Friday, February 19, 2010

HEALS condemn abduction of 43 Health Workers

We, from the Health Empowerment and Action in Leyte and Samar (HEALS), stand in solidarity and denounce in strongest terms the abduction of our 43 fellow health workers in Morong, Rizal. We call for their immediate release and their safety be ensured by the Government.

On February 6, around 300 state military and police forces raided the property of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, where a health training was being conducted by non-government health groups. According to reports, the victims including two doctors, one nurse, and one midwife, were robbed of their personal belongings, handcuffed, blindfolded, and forcibly brought and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Leila de Lima of the government’s Commission on Human Rights stated that the 43 health workers suffered “mental torture through long hours of blindfolding and scare tactics, including threats to kill the detainees and their loved ones if they don’t cooperate.”

From lawyers, women, journalists, progressive party-list groups, teachers, youth, human rights workers, church people, and now the target of the security forces of the state expands to the health sector. Perhaps because these people and groups have been critical of the Arroyo administration or simply because these people and groups do what the government cannot accomplish or fails to start – to serve and empower the oppressed masses.

We are embittered that instead of being rewarded and saluted for committing and volunteering to serve the health needs of our citizens in far-flung marginalized areas, where health services of the government are not felt, these unsung heroes are being harassed. The harassment and the maltreatment to the detained Morong 43 is a sheer disrespect and persecution to all the healthworkers in the country committed in serving the underserved and unserved communities. This act shamelessly and blatantly disregards the basic human dignity.

We demand the prosecution of those guilty of the illegal arrest, continued illegal detention, torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment of the 43 health workers.

We call all our fellow health workers and the entire Filipino nation to unite and denounce state terrorism in the strongest possible terms. Free the 43 health workers NOW!

Board of Directors Chair

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Justice for the 43!