FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE, RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS! PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO Malacanang Palace San Miguel Manila Philippines Thru: ASEC Ricardo Paras Chairperson Presidential Committee for the Release On Bail Recognizance and Pardon PCBREP Dept. Of Justice, Padre Faura City of Manila Dear Madame President, We the undersigned believe that political dissent is essential in a democracy. There is no democracy if citizens are not allowed to criticize government policies. The beauty of democracy lies in its capacity to empower citizens to be independent, self-determining and courageous enough to speak out their minds. It is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Political repression stifles dissent and opposition. It happens when a ruling dispensation rejects criticisms from the citizenry and uses coercion to thwart all opposition. Political arrests, detention and long-term imprisonment result from the disregard of basic democratic rights and are meant to silence criticisms and stop the movement for change. Peace is attained when a government gives way to political reforms and social change. The extra-constitutional and violent means are resorted to by some when peaceful means to seek redress of grievances are suppressed. While violent means could not be condemned by many, its phenomenon takes root in social inequities and rights repression. Peace becomes elusive and human development is impeded when society is wracked with violence. Political arrests consequently become a constant occurrence. There are political prisoners because there is political repression. This phenomenon in Filipino society had been around since the birth of our democracy. The height was during the Martial Law years when Marcos and his cronies monopolized power in the country. The 1986 EDSA uprising and Cory Aquino caused the release of many political prisoners, only to replace them with new lot during the Total War of 1987-92 and in succeeding administrations. There are now 231 political prisoners nationwide. A number could be released on humanitarian grounds, especially the sickly. In the interest of peace, we call for their release, especially for those who could be freed on humanitarian grounds. Furthermore, we call on President Macapagal-Arroyo to make this as a stepping stone in attaining peace, and enjoin the NDF and MILF to seriously tackle the basic roots of social conflict in the peace negotiation table. The great majority of Filipinos deserve to enjoy freedom and democracy and a peaceful life for all. RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
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