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Freedom 8
Volume 24 Number 1
Thursday, 12 January 2012 11:51

Eight political prisonsers were granted conditional pardon with parole conditions by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  After more than a decade of political detention and punishment by the State, Orlando Bundalian Jr., Ruperto Lopez Jr., Pedro Madera, Pedro Pascual, Anacleto Mercader, Rogelio Galero, Mariano Reyes and Rodolfo Tubera were released at last this July 8, 2010 from the Maximum Compound of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa eight days after the former president’s term ended.

The eight (8) were part of the almost 300 political prisoners and political detainees languishing in various detention centers nationwide because of their political beliefs and actions that the State perceive as a threat to its existence. While their release is a welcome development, it is just a small token compared to the injustice, violations of human rights and suppression that are bestowed to all human rights defenders and freedom fighters. Their release reunites them with their wives and children, mothers, fathers, siblings, relatives and friends, who for decades waited and struggled for the attainment of their freedom.

 

Orlando “Orly” Bundalian, Jr., 43 years old and Ruperto Lopez Jr., 42, were arrested on December 23 and 24 in 1995 respectively.  The two were charged and convicted for the very sensational killing of businessman Leonardo Ty.  According to their captors, they were leaders of the underground movement and part of a unit of an urban armed group Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB).
Bundalian and Lopez were convicted with two counts of murder on January 26, 2004.  The killing of Leonardo Ty was claimed to have been executed by ABB because of Ty’s gross abuse of labor rights.  The two were sentenced to death until the death penalty was abolished and their sentence was reduced to reclusion perpetua.
Rogelio Galero, 42; Anacleto Mercader, 45; Mariano Reyes, 43; and Rodolfo Tubera, 42; were arrested on December 6, 1992 in different places but were eventually called the Caloocan 4.  They were accused and convicted of carnapping and robbery.  Almost 18 years of their lives were spent in detention.  The four were all sentenced with 12 years and one month to 14 years and eight months imprisonment for robbery, 17 years and four months for carnapping.
Pedro Madera, 40 was arrested on January 20, 1995 and was convicted of murder and frustrated murder with penalty of reclusion perpetua for murder and eight to 14 years of imprisonment for frustrated murder.
Pedro Pascual, 60 years old, or Tatay Pascual, was arrested on February 19, 1992 in Isabela.  He was charged and convicted of murder with penalty of reclusion perpetua. The old man suffered 18 years in detention.
According to the government, all were active members and operatives of the communist group.
The release was a product of the advocacy efforts of TFDP and other human rights groups.  Together with relatives, support groups and other human rights organizations, TFDP lobbied the executive branch for the release of all political prisoners/detainees that led to the reactivation of the Presidential Committee for Bail, Recognizance and Pardon or PCBReP.  With the Department of Justice as the secretariat and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) as a member, the evaluation resulted to the eight names coming from the long list that TFDP submitted.
The release of the eight went through the arduous process of legal bureaucracy, and under GMA’s nine-year term, was indeed long overdue.
The fact remains that the existence of political prisoners/detainees is the symbol of outright violation of civil-political rights.   Worse is that political offenses are continuously being criminalized to discredit political opponents and to weaken political dissent through charges of common crimes.
TFDP is one with the families and comrades in celebrating the release of the eight  political prisoners but remains steadfast in calling for the release of all political prisoners and political detainees. TFDP condemns the continued harassments, illegal arrests and detentions, torture and killings of human rights defenders and freedom fighters.
President Aquino must show that his administration is different from GMA’s.  It is not the freedom fighters and human rights defenders who should be treated as criminals, but their killers and torturers and other violators of the people’s human rights
Orlando “Orly” Bundalian, Jr., 43 years old and Ruperto Lopez Jr., 42, were arrested on December 23 and 24 in 1995 respectively.  The two were charged and convicted for the very sensational killing of businessman Leonardo Ty.  According to their captors, they were leaders of the underground movement and part of a unit of an urban armed group Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB).
Bundalian and Lopez were convicted with two counts of murder on January 26, 2004.  The killing of Leonardo Ty was claimed to have been executed by ABB because of Ty’s gross abuse of labor rights.  The two were sentenced to death until the death penalty was abolished and their sentence was reduced to reclusion perpetua.
Rogelio Galero, 42; Anacleto Mercader, 45; Mariano Reyes, 43; and Rodolfo Tubera, 42; were arrested on December 6, 1992 in different places but were eventually called the Caloocan 4.  They were accused and convicted of carnapping and robbery.  Almost 18 years of their lives were spent in detention.  The four were all sentenced with 12 years and one month to 14 years and eight months imprisonment for robbery, 17 years and four months for carnapping.
Pedro Madera, 40 was arrested on January 20, 1995 and was convicted of murder and frustrated murder with penalty of reclusion perpetua for murder and eight to 14 years of imprisonment for frustrated murder.
Pedro Pascual, 60 years old, or Tatay Pascual, was arrested on February 19, 1992 in Isabela.  He was charged and convicted of murder with penalty of reclusion perpetua. The old man suffered 18 years in detention.
According to the government, all were active members and operatives of the communist group.
The release was a product of the advocacy efforts of TFDP and other human rights groups.  Together with relatives, support groups and other human rights organizations, TFDP lobbied the executive branch for the release of all political prisoners/detainees that led to the reactivation of the Presidential Committee for Bail, Recognizance and Pardon or PCBReP.  With the Department of Justice as the secretariat and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) as a member, the evaluation resulted to the eight names coming from the long list that TFDP submitted.
The release of the eight went through the arduous process of legal bureaucracy, and under GMA’s nine-year term, was indeed long overdue.
The fact remains that the existence of political prisoners/detainees is the symbol of outright violation of civil-political rights.   Worse is that political offenses are continuously being criminalized to discredit political opponents and to weaken political dissent through charges of common crimes.
TFDP is one with the families and comrades in celebrating the release of the eight  political prisoners but remains steadfast in calling for the release of all political prisoners and political detainees. TFDP condemns the continued harassments, illegal arrests and detentions, torture and killings of human rights defenders and freedom fighters.
President Aquino must show that his administration is different from GMA’s.  It is not the freedom fighters and human rights defenders who should be treated as criminals, but their killers and torturers and other violators of the people’s human rights.

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