Political prisoners in Iloilo start 8-day hunger strike

ILOILO CITY — Eight political prisoners, including a woman, yesterday started an eight-day hunger strike in Iloilo as part of a nationwide protest to demand the release of all political detainees in the country.

The political prisoners, all detained at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center in Pototan town, 34 kilometers north of Iloilo City, will be taking only liquid substances starting yesterday until Sept. 21, the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

Reylan Vergara, secretary general of the human rights group Panay Alliance-Karapatan, said the protest was part of a nationwide fasting of political detainees calling for the unconditional release of 360 political prisoners detained in various prisons in the country.

The eight prisoners in Iloilo were suspected leftist rebels or members of the underground movement but have been charged with common crimes including murder, arson and illegal possession of firearms, Vergara said.

Similar protest actions are also being held in detention centers at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, New Bilibid Prisons, Camp Bagong Diwa, Correctional Institution for Women in Manila, Bohol District Jail, Danao City Jail in Cebu, Samar Sub-Provincial Jail in Calbayog, Samar, and Misamis Occidental Reformatory Jail in Oroquieta, according to a statement of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda).

The political prisoners in Iloilo who joined the hunger strike include Cirila Estrada, 49, who was arrested last year in Iloilo City as an alleged top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army in Panay.

Estrada was arrested based on several arrest warrants for charges of multiple murder, frustrated murder and robbery with physical injury for alleged crimes committed in Antique province and southern Iloilo since the 1990s.

Estrada has denied involvement in the rebel movement and has insisted that she was only taking care of a family farm in her hometown in Janiuay in Iloilo.

Her family has called for her release because she suffers from asthma and liver ailment, among others. /INQUIRER

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