Sunday, April 18, 2010

Morong 43 Launch Fast for Freedom, Humane Treatment

By Ronalyn Olea
Bulatlat.com

Dubbed as Morong 43, the detainees have refused to eat their daily rations, Dr. Julie Caguiat, executive director of Community Medicine Foundation (Commed) and spokesperson of the Free the 43 Health Workers! Alliance said.

Arrested on February 6, the Morong 43 were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and were accused by the AFP of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The health workers filed a complaint against their military captors before the CHR for violating their right to due process, for placing them under solitary confinement, for torturing them, among others.

The military officers accused of violating the human rights of the Morong 43 did not show up during the CHR’s second hearing and were merely represented by their legal counsels. The AFP has also refused to produce the Morong 43 in CHR hearings, and questioned the jurisdiction of the commission by citing the sub judice rule. For ignoring its summons, the CHR has initiated contempt proceedings against the military.

“It is outrageous that the protest has to come to this,” Evangeline Hernandez, spokesperson of Hustisya! and mother of slain activist Benjaline Hernandez, said. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has kept her eyes, ears and mouth shut about the case of the 43 health workers despite the illegality of their arrest and detention, their torture and the clamor for their release,” she said.

On April 7, the Regional Trial Court in Morong ordered the transfer of the Morong 43 from Camp Capinpin to Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP). On April 9, however, the PNP, refused to take custody of the detainees, saying that their detention facility is already ‘overcrowded.’ The PNP Legal Division filed a motion for reconsideration before the RTC Morong.

At yesterday’s hearing on the PNP’s motion, the court said it has yet to look for another detention facility that can accommodate the 43, Julius Garcia Matibag, one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43, told Bulatlat.

Political prisoners detained at the PNP Custodial Center inside Camp Crame rebutted PNP’s statement, saying that overcrowding is not a problem. In a joint statement, the 22 political prisoners said that those arrested after the Magdalo protest in Manila Peninsula on November 29, 2007 were brought to the camp.

“It is even more alarming that the Morong 43 are continuously being subjected to psychological torture in the hands of the military despite the fact that they have been slapped with criminal charges before a civilian court,” the political prisoners said in a statement sent to media by Karapatan. They, too, have started fasting in solidarity with the Morong 43.

The CHR and the legal counsels of the Morong 43 have repeatedly asserted that the detainees should be brought to a police detention facility, as provided for by the rules of court. The Morong 43 were instead taken to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Division and have been there for more than two months already.

“The Morong 43 must be commended and supported for going into fasting to raise the level of their struggle to fight for freedom and assert their rights to be treated humanely while in prison,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan Karapatan chairwoman and a political detainee during martial law, said.

The Morong 43’s relatives and supporters also joined the fasting as they gathered at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City this morning.

Edita Burgos, president of Desaparecidos and mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos and Raymond Manalo, a torture survivor, were among those who expressed joined the sympathy fast.

“We must conquer anger and not let them bait us into violence. But we must also not fear and not let them silence us,” Burgos said.

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