political prisoners

Nimfa Lanzanas: Mother, human rights worker, now a political prisoner

Jairo Bolledo
Nimfa Lanzanas: Mother, human rights worker, now a political prisoner

LOVING MOTHER. Nimfa Lanzanas holds a sign calling for the release of her son, who is a political prisoner.

File photo courtesy of Tinay Palabay/Karapatan

For 7 years, Nimfa Lanzanas and her son were separated by steel bars. Now, they both stand behind bars in separate detention facilities.

On March 7, at least 9 people were killed while 6 others were arrested in police operations in Calabarzon dubbed “Bloody Sunday.”

Among those arrested was 61-year-old Nimfa Lanzanas, a mother, a grandmother, an aid to political prisoners – and now, a political prisoner herself. 

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Nightmare of an old lady

It started as a normal Sunday morning for Lanzanas and her family. She and her 3 grandchildren – aged 6, 9, and 11 – were sleeping in peace when state forces raided their home in Calamba, Laguna, at around 4:45 am. 

Lanzanas, with no background in combat whatsoever, was arrested by the police due to allegations that she was keeping 3 guns and a grenade in her home. The phone used by her grandchildren for online schooling was also confiscated. 

Facing allegations similar to other jailed activists and human rights workers, Lanzanas is now behind bars at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna. 

Selfless mother

Lanzanas, who has anemia and hypertension, devoted her time to fight for her son’s freedom.

In March 2014, government agents arrested her son and Andrea Rosal, daughter of the late New People’s Army (NPA) spokesperson Gregorio Rosal, for alleged involvement in murder and kidnapping incidents. 

Even with no legal background, Lanzanas vigorously fought for her son’s release. She initiated a habeas corpus plea before the court to question the validity of her son’s detention. The plea, however, was immediately junked. 

She didn’t stop there. She fought all the way to the Supreme Court to appeal her son’s freedom. She filed a petition for review on certiorari to reverse the resolution that affirmed her son’s detention. Throughout the years, she taught herself the ways and processes of the courts. 

For 7 years, the mother and son were separated by steel bars. Now, they both stand behind bars in separate detention facilities. 

Tireless human rights worker

Before working for human rights groups, Lanzanas was the auditor of Gabriela Southern Tagalog in 2009. After her son’s arrest, she started working as a paralegal for human rights monitor Karapatan and a member of KAPATID – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners. 

Lawyer Maria Sol Taule of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers praised Lanzanas’ dedication to her son, her job, and her grandchildren. 

Napakasipag din niyang paralegal, hindi lang para sa anak niya kundi sa ibang bilanggong pulitikal din. She’s 61, pero siya ang nagpapatunay na hindi hadlang ang kanyang edad at mga responsibilidad bilang ina at lola para pagsilbihan ang mga mamamayan ng Southern Tagalog,” Taule wrote in a Facebook post. 

(She is a hardworking paralegal, not only to her son but also to other political prisoners. She’s 61, but she is proof that age and her responsibilities as a mother and grandmother are not hindrances to serve the people of Southern Luzon.)

As a paralegal, she traveled to different jail facilities to provide food for political prisoners. She also went to faraway courts to assist in processing case papers. While longing for her detained son, she helped political prisoners’ families by keeping their spirits up. 

For Kapatid, Lanzanas might be old and frail, but she is still full of zeal and passion for her job. 

“Nimfa is now 61 and frail. Yet she manages to bring food to political prisoners in jails in the provinces and to go to faraway courts to secure case papers and visit their families to boost their morale,” the group said. “When did it become a crime to help people in need?”

Appeal for release

In a video posted by Karapatan, Lanzanas appealed for her immediate release. 

Sa lahat, humihingi po ako ng tulong na sana matulungan ninyo ako. Sana po ako ay kaawaan ninyo dahil ang trabaho ko lang po ay isa lang po akong simpleng maybahay, nag-aalaga ng aking mga apo,” Lanzanas said. 

(I’m appealing to everyone to plese help me. Please have mercy on me because I am just an ordinary housewife who takes care of my grandchildren.)

For Kapatid, Lanzanas’ arrest is a result of fabricated evidence to hinder her in her job as a human rights worker.

“We call for their immediate release from detention as we believe that the cases being lodged against them are all fabricated to stop them from doing the work they do, which is to simply help people and stand up against injustices,” Kapatid said.

Based on Kapatid’s tally, there are at least 680 political prisoners in the country as of December 2020. – Rappler.com 

Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.