Women’s groups called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to intervene for the release of detained activist-writer Rosanna “Sharon” Cabusao, her husband peace consultant Adelberto Silva and their companion Isidro de Lima.
“If they cannot be released, then we appeal that they would be transferred to an accessible facility,” said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmi De Jesus, at the July 2 dialogue of members of the Free Sharon Cabusao campaign with newly-appointed CHR chairperson, Jose Luis Martin Gascon.
The group said Cabusao and her companions should be freed on humanitarian grounds from the holding area of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
The police reportedly wants to transfer Cabusao and De Lima to the Cavite Provincial Jail, while Silva will be transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig city.
Gascon, however, said that the CHR powers are limited.
“We can only look into their condition while in detention, make direct inquiries, and from there we can come out with a request. It is not in the CHR’s mandate to issue a release order because it is in the hands of the law,” said Gascon during the dialogue.
Cabusao, her husband, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Silva, and De Lima were arrested on June 1 in Bacoor, Cavite.
At the time of their arrest, it was only Silva who has a warrant of arrest while Cabusao and De Lima have none. However, both were charged with illegal possession of firearms and for harboring a criminal. Silva was charged with multiple murder and illegal possession of explosives.
Deteriorating health in jail
Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela said they are concerned about Cabusao’s deteriorating health in jail. She said symptoms of Cabusao’s illnesses have begun to manifest, such as hematoma.
Cabusao’s daughter Elize Fuertez, who was also in the dialogue, said her mother complains of discomfort and difficulty in breathing when she smells cigarette smoke. She said at the back of their cell is the CIDG pantry where police men smoke.
“She is not used to that kind of environment since no one in our family smokes,” she told Gascon. She added that the fumes in the nearby construction of the CIDG office also affect her mother’s health.
Fuertez said that during her last visit on June 28, her mother cannot bear standing and had to lie down all day. She also said Cabusao has a special diet since she is a vegetarian.
Cabusao is suffering from myeloid leukemia and chronic B12 deficiency anemia while Silva has hypertension.
Gascon said the CHR had already checked Cabusao, Silva and De Lima’s condition in jail last month and reaffirmed what Gabriela presented.
Sheena Usquisa-Binarao of the Human Rights Information and Communication Division who visited Cabusao said they are in a 3.11 by eight feet cell. A doctor also checked the couple two weeks ago and recommended that they be subjected to further medical tests.
No search warrant
De Jesus also said that on the night of their arrest, the police insisted on searching Cabusao’s house, despite not having a search warrant. The police allegedly found a rocket propelled grenade in the house.
Silva and Cabusao, however, denied the allegations.
Binarao said they will also conduct interviews with the Philippine National Police Human Rights Division to verify their complaints.
Salvador also said the three detainees questioned why they were subjected to a DNA swab, which was against their will.
“They were told it was a standard operating procedure. However, upon asking other political prisoners, they did not undergo the same procedure,” Salvador said.
Salvador said the pending Senate Bill on DNA Databank by Senator Antonio Trillanes III is not yet a law.
Salvador urged the CHR to investigate the legality of the unnecessary DNA sampling and profiling of the three detainees. She cited possible gross violations of their civil and political rights, the Constitution and international laws.
While their mandate as an independent office on human rights is limited, Gascon still guaranteed Gabriela and the family of Cabusao that they will do something about the case.
“We will write a formal letter to the department that currently holds them and give recommendations to improve the condition of Cabusao, Silva and De Lima in detention,” said Gascon who promised to send the letter on the same day.
Monique Wilson, global director of the One Billion Rising and member of Gabriela, said they should seriously consider Cabusao’s health conditions.
“I also have chronic blood condition that’s very similar to hers. When you say chronic, it is a lifelong condition. So, we request that when you have investigative procedures with regards to her health put weight on the implications of her not having a room or space or proper diet, because in my experience, one smoking can lead to something grave.”
Gascon pledged to consider all the recommendations. De Jesus said they are thankful for Gascon’s immediate action on the case.
Gascon also said he is inviting groups to consultations and dialogues with the CHR so that it would be more interactive and pro-active so that violations against human rights can be addressed and prevented.