THE mothers of the two University of the Philippines (UP) students abducted in August want Pope Francis to “intercede in the quest for freedom” for their sons.
The Pontiff will visit the Philippines in January.
Marita Cadanao and Rowena Salonga said their sons, Guiller Martin Cadanao and Gerald Salonga, both 23 years old and new graduates of UP Pampanga, volunteered as researchers and organizers of the Kabataan party-list, as “a way of giving back to the people,” “to uplift their lives” and “to make it a worthy place to settle in the future.”
Guiller and Gerald were gathering data on the displacement of farmers caused by government projects in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija, when they were allegedly abducted by soldiers from the Army 3rd Infantry Battalion last August 9.
“They were subjected to mental torture for more than 10 hours before they were turned over to the police in the morning of August 10, 2014. They were subjected to warrantless arrest and were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” the mothers stated in their letter to the pope.
“They are now languishing in jail in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, waiting for justice. The truth is, our children were abducted to instill fear and set as an example to the people that whoever will fight for equality and justice will suffer the same fate,” the mothers added.
Guiller and Gerald are among the 491 political prisoners under the Aquino administration. Of this number, the human rights group Karapatan documented 220 individuals illegally arrested and still in detention.
“Aquino seeks to hide the political nature of arresting and detaining them, by filing criminal charges against them. This is borne out of an unjust societal structure that is propped up by counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan. We support the political prisoners’ appeal to Pope Francis to put an end to these structures that breed injustices,” Jigs Clamor, national coordinator of the Society of Ex-detainees Against Detention and for Amnesty, said.