Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Lady Ann Salem write about prison ordeal, thoughts in lit folio

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IAWRT Philippines members who were imprisoned join literary folio on women political prisoners in the Philippines.


In the book, Frenchie Mae Cumpio wrote an open letter titled “Love means fighting back”, tackling her choice of work and giving words of encouragement to her family, friends, and supporters.


Lady Ann Salem wrote of her much-dreaded transfer to the Philippines’ infamously over-congested and dilapidated city jails and the first two weeks of her incarceration.


There are now 715 political prisoners in the Philippines of whom 132 or around 18.5 percent are women. One of them is a journalist.


The detained journalist is Frenchie Mae Cumpio, journalist and Executive Director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista that is based in Tacloban—the area ravaged by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013. She was arrested and detained since February 7, 2020, following a police raid on the media outfit’s office via search warrant for firearms and what many decried as planted evidence. She experienced surveillance and harassment days before her arrest. Her trial continues and she has been detained for 17 months now.


She is the second of three women journalists jailed so far during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Two others have been released. All three are IAWRT Philippines members.


The first is Anne Krueger of alternative media outfit Panghimutad, raided by police in a similar fashion and whose search warrant only bore “yellow house” instead of a specific address mandated by the Constitution. She was among more than 50 activists, workers, peasant women arrested from October 30 to 31 in simultaneous police raids in search of guns and explosives. She was detained for 11 days, one of those days in the infamous overcrowded city jails in the country before she was allowed to post bail. Her trial continues.


The third is Lady Ann Salem, one of the now-called Human Rights Day 7, arrested on December 10, 2020. It was also the last day of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. She was arrested in a similar fashion and charges as Frenchie and Anne, and also the same judge as Anne issuing the search warrant against Manila Today’s home office during the pandemic. She is editor of the said digital publication and also communication officer of IAWRT, roles she resumed following her March 5, 2021 release from prison and February 5 case dismissal.  


Political prisoners, also called prisoners of conscience—imprisoned for their political activities, their affiliation, or beliefs but usually slapped with common crimes—are languishing in the overcrowded jails in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.


These numbers and these stories are some of those recounted in the literary folio and the book launch of “SaLoobin: Mga Akda ng/para sa Kababaihang Bilanggong Pulitikal.” The work is published by political prisoners’ kin group Kapatid and feminist publishing house Gantala Press.


The book launch was held on July 18, observed internationally as Nelson Mandela Day. Mandela was himself a pollical prisoner detained for 27 years.


The book is an almost women-only written collection of poems, stories, songs, and essays of political prisoners but also their supporters from outside the walls of the prison.


Philippine Senator Leila M. De Lima also contributed a poem “Pinay, Malaya at Nagpapasya.”


IAWRT continues to call on the release of Frenchie Mae Cumpio and the dismissal of charges against Anne Krueger.


The book is available at the online shopping app Shopee or Gantala Press’ online store.