Friday, February 19, 2010

Charges against ‘Morong 43’ are outrageous

Philippine Daily Inquirer

STOP THE TORTURE OF THE “MORONG 43”! Free all 43 health workers now! Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change demands the unconditional and immediate release of the 43 health workers illegally being detained in Camp Capinpin, Rizal.

The group also denounces the non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the health workers. The Department of Justice has yet to establish if these were indeed found in their possession or were planted by the military.

Pagbabago! believes that the charges against the health workers are outrageous. The 43 are all community doctors, midwives and health workers most of whom are members of the Council for Health and Development (CHD). Many of them are colleagues of Pagbabago!’s coordinating committee member, Dr. Eleanor Jara, and they have actively participated in Pagbabago! forums in the past year. In fact, Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor is one of the members of Pagbabago! Manila chapter and was one of the doctors who led the Manila contingent of the State of the Nation Address (Sona) protest in July 2009.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines should be held liable for the illegal arrest and torture of doctors, nurses and other health workers who were holding a health seminar in Morong, Rizal last Feb. 6. By accusing the health workers of being rebels, the AFP is also maliciously linking the New People’s Army to the progressive party-list Bayan Muna, whose campaign paraphernalia were supposedly found with the explosives.

It took five days after the arrest before the military granted the right of the 43 health workers to see a lawyer. Close relatives who visited the camp daily were barred from seeing the detainees and were even questioned if they were indeed family members. Worse, the 43 were subjected—and appear to be still being subjected—to torture, harassment and isolation in detention cells every day to this day.

Pagbabago! is concerned about the safety of the 43 health workers in the hands of the military. In the country’s history, the Arroyo administration has one of the worst records of human rights violations. And political killings, abductions and harassment continue. The case of the 43 health workers only confirms not only the military’s involvement in these violations but also that these are targeted against people’s organizations and individuals who organize and put up community-based programs serving the needs of the poor and underprivileged.

Pagbabago! demands that the military drop the charges, stop the torture and immediately release the 43 health workers. The group also vows vigilance in the coming elections against violations of human rights and violence perpetuated by the AFP, Philippine National Police and government-sponsored paramilitary forces.

Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change

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Justice for the 43!