Saturday, February 27, 2010

Letter from Maquila Solidarity Network

February 22, 2010

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005

Dear Mrs Macapagal-Arroyo;

We are writing to draw your attention to the case of 43 persons who were arrested, detained and tortured by military and the police on February 6, 2010. A partial list of the persons detained includes:
  • Dr Mery Mia, Health Education and Training Services Coordinator for Council for Health and Development (CHD)
  • Dr Alexis Montes
  • Gary Liberal, Registered Nurse (Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center)
  • Teresa Quinawayan, Midwife
  • Lydia Ubera, Health Worker
  • Reynaldo Macabenta, Health Worker
  • Delia Ocasla, Health Worker
  • Jane Balleta, Health Worker
  • Janice Javier, Health Worker
  • Ailene Monasteryo, Health Worker
  • Pearl Irene Martinez, Health Worker
  • Ellen Carandang, Health Worker
  • Dany Panero, Health Worker
  • Rayom Among, Health Worker
  • Emily Marquez, Health Worker

On February 1, around 40 medical practitioners and health workers participated in a First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD) at Dr. Melecia Velmonte's Farm, a conference and training facility in Morong Rizal.

Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a consultant at the Philippine General Hospital. Her farm is a regular venue of health trainings, with participants coming from both the communities and academia.

According to initial reports, at 6:15 am on February 6, 2010, around 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the farm, frisking, handcuffing, blindfolding, interrogating and arresting the medical practitioners and health workers.

Human rights organizations report that police used a warrant that did not specify the address and referred to someone who was not the owner of the property. Human rights organizations also report that, since their detention, relatives and human rights groups have not been allowed access to the arrestees.

We are deeply concerned by the reports of irregularities in the manner of arrest and searches, as well as allegations that the victims were tortured and deprived of contact with their legal counsel.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has previously documented numerous cases of activists who were prosecuted over fabricated charges. In fact, two of the 43 arrestees, Franco Romeroso and Janice Javier, were previously arrested, tortured and prosecuted in September 2008. At the time of this prior arrest, they were hung upside-down, electrocuted, and forced to admit that they were members of a rebel group. However the local prosecutor in Cavite dismissed the charges in June 2009 for lack of probable cause. Although the charges in that case were ultimately dismissed, the police and military's arbitrary use of legal process is of serious concern.

We urge you to form an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into the raid and arrest of the health workers and should the allegations of torture and illegal arrest be verified, immediately release the arrestees and drop all charges against them.

Your sincerely,

Lynda Yanz
Executive Director
Maquila Solidarity Network

Ms Leila De Lima, Commission on Human Rights
Asian Human Rights Commission
Deputy Director General Jesus A Versoza, Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Ms Agnes Devanadera, Secretary, Department of Justice (DoJ)

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Justice for the 43!