and transferred to the New Bilibid Prison where he stayed for another 24 years. Ceriales was among the political prisoners in the list forwarded by the National Democratic Front (NDF) to the Government of the Philippines (GPH) for immediate release.
Ceriales said that news of the developments in the peace talks gave convicted political detainees hope of freedom. ‘Ceriales, however, was not released due to the decisiveness of the GPH, but because he endured years in jail. He said that he is happy for finally being released but that from Marcos to Duterte, he cannot forget the injustice he suffered,’ said Clamor.
Two convicted political prisoners from the Davao Penal Colony, Miguel Panhay and Gerald Robles, were also recently released on March 18, 2017 and March 31, 2017, respectively. Like Ceriales, Panhay and Robles were released after serving their sentences. Panhay and Robles both spent 11 years in prison.
With the release of Ceriales, Panhay, and Robles, and taking into account newly arrested political prisoners, the number of PPs as of April 19, 2017 is 400. ‘Despite the releases, the number of PPs will continue to add up so long as the current administration continues with the practice of filing trumped-up charges and illegally arresting individuals to inhibit them from continuing with their work, which commonly involves organizing and service to the country’s oppressed and marginalized sectors,’ said Clamor.
The release of political prisoners is among the demands forwarded by the NDFP to the GPH even before the formal talks began. Clamor added that “when the president acknowledged the existence of political prisoners way before he was sworn into office, he thereby also acknowledged the need to address the root causes of the armed conflict. This was reflected when he agreed to continue the talks and release the peace consultants.”
“The GPH can do right by the still-detained political prisoners by heeding their clamor for immediate release,” Clamor concluded.
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.