Longest held political prisoner in PH freed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) – Juanito Itaas, the country’s longest held political prisoner, has been released from prison after spending over 32 years behind bars.

Human rights organization KAPATID confirmed the release of Itaas from the New Bilibid Prison on Friday night.

Itaas admitted that he is still worried for his safety, but remains elated that he is now free.

Pahinga muna ako. Gusto ko makapiling ang pamilya ko kasi ngayon lang kami mabubuo,” said Itaas. “Di pa rin ako makapaniwala. At nangangamba pa rin ako.

[Translation: I want to rest. I want to bond with my family because it will be the first time that we will be complete. I still can’t believe it. But, I’m still worried.]

The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court recently granted Itaas’ petition for writ of habeas corpus, which enabled his release. 

In a decision penned by Judge Gener Gito on Nov. 8 last year, the court ruled that Itaas was able to completely serve his prison term and that he should benefit from the credits he earned under Republic Act 10592, or the Good Conduct Time Allowance or GCTA Law.

Itaas, then a member of the New People’s Army Sparrow Unit, was convicted for killing Joint RP-US Military Advisory Group Army Division chief Colonel James Rowe in 1989. He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, specifically 39 years and 6 months of imprisonment.

“We ask the government to let Juanito Itaas live a peaceful life without threats to his security as he deserves to make the most out of every second of his life with his family," said Fides Lim, spokesperson of KAPATID.

"This will be the first instance they can begin a normal life together outside prison bars," she added.