By Nuel B. Carra
Human rights organization Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) called for the immediate release of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and their caregiver Ge-ann Perez on humanitarian grounds.
HAHR said the 75 year-old former priest is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hyponatraemia, hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, and hyperplasia of prostate with obstruction, among other ailments that his continued imprisonment only worsens.
Cleofe, 70, on the other hand, is pre-diabetic who also suffers from COPD while 24-year old Perez suffers from Hansen’s Disease.
HAHR said all three need constant medical attention their continued imprisonment also worsens.
The three were arrested on March 24, 2019 in a house in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna and held incommunicado for several days.
They complained of being interrogated without the presence of a legal counsel and deprived of food and sleep.
They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
READ: WHO IS FRANK FERNANDEZ?
While the promulgation for their cases was set last Tuesday, March 28, Lagtapon and Perez however are facing other murder and robbery cases in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.
“Their questionable and irregular arrest, their age and their health conditions are more than enough bases for their release. They were among the many sick and elderly political prisoners whose release on humanitarian grounds was sought by families of political prisoners in a petition before the Supreme Court in April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition, however, was denied,” the HAHR said in their statement.
San Carlos Bishop and Pilgrims for Peace Gerardo Alminaza meanwhile called for the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP and the release of political prisoners including Fernandez.
In Lenten statement issued last February 21, Alminaza said, “If we allow political prisoners like Frank Fernandez to be treated unjustly, it reinforces the drivers of social unrest. However, if we instead demonstrate righteousness and work together to address the roots of armed conflict through GRP-NDFP Peace Talks, perhaps we can breathe some fresh air in this country. We know that the situation isn’t easy, but couldn’t we work for peace?”
Fernandez was a long-time spokesperson of the NDFP in Negros before his arrest. #