A human rights group on Wednesday urged the Department of Justice to hold officials of the Bureau of Corrections liable for the death last June 13, 2021 of a 75-year-old and sickly inmate at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan stressed that by lacking the ability to care for the sick and elderly, and “further prolonging Jesus Alegre’s agony of keeping him in jail despite numerous efforts to call for his release, we can only hold the BuCor accountable for his death.”
Karapatan through its Secretary General Cristina Palabay insisted that “negligence spells murder” in the case of Alegre.
Palabay said Alegre was a farmer from Sagay, Negros Occidental who was able to secure from concerned government agencies rights over the land he tilled.
However, Alegre was falsely convicted of murder over the death of a bodyguard of a local landlord who later claimed the farm land, Palabay lamented.
“What kind of system allows the elderly to succumb to death, languish behind bars, and be made to pay for crimes that were clearly trumped-up and were only meant to silence them, for speaking out against an injustice they fought against?” she asked.
“We hope we can say that Jesus Alegre died a natural death, that his illnesses were all brought out of old age. However, that is not the case for Jesus Alegre. This government can never deny the fact that Jesus Alegre grew very sick due to the long years of detention. Jesus Alegre was in jail under three presidents, and the Duterte regime had all the chance to correct this injustice, but chose to ignore it altogether,” she said.
Palabay also urge authorities to allow the release of Alegre’s wife Moreta and their son Selman, “both of whom were also falsely convicted of murder.”
“Let the death of Jesus Alegre be a resounding call for the humanitarian release of elderly and sick political prisoners, first and foremost, Moreta Alegre. Let Moreta grieve out of prison, and let justice be served to their family,” she said.
“Let Jesus Alegre’s story remind us that the majority of the population are landless, treated like criminals when they choose to fight, and thrown to jail, with death as the only recourse to be free.
There is no other fitting way to remember Jesus Alegre’s death, but to be reminded of the injustices that this system has engulfed the majority of our people,” she added.
Another human rights group Kapatid asked the DOJ for what it described as “compassionate permit” to allow his imprisoned wife and son to see Alegre for the last time.
In a letter to Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim cited BuCor Security and Safekeeping Procedure (Rule 6.8.2) based on the BuCor Operating Manual that allows persons deprived of liberty PDLs) to view the remains of a deceased relative with “the prior approval by the Secretary for the outside movement of an NBP or CIW PDL.”
“For compassionate and humanitarian reasons, we request you to please allow the imprisoned wife and son of 75-year-old political prisoner Jesus Alegre to join his wake and the funeral mass scheduled on June 18, Friday, 10 a.m. at the National Cathedral of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Taft Avenue, Manila,” she said.
She said that the wake will be for only one day in consideration of health protocols: “After the funeral mass, through financial support, the remains of Jesus Alegre will be flown to his home province of Negros Occidental for burial, in accordance with tthe wishes of his wife.”
“With your intercession, this will be the first time in 16 years that Morita will be able to see her husband and to rejoin her family . . .
Sir, what is but one visit when they have lost a lifetime of being together as a whole family? And what is three hours when Morita will see her husband for the first and last time after 16 years—inside a coffin,” Lim appealed.