Free Environmental Defender Delai, Free All Political Prisoners Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines calls for the release of Delai Padilla and other political prisoners amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. With the spread of the virus, the government should not forget to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in overcrowded detention centers and other closed facilities. To decongest these crowded facilities, one of the solutions proposed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was for the governments to release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.
According to the World Prison Brief database, the Philippines has the highest jail occupancy in the world. The country now has a congestion rate of 439%. These overcrowded prisons have unsatisfactory health services, which also restricts the prisoners from coping with protective interventions such as physical distance and frequent washing of hands. Hence, this makes them the most vulnerable to COVID 19. If decongestion is not implemented, the Philippine prisons can face a disastrous health situation.
Among political prisoners experiencing this dire situation is Delai Padilla, an environmental scientist and peasant rights advocate. As an environmental scientist, she shared her knowledge with local communities that were experiencing environmental issues due to mining, logging, and pollution. Delai worked with CEC Philippines under the Environmental Research and Advocacy Program. She helped in creating the Restoration Ecology Workshop and strengthened environmental education and awareness. In 2002, she relocated to Cagayan Valley and later on became one of the conveners of Save the Valley, Serve the People, a broad multi-sectoral alliance against plunderous and destructive projects in the region. Last October 8, 2019, Delai was arrested because of 10 trumped-up criminal charges.
The Philippines is considered to be the most dangerous place for environmental defenders. Aside from killings, there are a number of activists that were being red-tagged and arrested for trumped-up charges. According to Karapatan, as of March 2020, there are 610 political prisoners in the country, with 102 of them sick, many with life-threatening and debilitating illnesses, and 48 elderly. With the danger of COVID 19, we are now calling the government to release these political prisoners, including Delai Padilla and uphold their right to health and safety.