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Group urges Noy: Free 449 political prisoners now

MANILA, Philippines - A group advocating for the release of political and elderly inmates on Monday reiterated its call on the government to free over 400 political prisoners.

Selda reiterated their call after the Bureau of Corrections ordered the release of ex-Batangas governor Antonio Leviste from the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City, who has only served six years of his jail term.

Selda chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said the 449 political prisoners also deserve to be released from detention.

"As former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste walks out of prison, 449 political prisoners, who were wrongfully accused of criminal offenses because of their political beliefs, will have to spend Christmas again in jail. Some 28 of them are elderly like Leviste. They, too, deserve to be out of prison. After all, they are not criminals," Enriquez said.

She noted that political prisoners, including the 13 peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, are now on their second week of hunger strike to demand for the release of all prisoners in the country.

She cited that in September, Alison Alcantara, 55, died of fatal arrhythmia, sepsis and health-care associated pneumonia.

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"There are at least 48 others who are similarly suffering from various ailments without proper medication," she added.

Ramon Patriarca, a detained NDF consultant, also said that the ailing and elderly political prisoners should be released immediately.

"These ailing and elderly political prisoners need to be released from prison, where conditions are poor, and may likely prove fatal to their already delicate health," Patriarca, who is detained at a military camp in Cebu City, said.

He also said that other political detainees who died while in prison include Intong Amirol, 70, who died this year following a stroke and other medical complications; Mariano Umbrero who died of cancer and Crisanto Fat who succumbed to heart attack in 2011.

The political prisoners’ hunger strike will continue up to December 10, to mark the International Human Rights Day.

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