Eighty-four-year-old political prisoner Gerardo Dela Peña will not see his family anytime soon as the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP) denied executive clemency on December 13, 2023.
Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim questioned the BPP’s denial of Dela Peña’s executive clemency despite serving 11 years in prison.
“We ask Secretary Boying Remulla to take a direct hand to ensure the fair implementation of the BPP resolution. Time is not on the side of an 84-year-old in the terribly congested conditions of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP),” Lim said in a statement.
Dela Peña is the oldest political prisoner in the country. He also suffers from various illnesses, including deteriorating eyesight and hearing.
Lim cited the BPP resolution issued in early December last year aimed to decongest jails in the country. In this resolution, the BPP said that persons deprived of liberty aged 70 and above and have already served a minimum of 10 years of their sentence, even if they are considered high-risk, are now eligible for executive clemency, especially if they have a terminal illness or serious disability.
She stressed that Dela Peña’s age and his 11 years in jail with credit for good conduct time allowance based on the Bureau of Corrections’ (Bucor) record make him well-qualified under the BPP’s resolution. “He thought he could return home to his wife in Bicol because his fellow political prisoners told him they heard his name on the radio as among those who would be granted presidential pardon in time for Christmas.”
However, the BPP denied Dela Peña’s executive clemency. “Justice Undersecretary Jesse Andres said in news reports that the resolution has already benefited two elderly inmates and he specifically mentioned the name of Gerardo Dela Peña. But I visited Tatay Gerry at the New Bilibid Prison just last January 15. He gave me a list from the BPP dated December 13, 2023, returning his carpeta and prison records because he was ‘denied EC’ – executive clemency,” Lim said.
“Why was he not included in the over 1,000 inmates freed last December that was announced by the Bucor though [Department of Justice] officials say he is entitled to release under the new resolution? Is it because he is a political prisoner? Or just another sad sack statistic in the bureaucratic maze of inefficiency?” Lim asked. “Inclusive and equitable justice should be applied to all PDLs regardless of political status.”
According to the Bucor letter to Kapatid dated Oct. 6, 2023, Dela Peña’s records were forwarded to the BPP on June 27, 2023, for an executive clemency application. However, his application has been deferred by the BPP on Sept. 6, 2023, “to return after 15 years or upon approval of the Secretary of Justice.”
Dela Peña was arrested on March 21, 2013, in Camarines Norte. He was charged with murder along with five other John Does.
According to human rights group Karapatan, Dela Peña was given only one chance to speak in court and was convicted shortly after his case was heard.
Dela Peña, a farmer from Daet, Camarines Norte is also a human rights defender. He was the former chairperson of SELDA and a member of Karapatan-Camarines Norte. He was also detained for a year during martial law. While in detention, Dela Peña ran as barangay captain which facilitated his release in 1983.
Lim said that Dela Peña reiterated that he was not a member of the New People’s Army that claimed responsibility for the killing. “But he was linked to the case because some of his relatives were mad at him for taking the side of a brother in a family squabble. He also said his statements as a human rights worker castigating the judicial system in Camarines Norte following a massacre in the province related to agrarian issues could have led to his rapid conviction.”
Kapatid, a support group of families and friends of political prisoners along with other rights groups has been appealing to the court, even the high court, to release the sick and elderly political prisoners. However, they said that their calls remain unheeded.