Rights group seeks release of 74-year-old former rebel

>> Thursday, August 17, 2017

BALBALAN, Kalinga -- A nationwide human rights group is calling for the release of a "retired" 74-year-old rebel and native of this town, whom it says is a political prisoner.
When Marcus Aggalao, also known as "Ka Munroe", was arrested in his village in Balbalan last September, he was already a weak former guerrilla ill from pneumonia, dementia and hypertension, Karapatan said.
Aggalao was arrested by a police team supported by the Army's 50th Infantry Battalion for murder and brought to Tabuk City, the provincial capital.
He had a stroke last month and was brought to a hospital and eventually returned to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Tabuk.
Karapatan said the stroke paralyzed half of his body. 
 He was released on bail earlier this year but was arrested again on charges filed against him in Baguio City.
His family said they would have to raise P300,000 for bail on the fresh charges.
On July 26, the Kalinga jail warden wrote Baguio City Regional Trial Court Judge Emmanuel Rasing that the jail does not have the resources to care for Aggalao in his condition.
“This callousness of this government is infuriating, opting to release and hand out favors to the guilty and the rich, while condemning political prisoners to rot in detention,” Karapatan, which said it sees no reason to keep Aggalao in detention.  
Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said the government should release Aggalao under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law it signed with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Palabay said jail conditions have been a major factor in the deterioration of the health of political prisoners. In November 2016, peasant organizer Bernabe Ocalsa died after suffering a coma and heart attack due to harsh jail conditions and persisting heart problems.
Ferdinand Castillo, another political prisoner detained in Taguig City, has rheumatic heart disease and has had a transient ischemic attack. Conditions at the Bicutan facility pose a risk to his health, a relative told Philstar.com on Sunday.
As of June 2017, 57 political prisoners have been arrested under the Duterte administration, Palabay said.
On August 2, another community organizer was reportedly arrested in Quezon, Bukidnon.  Ruel Cololot, an Anakpawis member and his companion are currently in the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Palabay claimed.
With the breakdown in peace talks between the government and communist rebels, the Office of the Solicitor General has started calling for the arrest of political prisoners released last year to facilitate the resumption of negotiations.
The New People's Army's Kalinga Lejo Cawilan Command said Aggalao retired from the armed struggle in 2012 due to old age.
 Kalinga NPA spokesman Tipon Gil-ayab said Aggalao’s arrest last year violates International Humanitarian Law because of his age and ailments, and the fact that he is no longer a combatant.

 The rebel spokesman also accused the government of fabricating criminal charges against Aggalao.


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