The United Church of Canada
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West Suite 300
Telephone: 416 231-5931
Voice Mail: 416-231-7680
The United Church of Canada strongly condemns the arrest by 300 government security forces of two medical doctors, a nurse, a midwife and 39 health workers on 6 February 2010.
We call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately ensure that their rights are respected and to order their release.
We are informed by Philippine partners of the United Church of Canada that the victims were participants in a training course organised by the non-governmental organization, Council for Health and Development at the home of Dr. Melicia Velmonte in the province of Rizal. The United Church of Canada respects the work of the CHD to provide basic health services and train health care workers to serve in the many communities that have no access to health services. Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist. Dr. Merry Mia, the Education and Training Services coordinator for CHD and Dr. Alex Montes of Community Medicine Development Foundation, who were conducting the training, are dedicated proponents of community health care and worked many years with their respective NGOs. Dr. Montes is a member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines which commends his work with marginalized communities.
The unfounded accusations that the victims are known members of the New People’s Army lead us to believe that the arrest and detention of these health workers are linked to the state agenda to terrorise those who struggle for human rights as the country approaches Presidential election in May 2010. We are informed by our Philippine partners that this is part of the campaign to discredit political parties and organizations, including party-list groups, who are critical of the government; a campaign to harass and intimidate the supporters of political parties and organizations, including party-list groups, who pose a serious challenge to those who are entrenched in power during the coming election.
The United Church of Canada is deeply concerned that abuses such as the arrest and detention of the 43 health workers as well as political violence such as the massacre in Maguindanao will escalate during the run up to the election. We are concerned that these election-related violence and abuses will deter the citizens of the Philippines from effectively exercising their right to vote and the holding of a free and fair election in May 2010.
We join the voices of our partners and many international groups in calling on President Macapagal Arroyo to immediately order the release of the 43 health care workers who are now in illegal detention.
We call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and all other government security forces and apparatus to end all forms of abuses, harassment, intimidation and violence against candidates, political parties and organizations, including party list groups, who are critical of the government.
We call on the Government of Canada to condemn the arrest of the 43 health workers and call for their immediate release.
We call on the Government of Canada to help safeguard the future of democracy in the Philippines by putting pressure on the Philippine Government to take immediate and concrete steps to implement measures to stop and prevent election-related violence and human rights abuses.
SGD: Omega Bula
Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit
The United Church of Canada
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