Group urges release of critically ill political prisoner
Undated file photo taken "months ago" shows Jesus Alegre, a 75-year-old political prisoner from Negros Occidental who is critically ill at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

Group urges release of critically ill political prisoner

(Philstar.com) - June 13, 2021 - 11:13am

MANILA, Philippines — A group representing the families of political prisoners in the Philippines urged the exigent release of Jesus Alegre, a 75-year-old political prisoner from Negros Occidental who is critically ill at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. 

In a statement, Kapatid said that Alegre deserved to be well-taken care of by medical experts and his family "after 16 years of wrongful conviction."

The group's latest call comes after the deaths of two political prisoners—Joseph Canlas, 59, and Maximo Redota, 68—within three days in just the month of May. 

“As the country marked its 123rd Independence Day, we sincerely ask the government to release Jesus Alegre from prison for humanitarian reasons and let him fight for his life as a free man. He certainly needs to be taken care of without the stress brought by his wrongful conviction and imprisonment,” said Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid.

Citing medical abstracts from the NBP's medical officer Raquel Manalastas, the group said that has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes mellitus.

Alegre was brought back to the NBP hospital on Saturday morning, the group said, after being in and out of the hospital inside NBP and in Muntinlupa. 

"He vomits his food and suffers from diarrhea for a week now. He has become very thin and disoriented, and can no longer reach the toilet to urinate or defecate," the group's statement read, citing reports. "He is also very depressed and always says he will be released from prison soon."

Lim asserted that releasing Alegre from the confines of a "congested and ill-equipped" prison will spare him from COVID-19 transmission with his co-morbidities putting him at increased risk of infection.

Some two to three prisoners die in detention each day on average, Kapatid said citing figures from the Department of Justice which supervises Bureau of Corrections jails.

Alegre, a poor farmer from Barangay Taba-Ao in Sagay town, was arrested on April 14, 2005.

According to Kapatid, he has been in jail for 16 years "after being convicted for a trumped-up murder charge to drive him away from the small plot of land he tilled."

"His wife Moreta, now 74, and son Selman, 47, were also convicted and are held, respectively, at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong and at the NBP Maximum Security Compound," the group said. 

Lim said that Alegre’s conditions speak of the exigency of the calls made by Kapatid, especially for the release of prisoners whose lives are at risk from the continuing health crisis.

On Saturday, the group also called on the Supreme Court to institutionalize a writ of kalayaan to decongest jails amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Kapatid already lost its earlier case for temporary release under humanitarian grounds before the High Court. 

“The time to adopt and adapt rules is now. Not tomorrow, not according to circumstances, but now because the impact of the pandemic is worst in congested prisons,” the group said. 

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