PHILIPPINES: Abadilla Five’s children, grandchild takes on calls to free them

(Manila, January 6, 2009) They were either children or were not born at the time when their loved ones, known as the Abadilla Five, were arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured but the calls to have these detainees released have reached their generation. 

As she held a bundle of 13 white roses with a placard “Palayain ang Abadilla Five (Free Abadilla Five)” written on it, eight-year-old Gianna Lumanog, stood in front of the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Manila on January 5, hoping her presence would get the attention of the court so that it might lead to the release of Lenido Lumanog , her grandfather. 

Lenido, one of the Abadilla Five detainees, is a kidney transplant patient who has to endure his condition inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, as he and his four other fellow detainees, namely Augusto Santos, Joel de Jesus, Rameses de Jesus and Cesar Fortuna, have to wait for the conclusion of their case after nearly 13 years. 

The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed in April 2008 a lower court’s decision convicting them for the murder of Rolando Abadilla, an influential police colonel during the regime of late president Ferdinand Marcos, in June 1996. However, the detainees’ petition for review and appeal questioning the merit of the CA’s decision has not been resolved yet. 

The number of roses Gianna was carrying actually symbolizes the number of years Lenido has been in jail. Gianna, the daugther of Lenido’s daughter, Rina, grew up knowing her grandfather as a prisoner from the times she visited him. “Opo (yes)”, was her reply when asked whether she had felt pity for her grandfather. She also wants him out of prison and a freeman like anybody else. 

Apart from Gianna, three other siblings of the detainees also did their own part, hoping to get the public’s attention to their fathers’ plight, Joel De Jesus and Augusto Santos. 

Twelve-year-old Jorelyn and her younger brother Daniel, Joel’s daughter and son respectively, were joined with about 40 other child majorettes and drummers, as they strummed and danced their music soon after the SC’s justices and court personnel had concluded first their regular Monday flag ceremony for this year at 8am. 

Also taking part with them was Augusto’s son. The latter, like Gianna and Daniel, had grown up knowing their loved ones as a prisoner. He himself had to study in a school close to the Camp Rafael Crame, the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarter, so as to be close to his father when the detainees were held there previously. 

Though the children had to get up at 3am to prepare and to travel from their places of origin, most of whom live in Fairview, Quezon City, which is nearly two hours from where the SC is located, they seem to have ignored the inconvenience. The child performer’s parents and guardians also accompanied them on that day. 

One of the mothers of those who joined the band described her experience as touching as they journey in supporting the struggle of the families of the detainees in seeking justice. As she observes the detainees wives, their children and a grandchild who had not abandoned hope that maybe their loved ones would soon be freed, she could not help herself from shedding tears as she witnessed to their suffering. 

Cherelyn De Jesus and Marilou Lumanog also did their part by way of distributing the leaflets they made for the detainees which reaffirmed to their innocence. They later delivered their letter in person to Reynato Puno, chief justice of the Supreme Court, calling for the court to consider a priority their loved ones case and for their adequate action into the case. 

The letter, which was signed by the six of the detainees’ immediate relatives, asked the court to resolve at once the petitions and appeals the detainees’ legal counsel had already filed. It also mentioned the suffering of the families and how their way of life had been affected as a result of the delay, if not of the continued detention of these five men. 

Kami po ay lubos nang nahihirapan dahil sa nangyari sa aming mahal sa buhay. (We have been suffering hard due what our loved ones are going into)”, writes the excerpt of the letter they had given to Chief Justice Puno. Puno had accepted the family’s letters and the 13 white roses Gianna had been holding during the said demonstration. 

What the detainees’ relatives have done was part of the series of campaigns that has been organized to once again call the court’s attention to the Abadilla Five case. The families, too, had already organized a consultation amongst themselves and the dialogue with the concerned government agencies dealing with the Abadilla Five case.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-001-2009
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Abadilla 5