12 years in prison, political prisoner wants freedom on his 85th birthday

April 25, 2024

85 year old Tatay Gerry. (Photo from Kapatid)


MANILA – “Free him now.”

This is Kapatid’s appeal to the government on Wednesday, April 24, as Gerardo Dela Peña, the country’s oldest political prisoner marked his 85th birthday in prison on April 23.

Kapatid is a support group for political prisoners.

Aside from old age, Dela Peña is also suffering from various ailments.

Kapatid spokesperson, Fides Lim, said that there are no further obstacles that should hinder Dela Peña’s release as the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) issued a recommendation on March 11 for the commutation of his sentence to a definite prison term of 12 years.

Lim said that Dela Peña has already served exactly 12 years and 21 days of his prison term as of his 85th birthday on April 23. This is based on the BPP’s computation from August 2023, along with the additional months (that) elapsed since its report to the House Appropriations Committee last August.

Lim added that Dela Peña has not only completed “but overserved those 12 years since this calculation does not include the total good conduct time allowance (GCTA) he accrued.”

“This makes him more than eligible for executive clemency through commutation of sentence, as recommended by the BPP,” Lim stressed.

On Dela Peña’s birthday, Kapatid went to the Malacañang Palace to give letters of appeal addressed to Anna Liza Logan, deputy executive secretary for legal affairs, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin asking to expedite executive clemency of Dela Peña.

Read: Frail body, sharp mind: Oldest political prisoner longs for freedom
Read: Guilty Imelda still free as elderly, ill political prisoners remain behind bars

“Time is not on the side of an 85-year old man in a Philippine prison. Last month when I visited him at the NBP Minimum Compound, he looked more frail after a bout of stomach flu. Previously, he has complained of coughing up blood. His eyesight is failing. He can hardly hear. His one last chance to return home to his elderly wife Pilar and their family in Camarines Norte lies entirely in your hands. Let’s work together to bring him home alive, now,” Lim said in the letter.

According to Lim, Justice Undersecretary Deo Marcos said that Dela Peña’s clemency has been approved by the BPP and is now with the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs (ODESLA) awaiting action.

“Had the BPP promptly acted on his petition, already endorsed by the Department of Justice, his name would have been included in recent presidential grants of clemency. In fact, his name was announced by the DOJ as among those slated for release last Christmas,” said Lim.

Last year, the BPP issued a resolution stating that persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who are 70 years old and above, and even if they are considered high-risk, shall be considered for executive clemency if they have already served 10 years of their sentence. The resolution said that this consideration is especially applicable if PDLs are “suffering from old age, sickness, terminal or life-threatening illnesses, or other serious disabilities.”

Dela Peña is a martial law veteran and was also detained in 1982. He is a peasant from Camarines Norte in Bicol. While in detention, he ran in the local elections and won as barangay captain. He was later released in 1983.

He is also a founding member of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, (SELDA) and later served as chairperson of its provincial chapter in Camarines Norte.

However, on March 21, 2013, Dela Peña was once again arrested by the 49th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Matango, Vinzons, Camarines Norte, on fabricated charges of murder.

On Dec. 12, 2023, Dela Peña was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a term of 20 to 40 years.

Lim underscored the discriminatory nature of delaying Dela Peña’s release especially amid reports of many prisoners being granted freedom to alleviate jail congestion. Lim emphasized that being a political prisoner should not exempt Dela Peña from equitable treatment.

In June last year, the Bureau of Corrections forwarded Dela Peña’s records to the BPP for an executive clemency application. However, it was deferred by the BPP.

Read: Government says no executive clemency for oldest political prisoner

Lim reiterated, “No reason exists that Dela Peña should be left out just because he is a political prisoner, as that would be discriminatory and unjust.” (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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