[UPDATED] Antonio Molina, alias Ka Tino and Domingo Ritas, the suspected rebel leader facing charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, died of cancer on Thursday, according to the human rights alliance Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (Karapatan TK).
The 67-year-old, who had denied the accusations, succumbed at 9:46 p.m. on November 18 due to complications from stomach cancer after reportedly being “denied compassionate release”.
In a press statement released Friday, November 19, Karapatan TK slammed Branch 51 of the Palawan Regional Trial Court (RTC) for “denying necessary remedies that might have saved the life of the “elderly political prisoner”.
“We extend our condolences to Antonio Molina’s family. With Molina and his family sparingly meeting, his death as a prisoner is more heartbreaking,” said Kyle Salgado, Karapatan TK spokesperson.
Molina was transported to the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) Friday morning when his heart rate dropped and was intubated after going into cardiac arrest, according to Karapatan TK. He was tested for COVID-19 but found to be negative.
According to Karapatan TK, Molina’s death makes him the fourth political prisoner in the Southern Tagalog area to die from illness or old age while detained. Alex Arias (2018), Francisco Remoroso (2019), and Maximo Reduta (2021) were the other three peasant activists.
Molina, a member of the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), was arrested with six others at a checkpoint in Barangay San Jose in Puerto Princesa City on October 4, 2019, on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Molina’s legal counsel requested his immediate release earlier this year on humanitarian grounds owing to his deteriorating health at the time. The lawyers also filed a request to refund P30,000 in cash to Molina to be utilized for his emergency medical costs, said Karaptan TK.
However, Karapatan TK said Judge Ambrosio de Luna of Branch 51 dismissed both applications, citing the usage of herbalists to alleviate his growing agony.
“Doctors noted that Tatay Molina had six months to live when he was diagnosed with cancer. His advanced age and worsening medical condition warranted instant freedom and were supported by church groups and human rights groups. But Judge de Luna handed Antonio Molina no morsel of empathy, and therefore Molina’s death sentence,” said Salgado.
Karapatan TK called for justice for the death of Molina, which they said was another victim of the “flaws in the Philippine justice system”.
Karapatan TK also said, “no self-respecting individual should be condemned to the microscopic concern that Judge de Luna handed out to Molina”.
“Judge de Luna should know that he has yet again shown a patent flaw in the Philippine justice system: while far worse yet far wealthy people like Imelda Marcos gets to flaunt their advanced age to avoid serving prison sentences, Molina was not granted any significant period and means to try to heal from a very debilitating disease,” Salgado said.
Salgado added they are in no position to say at the moment that they will be suing Judge de Luna as they are still consulting with their lawyers.
Making him accountable is one step towards justice, he said, but they know that the current justice system in the country repeatedly failed Molina.
“Only those in power and rich are saved from this predicament and ordinary people like tatay Antonio are left with injustices. Mapapaisip na lang din kami, paano kung na-approve ang recognizance ni tatay, maybe he could have lived longer,” he said.
PPCJ did everything for Molina
Filly Erika Argueza, community relations service officer of the Puerto Princesa City Jail (PPCJ), who confirmed Molina’s passing away, said they did everything to make his situation comfortable.
She said Molina was brought to the ONP on August 20, 2020, where his doctor detected fecal impaction.
“Hindi kasi namin puwedeng ilabas ang PDL (person deprived of liberty) na walang court order. Based sa court order na binigay sa amin ay nilalabas namin siya for medical check ups at confinement,” Argueza said.
She said that Molina’s doctor gave back his test results on March 19, 2021, when it was determined that he had malignant sarcoma. It is a form of cancer that starts in the bone or soft tissues of the body.
“Noong August 23 to 25, 2021, na-hospitalize siya sa Coop at nag-chemo siya. Doon sa medical certificate noong August 25, 2021, na binigay ng doctor ay hindi na kinakaya ng katawan niya ‘yong chemo, parang tinaningan na po siya,” she added.
“May ginawa din na request ang kanilang abogado na provisional liberty. November 15 ay humingi ng comment ang court sa amin dito sa City Jail para sa request ng abogada niya, nag-submit kami doon ng comment na sa part namin ay advantageous kung bibigyan ng provisional liberty. Wala pa kaming nare-receive na order from the court. Then November 18 ay sinuguod namin sya sa ospital bandang 6:30, lahat naman ng mga urgent action about his health upon court order ay ginagawan naman ng BJMP ng paraan para maibigay sa kanya,” Argueza said.