Ilocos activist spends Christmas, New Year in jail


BANGUED, ABRA — For the first time, Sherwin de Vera spends his holidays as a political prisoner here, in jail.

An environmental and human rights activist, Sherwin, or ‘Weng’ to family, is used to, as many of us do, spending Christmas and New Year’s with his family in Ilocos Sur.

“We never spent a Christmas apart,” tells his wife, who visited him on Christmas Eve.

Things turned around for Sherwin and his family when mixed elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested him on charges of ‘rebellion’ last December 12.

“Nagulat at nalungkot kami,” his wife says of his arrest. “Lumabas yung concern sa kanyang safety habang nakadetine, pero naginhawaan kami dahil hindi yung ‘worst’ ang nangyari sa kanya,”

Sherwin’s arrest came after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and declared a ‘crackdown’ on activists the government deems as ‘fronts’ of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA).

He is among the more than 200 victims of illegal arrest under the current administration, human rights group Karapatan says.

Holidays this year

According to his wife, Weng is the main cook, the Chef during holiday gatherings.

“Si Weng actually ang usual na punong-abala tuwing may handaan. Siya ang official cook,” she says, adding that he would dish up various chicken or fish preparations for the family to eat.

While Weng has been cutting-down on alcohol due to a heart condition, he would be seen drinking with his uncles and manongs often peppered by discussions on various topics.

“Hinahanap siya ng mga tito sa mga discussion ng kahit anong usapin. Maayos at mapagpasensiya kasi siya kapag nagpapaliwanag ng mga punto sa mga isyu,” she says.

Health concerns

Sherwin’s wife also expressed concern for her husband’s health. “Medyo erratic kasi ang kanyang blood pressure (BP) at umaatake ang kanyang gastric reflux (GERD), pati na rin ang kanyang heart condition,”

“Sa ngayon ay pinipilit na ibigay ng pamilya at mga kaibigan ang puwedeng comfort na maibigay,” she says.

According to her, Sherwin easily became a go-to for his fellow inmates after they left a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) with him.

“Takbuhan siya ng mga nagpapakuha ng BP at monitoring na rin para sa gamot,” she says, adding that inmates mistook her husband to be a nurse.

She adds that an inmate died of stroke days after Sherwin was detained. “Dahil sa lack of services sa loob ng kulungan, marami ang may sakit at hindi naasikaso,”

Resolved for the new year

While Sherwin would not be able to be with his family come New Year’s eve, his wife tells that they remain resolved that he will be freed soon.

“Nandoon pa rin yung pag-asa na makakalaya siya, kahit pansamantala,” she says. “Nagtitiwala kami sa istratehiya ng legal team, at mga kasama niya.”

According to Sherwin’s counsel, Randy Baniaga Kinaud, the nearest possible date for a bail hearing would be on first week January.

Kinaud adds that while Sherwin is currently detained, the nature of arrest is arguable since the arrest warrant has been out since 2014.

“He has always been visible since, attending rallies and doing TV interviews,” he says. “He should have his right to bail.”

Sherwin’s family’s hope remains high. “Nagtitiwala kami na magiging sound ang desisyon ng judge,” his wife says.

She adds that Sherwin’s hope and determination to fight for the rights of the people remains unfazed.

“Sa kaniya rin nagmumula ang aming lakas sa ngayon.” # Jeoffrey Mhar Larua


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