By Cristina Palabay*
Aquino’s penchant for giving special treatment to high profile and notorious rights violators and thieves is once again illustrated in the case of Janet Napoles. The double standard is obvious and sickening, as compared to the inhuman treatment of political prisoners and common offenders.
According to news reports, Napoles was personally escorted by top Malacanang officials to meet and surrender herself to Pres. Aquino. Aquino himself and his escorts served as advance party to Camp Crame where Napoles was brought, not to the regular detention facility at the PNP Custodial Center but to the General Headquarters. She was not handcuffed. She was brought to an air-conditioned “cell” at the Makati City Jail, with a hundred escorts from the PNP, where she also brought an airbed to sleep on. She is now at a two-bedroom bungalow at Fort Sto. Domingo, Sta. Rosa Laguna, where she was escorted to by three police convoys. She had ham, egg and rice for breakfast during her first day in Laguna. Talk is rife that there is a deal between Malacanang and Napoles, one that is not being disclosed to the public. Napoles is charged with illegal detention and is being accused of pocketing more than P10billion from pork barrel funds in connivance with congresspersons and senators.
Meanwhile, Napoles’ situation is comparable to that of the political prisoners who were arrested and detained based on fabricated charges.
Take the case of security guard Rolly Panesa who was arrested in October 5, 2012, together with his common-law wife and two other companions, by elements of the AFP and PNP in Quezon City and taken to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna where he was tortured and accused by the AFP as “Benjamin Mendoza,” a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army. Military spokespersons and Bautista issued statements justifying the arrest and detention of Panesa. By virtue of a positive ruling from the Court of Appeals, Panesa was released last Friday night, affirming his assertion that it was a case of mistaken identity; a proof that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) practices illegal arrest, filing of trumped-up charges, torture and illegal detention against activists and ordinary individuals; and that the AFP twisted this case for a P5.6million racket, packaged as reward, at the expense of Panesa’s rights.
Farmer Alberto Macasinag from Lopez, Quezon was illegally arrested on August 9, 2011 by five armed men in civilian clothes. His abductors twisted his right arm, when he tried to struggle against them, they blindfolded him and carried him inside a van. Later on, he realized that he was brought to the headquarters of the 85thInfantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in San Isidro, Lopez, Quezon. It was there where he was interrogated and repeatedly punched in the face, forcing him to admit that he was Ka Joey, a leader of the NPA. After a day in the HQ, he was transferred to various police stations until they brought him to the detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. Macasinag still suffers from pain brought about by his broken arm.
Both Macasinag and, for nearly 11 months, Panesa endured inside a 2 x 3 meter-cell in Camp Bagong Diwa, which they share with four to six other political detainees. They subsist on a one-fish-a-day food, medical treatment/attention is scarce and ventilation is bad in the said detention facility.
Which is why we can’t help but compare the forms of special treatment given to Napoles with how they conduct illegal arrests, the disregard of constitutional rights, the torture, and how military and police officials gloat when they parade the political prisoners accusing and treating them as criminals. The political prisoners, unlike the plunderers, are not criminals but were detained based on fabricated criminal charges because of their activism for people’s rights.
Karapatan documented 430 political prisoners in various detention centers all over the country, 136 of them arrested and detained under Aquino.
It is unnerving that real criminals, the powerful and rich ones, are treated like kings and queens while those who defend people’s rights are treated like animals – crammed in cells, living on a one-fish-a-day budget, to name a few. Aquino should release all political prisoners and should put in jail those who plundered the nation’s coffers and those who orchestrated and carried out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture and other human rights violations.
*Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, Karapatan
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