Saturday, April 21, 2007

US solon asks Arroyo to free Anakpawis’ Beltran

US solon asks Arroyo to free Anakpawis’ Beltran
Last updated 12:00nn (Mla time) 04/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- An American congressman has written President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appeal for the release of leftist lawmaker Crispin Beltran, who has been detained for more than a year on rebellion charges for his alleged role in a supposed plot to topple the government.

In a letter dated April 18, coursed through Philippine Ambassador to Washington Willy Gaa, Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) asked Arroyo to “please consider allowing [Beltran] the freedom to be at home with his friends, family and community.”

“While I understand the Philippine judicial system is currently moving forward on Mr. Beltran’s case and will ultimately judge the merits of the charges brought against him, I urge you to free him during this time while he has yet to be convicted of any crime and his health is deteriorating,” Smith wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by

Smith, a member of the US House of Representatives’ Armed Forces and Foreign Relations committees, said he was “concerned by the allegations that Mr. Beltran is being unfairly detained at the Philippine Heart Center.”

“As I am sure you are aware,” he wrote Arroyo, “it is widely believed among the international labor and human rights communities that the charges brought against…Beltran are legally weak and unsubstantiated.”

Smith also referred to allegations that Beltran’s “arrest and detention are politically motivated, a result of the government’s opposition to his progressive political belief and social activism.”

Beltran is one of two representatives of the Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party-list groups and is one of six members of the House from the country’s major leftist bloc, all of whom are facing the same rebellion charges.

The leftist solons and the party-list group they represent -- the other two are Bayan Muna (People First) and Gabriela -- are regularly tagged by the government and military as “legal fronts” of the communist rebel movement.

Scores of members of the party-list groups have also fallen victim to the extrajudicial killings that continue to sweep the country and have earned the Arroyo administration increasing criticism both at home and abroad.

Bayan Muna’s Satur Ocampo has also been charged with multiple murder for his supposed role in the execution of suspected government spies by communist rebels more than two decades ago. He has been allowed to post bail on the normally non-bailable charge by the Supreme Court.

A fact-finding mission from the Inter-Parliamentary Union arrived in the country this week to investigate the perceived persecution of the leftist solons and their party-list groups. The mission’s members have also called for Beltran’s release.

In his letter, Smith acknowledged Beltran’s reputation “for his work on behalf of Philippine workers and the underprivileged.”

“I applaud his contributions to the international labor community and hope that he is given due respect at this time in his life,” he said.
Nonoy Espina


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