• Ailing Kalingan political prisoner dies

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    BAGUIO CITY: A 74-year-old political prisoner, Marcos Aggalao, who was under hospital arrest for several months, died on Tuesday night at Kalinga Provincial Hospital in Tabuk City.

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    Gloria Almonte, deputy secretary general of Hustisya, said in a press statement that Aggalao was one of the political prisoners who are elderly and sick, and should have been released on humanitarian grounds in line with the GRP-NDFP peace talks.

    She lamented that old political prisoner has been terminally ill at the time of his arrest, “but state forces put him under extremely inhuman conditions and let him rot in jail.”

    Aggalao, a “retired” New People’s Army (NPA) rebel since 2012, was suffering from pneumonia, dementia and hypertension when caught on September 10, 2016 in sitio Daliagan, barangay Gawaan, Balbalan, Kalinga on 8 allegedly trumped-up charges.

    Soldiers from 50th Infantry Battalion led by Captain Luis Banoey Jr. supported Cordillera policemen in arresting Aggalao, who accordingly had an outstanding warrant for murder issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 25 in Bulanao, also in Tabuk City.

    Aggalao suffered from a stroke which paralyzed half of his body last July and was briefly brought to the hospital and returned to jail.

    After posting P100,000 bail, he was again brought back to jail for other allegedly trumped-up cases against him in Baguio City.

    The Baguio-based Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said Aggalao gave his prime years and strength to serve the people of Kalinga and Cordillera. He was a bodong (peace pact) holder of his tribe and considered “a bannuar” (hero) of the people.

    Hustisya claims Aggalao’s death is the second death of a political prisoner under the Duterte administration. On November 2016, Bernabe Ocasla, 66, died three days after going into a coma from a heart attack. The peasant organizer from Samar was detained in Metro Manila City Jail, He was already been suffering from hypertension and rheumatic heart disease, the reason his name was placed in the list of political prisoners prioritized for humanitarian release in line with the GRP-NDFP peace talks.

    THOM F. PICAÑA

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