The workers’ movement and the wider public eagerly await the hopefully favorable decision of the courts to finally release Anakpawis Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, who remains in detention at the Philippine Heart Center.
And what better time to release him than on or before May 1, so that he can celebrate his freedom on International Labor Day and rejoin the workers who will be marching again in the streets to reiterate their long-standing demands.
After 14 months of detention and efforts by a broad range of groups to free Ka Bel, several events have converged to bring about the imminent possibility of his release.
First are the indefatigable and continuing efforts of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakpawis, and the Free Ka Bel Movement (FKBM) to defend his rights and bring his case to the wider tribunal of public opinion. On top of earlier efforts to facilitate his release, his counsels led by Atty. Romeo Capulong filed the motion for bail on April 25.
Second is the recent stand of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) – a prestigious organization of parliamentarians from all over the world – questioning the GMA government’s continued detention of Ka Bel. Even before this, members of the international human rights and diplomatic community had sent letters, resolutions and petitions pressing for his release.
Fearing another backlash if it continued to thumb its nose at international critics, Malacañang through no less than National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales had no choice but to say that it will no longer oppose Ka Bel’s motion for bail.
Third, which is turning out to be a pleasant surprise, is a still-tenuous but distinct trend within the judiciary that has so far been positive for human rights cases. For example, independent senatorial candidate Gringo Honasan was earlier allowed to post bail and thus be free to pursue his campaign. Ka Bel’s case is similar, since both of them face rebellion charges and have been campaigning from their cells.
Various senatorial candidates, which include even Team Unity candidates Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto, have called on the government to release Ka Bel.
Thus, from where we sit, there is no longer any doubt that Ka Bel must be released, the sooner before May Day, the better. This is a must, if only because he is 74 and suffering from ailments. More than this, many legal circles have supported his stand that his arrest and 14-month detention were illegal and were based on trumped-up charges.
Let us therefore join hands with the workers on this Labor Day, as we await the return into their ranks of a truly popular hero and mass leader of the people’s movement for social emancipation, democratic rights, and national freedom.
Release Ka Bel now! #