The 66-year-old Molina was not able to continue his chemotherapy sessions due to his body’s inability to handle the treatment, HR group says.
Words by Yani Redoblado
Political prisoner Antonio Molina is currently in critical condition after he was hospitalized last August 28, a day after being released from confinement.
According to human rights alliance Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK), 66-year-old Molina was not able to continue his chemotherapy sessions due to his body’s inability to handle the treatment.
Last March 24, Molina was diagnosed with abdominal wall sarcoma, a malignant tumor that was identified as a type of cancer that arises from transformed cells of connective tissue origin. Molina also suffers from diabetes, slipped disc, hypertension, and prostate problems.
Because of this, several groups demanded for his immediate, compassionate release. Molina’s supporters emphasized that his terminal condition requires medical attention that both the jail facility and the government cannot provide.
In a Facebook post, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) stated that the sick and elderly are not safe in prison cells in the time of a pandemic when they are the most vulnerable.
“Higit sa lahat, walang sinuman ang nararapat na malagay sa piitan para sa kanilang paninindigan at pakikipaglaban para sa kanilang mga karapatan [Above all, no one should be imprisoned for fighting for their rights],” the labor center explained.
Sha Songalia of Gabriela Southern Tagalog (ST) shared in another Facebook post, “Anak na siyang maituturing ng isla ng Palawan. Buhay na ni Tatay ang pakikipagkapwa [He is considered as a son of Palawan. His life has been dedicated to helping others].”
Songalia also recalled how Molina would say between jokes that he is gladdened by the youth immersing and continuing farmers’ advocacies. She asked for his immediate release citing his health conditions.
“Ginugupo ka na ng iyong karamdaman. Hindi ka na makahimbing sa gabi. At wala na ring tinatanggap na pagkain ang iyong katawan. Matanda ka na at walang sala, pero wala silang pinapatawad at pinapakinggan [You suffer from your sickness. You cannot sleep peacefully at night. Your body even rejects any more sustenance. You are old and innocent, yet they do not forgive nor listen to anyone],” she expressed.
This has been the case for many political prisoners in the country, like farmer Jesus Alegre and peasant leader Joseph Canlas who were also illegally arrested over trumped-up charges.
Both had comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among others that made them more vulnerable to COVID-19. They experienced deteriorating health conditions while incarcerated that led to their deaths (READ: Central Luzon peasant leader Joseph Canlas dies more than a month after arrest).
Alegre, 75, was the second oldest political prisoner. Due to their age, he and his family were among the political prisoners urged to be released on humanitarian grounds.
Suffering over false charges
A member of peasant organization Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), Molina is a staunch advocate of farmers’ rights for genuine agrarian reform.
Last October 4, 2019, he was illegally arrested in a Puerto Princesa, Palawan checkpoint, together with Glendhyl Malabanan, Joemelito Tanilon, Ronces Paraguso, Jenny Ann Bautista, Awing Lumpat, and Bener Rimbuwan. Collectively known as the “Palawan 7,” they were documenting grave human rights violations among heavily militarized peasant communities in Taytay, Palawan.
Bautista and Paraguso are Karapatan TK members, with Malabanan being a former secretary-general of the aforementioned alliance. Meanwhile, both Lumpat and Rimbuwan are members of the indigenous peoples (IPs) organization Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK).
They were falsely charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives – alleged pieces of evidence reportedly planted by authorities. Molina was also served an arrest warrant for murder – a charge originally intended for a certain “Domingo Ritas.”
While in captivity, Karapatan TK shared that like many prisoners in the country, Molina was experiencing harassment. For instance, he, along with the six more arrested with him, is being separated from the other detainees to prevent the promulgation of his progressive thinking.
“Tulad ng anim pang mga aktibista, nakahiwalay si Tatay Antonio sa iba pang mga bilanggo sapagkat baka daw magpakalat pa ng progresibong kaisipan si Tatay Antonio sa loob ng kulungan [Like the other six activists, Tatay Antonio is separated from other detainees as he might influence the others with his progressive thinking],” the group said.
Worsening condition behind bars
Molina first had his checkup on August 8, 2020 and was formally referred to a surgeon. However, the medical assistance that he received was repeatedly interrupted due to COVID-19 protocols being implemented in the province and across the country.
This year, his counsel from Public Interest Law Center (PILC) filed an appeal last April 21 to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 51, asking to allow Molina to be brought to Ospital ng Palawan and undergo medical confinement, chemotherapy, and other medical assistance. While this was granted last June 30, Molina’s weakened condition can no longer handle the treatment leading to the halt of his chemotherapy sessions.
Still, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asserted the alliance’s call that Molina be released on humanitarian grounds.
“We are racing against time here, so a compassionate release is in place. This is the best treatment not just for his illness, but for the wrongs committed against him for being accused of falsified charges and made to suffer in jail in the later years of his life,” Palabay said.
It was also revealed that aside from poor ventilation in prison, Molina has been having difficulties from experiencing coughing and leg edema for two months.
“Sa gitna ng pandemya, kalunos-lunos ang kalagayan ng mga bilanggo sa kulungan dahil sa mataas na bulnerabilidad sa pagkakahawa sa COVID-19 lalo ang mga may sakit na at matatanda [Amidst the pandemic, prisoners suffer pitiful conditions because of their high vulnerability to acquiring COVID-19, especially the elder ones and those with preexisting conditions],” Karapatan TK wrote in their Facebook post (READ: Prisoners: The abandoned guests of the state).
Palabay mentioned that Molina also suffers from sleepless nights due to severe abdominal pain. His conditions prompted fellow progressive groups such as Kapatid TK and Lakapati Laguna among others to seek financial donations and to amplify the call for his release.
“Marapat lamang na itigil ng pamahalaan ang panggigipit kay Molina at sa pamilya nito. Nananawagan din ang organisasyon, kasama ang iba pa, na palayain din ang lahat ng mga bilanggong pulitikal na patuloy na nagdurusa dahil sa mga hindi makataong paratang ng estado [It is only right for the harassment directed towards Molina and his family to stop. We, along with many others, urge to free all political prisoners who are endlessly suffering from inhumane accusations from the state],” Lakapati Laguna said.
As of press time, there have been no recent updates on Molina’s condition following the initial development. [P]
Design by PJ Atayde
Photos from Atty. Maria Sol Taule / Facebook