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De Villa hit over political prisoners

- Romel Bagares -
Teka, teka.

Human rights groups accused Executive Secretary Renato de Villa yesterday of blocking the proposal of the departments of justice, interior and local government and defense to free 77 political detainees.

Lawyers Edre Olalia of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said De Villa practically overruled the joint recommendation made by Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, Interior Secretary Jose Lina and acting Defense Secretary, retired Army general Eduardo Ermita.

He said that even before Mr. Estrada’s ouster, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had approved an initial list of prisoners due for release. When Perez took over, he reviewed the list and added 27 names. Included in the list were 26 Muslim men from Maharlika Village in Taguig linked to the May 2000 bombings in Makati and Mandaluyong cities.

"De Villa is holding the prisoners hostage," Olalia told the Cypress forum at the Tree House in Quezon City. De Villa served as defense secretary in the Aquino and Ramos administrations.

Earlier, the DOJ announced it was in favor of the release of 77 of 248 political detainees as a show of the new administration’s willingness to talk peace with various rebel groups in the country, primarily the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao-Enriquez said that if indeed, President Arroyo is serious about the peace process, she should not listen to De Villa’s advice.

She said human rights groups suspect that Armed Forces chief Gen. Angelo Reyes was also behind the delay. "We are reminding the President that she owes her presidency to the people, and not to this johnny-come-lately of the military," she said.

The human rights groups are pressing for the release of all the prisoners.

ANGELO REYES

AQUINO AND RAMOS

ARMED FORCES

COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT

DE VILLA

DEFENSE SECRETARY

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

EDUARDO ERMITA

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY RENATO

INTERIOR SECRETARY JOSE LINA

JUSTICE SECRETARY HERNANDO PEREZ

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