TACLOBAN CITY – United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan expressed her ‘satisfaction’ with her visit here in the city where she met detained personalities tagged by the by the military to be connected with the communist armed movement.
Khan met Frenchie Mae Castro Cumpio, Mariel Alvez Domequil and Alexander Philip Dizon Abinguna whose been detained at the Tacloban City Jail since 2020.
They are facing charges with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the military as a result of a raid they conducted in what the government forces claimed to be the ‘safe house’ of the accused.
The group of Cumpio, said to be the secretary-general of the regional white area committee of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee, has denied the allegation.
“Khan and her party arrived at the Tacloban airport past 12 noon on Saturday to personally check on the condition of Frenchie Mae Castro Cumpio, Mariel Alvez Domequil and Alexander Philip Dizon Abinguna. The three are members of the so-called ‘Tacloban-5’ who were arrested last February 7, 2020, by law enforcement agents armed with search warrants issued by the Tacloban Regional Trial Court,” the Presidential Task Force on Media Security(PTFoMS) said in a statement.
Khan was joined by Usec. Paul Gutierrez, PTFoMS executive director.
The group was welcomed by Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Regional Director JCSupt. Delvic Oreiro and female dormitory warden Jail Inspector Fe Reynalda Chan.
In her visit to the jail facility, the BJMP official also showed to the UN official the quarters of Cumpio and Domequil who are detained at the female dorm.
The PTFoMS statement added that the UN official was impressed with the Tacloban City Jail facility as it was “well ventilated and is not smelling of human sweat” despite of the power outage during her visit.
She was also briefed on BJMP’s program for inmates which includes Bible studies and a livelihood program.
Khan was also informed that all detainees have access to regular visits from their families and that they can also avail of the “E-dalaw Program” wherein they utilize video calls to talk with their loved ones.
Usec. Gutierrez, in a press conference called after the visit of Khan at the BJMP, said that meeting with Cumpio and her companions 5 was her main agenda in visiting the region.
Gutierrez stressed that the government is firm on its stand that they are not red-tagging the detained personalities as it was their former colleague who identified them as members of the communist group.
He added that the prosecution had finished in presenting its evidence in November last year and it is now time for the defense of Cumpio to present their side but her counsel had asked the court to defer the schedule of her hearing to March 2024.
(ROEL T. AMAZONA)