PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

A SUPPORT group for political prisoners appealed to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla to approve the release of the country’s oldest political detainee before Christmas Day.

Support group Kapatid requested Mr. Remulla to include 84-year-old Gerardo Dela Peña in the next round of clemency grants for elderly prisoners, citing a Board of Parole and Pardon (BPP) resolution that reduced the required minimum service of sentence to 10 years from 15 years for detainees who are at least 70 years old.

“We further appeal to please quicken action on his case since he is already very frail,” said Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Dela Peña has been in jail at the New Bilibid Prison for more than a decade, accused of charges that some groups say were trumped up. BPP deferred his clemency application on Sept. 6.

In a letter to Mr. Remulla dated Nov. 29, the spokesperson said Mr. Dela Peña has already served 11 years in jail with credit for good conduct time allowance, arguing that the Department of Justice (DoJ) has been able to release elderly inmates even younger than him.

“But is being a political prisoner an insurmountable barrier to his release?” Ms. Lim told the justice secretary in her letter. “I hope you can find a solution to bring him back home — hopefully before Christmas Day.”

Ms. Lim cited the case of Marcos Villareal, a political prisoner who died on Sunday at the Tinangis Jail and Penal Farm in Camarines Sur due to his kidney disease. “Don’t let what happened to his fellow Bicolano political prisoner (Mr. Villareal) happen to him,” highlighting that Mr. Dela Peña suffers from health concerns due to old age. — Jomel R. Paguian