Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Open Letter to President Benigno Aquino III

I am Chandu Claver. My family was the target of an ambush by suspected State agents nearly four years today on July 31, 2006 in the province of Kalinga. My wife Alice was killed, as a result. Because of continuing threats on what remained of my family, I was forced to seek political refuge in Canada. In the Canadian hearing connected with this, I testified that the death of my wife was linked to the present Philippine counter-insurgency Operation Plan Bantay Laya which specifically targets civilians and social activists. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has found my claim for refuge to be valid and has declared me and my family as Convention Refugees.

Like many hopeful Filipinos hungry for change, I have intently listened to your recent State of the Nation Address. As a victim of the extra-judicial killings perpetuated in the name of Oplan Bantay Laya, and as one of the families actively continuing to seek justice, I found your speech very disappointing.

I had hoped to hear from you bold and definite steps to stem the carnage that has resulted in more than 1000 bloody executions and more than 200 abductions. I had hoped that you would prevent more killings by at least putting Oplan Bantay Laya under review. I had hoped that you would implement the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur Phillip Alston on the matter. The link of Oplan Bantay Laya to the killings and disappearance has been established many times in the recent past by respected institutions, both in the Philippines and abroad. But you never even mentioned Oplan Bantay Laya in your speech.

I had hoped that you would make some positive pronouncements regarding the plight of political prisoners, especially the Morong 43 – health workers like me, who have been languishing in jail since February on obviously trumped up charges. Considering all these, I am hoping that this is not because you are afraid of intimidating the military institution. In your speech, it was good that you had initiated steps to try to solve the cases of the six new cases under your administration. But your failure to mention any plans to solve the very large number of extrajudicial killings and disappearances during the past administration made me very uneasy.

This fear was increased when you laid down your intention with the Truth Commission. The only reference to going after human rights violators as part of the Truth Commission was a short vague phrase about “going after killers”. Much of your speech was spent painting a very detailed and graphic picture of the corrupt practices of the past administration. In contrast, you only mentioned a very few vague words on an issue that has taken the precious lives of many and devastated countless family members. I cannot help coming away with a very strong suspicion that you would prefer not to deal with the problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. To me, it felt that you were washing your hands of the cases occurring in the past administration, and that your lack of adequate reference to the issue felt like you were sweeping the dirt under the rug. I fervently hope that I am wrong in thinking that.

At the very minimum, I had hoped to hear from you a clear and unequivocal warning that members of the military linked to these killings would face the full force of the law. This was a crucial statement that human rights organizations (both in the Philippines and abroad) have long been recommending to the previous administration. This was a necessary first step that we believe would serve as a strong warning that would start to counter the “culture of impunity” related with these killings and disappearances. This initial statement would start the process of preventing similar tragic events. But Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was never able to make that simple statement. You have not done that in your SONA speech either, nor in any of your public speeches. I can only think of three possible reasons why you did not make that crucial, simple and logical statement: that you harboured hidden feelings that the killings served a good purpose; that you did not have the will to go against the military establishment; or your speech writer forgot to put it in. Which is it, Mr. President?

We need the killings to stop. Your spokesman had declared that extrajudicial killings are not your administration’s policy. Then prove it, sir – shut down Oplan Bantay Laya, and truly investigate and actively prosecute the military perpetrators and their political coddlers, whether in the past administration or in yours. For as long as the perpetrators of these extrajudicial killings and disappearances believe that their leaders are tacitly approving their heinous crimes through inaction and mixed signals, the blood will continue to flow. And unless you act more decisively, that exactly is what would happen. ##

Chandu Claver 31July2010

Rights group slams separation of newborn from detained mother; calls for immediate release of mother and child

The human rights alliance Karapatan strongly calls for the immediate release of the 43 illegally detained health workers, collectively known as Morong 43, starting with the release of Carina "Judilyn" Oliveros who gave birth to a baby boy on July 22, 2010 at the Philippine General Hospital.

"Oliveros should be immediately released with her baby and we strongly protest the planned separation of mother from child," Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said. Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officers at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City are planning to take back to the Camp on Monday, August 3, the mother, Judilyn Oliveros, who belongs to the illegally detained health workers or the Morong 43, without the baby because they said that babies are prohibited from being reared inside the detention cell.

“We completely agree that conditions in the detention are not good for the baby AS WELL AS FOR THE NURSING MOTHER; and that is why we STRONGLY CALL for the IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF JUDILYN OLIVEROS AND HER BABY!, “ Enriquez said. “The continuous detention of the healthworkers or the Morong 43, is in itself already very tenuous, I don’t know how the courts can legally defend such a violation! And then this dispensation will further aggravate the situation by cruelly separating the baby from his source of nourishment, love and comfort, practically violating the baby’s basic rights,” she added.

Upon a decision by the Morong Regional Trial Court Branch 78, Judge Gina Cenat Escoto, Oliveros was brought to the Philippine General Hospital for a caesarean delivery of her son, as availability of better and adequate medical facilities are present at the PGH. Attending obstetrician, Dr. Orlino Talens also recommended that Oliveros stay in the hospital for a week to prevent postoperative complications.

“Baby boy Oliveros is just over a week old and it is most cruel to have him separated from his mother; I completely know this as I delivered my firstborn myself when I was imprisoned during martial law. I and my fellow political prisoners did not allow my baby to be separated from me. We call on Secretary De Lima not allow this injustice to happen. We strongly appeal to you - Free Judilyn and her child, free all the political prisoners,” Enriquez concluded.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Toronto events mark vigilance on Morong 43 and Noynoy administration

Dyan Ruiz
The Philippine Reporter

On Saturday, July 24, Filipino-Canadians showed their vigilance in support for the Morong 43 through a fundraiser barbeque and they presented their own people’s version of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) with a talk and discussion led by Dr. Chandu Claver, Chairperson of Bayan Canada.

The Morong 43 are health care workers whose training seminar was raided on Feb. 6, 2010 and have been illegally detained since.

Ramon Grajo hosted the event at his Scarborough residence. He said the Morong 43 are people who decided to battle against the “collapsing” health care in the Philippines by providing it to people in the provinces. By arresting the Morong 43, the authorities are “sowing terror amongst people who are doing community development work.”

He stated, the country is “losing 2,000 doctors a year,” spending six times more on the military, and international loan payments are hampering the budgets of social services.

The fundraiser was organized by the Scarborough Federation of Filipinos (SCARFF) and was initiated when Ms. Norma Dollaga, General Secretary of the Kasimbayan and Secretariat for the People’s International Observers’ Mission (PIOM) spoke in Toronto on June 21. She expressed there was an urgent need for funds for the Morong 43 and their families.

The attendance of Neethan Shan, who is running for City Councillor in Scarborough, was a continuation of the “ripple effect” initially inspired when he saw the film Dukot about forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. It was then that he met Melissa Roxas, a Filipino American who claims Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) abducted and tortured her. Shan organized a BBQ fundraiser for Roxas’s medical expenses, which was also a cross-cultural exposure to the human rights abuses in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Grajo said the fundraiser for Roxas inspired the Morong 43 fundraiser.

Federal NDP candidate, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, wore the necklace given to her by the women detainees when she visited them in the Manila jail last May. She said in an interview at the fundraiser, “meeting them added layers of intimacy. It became my case, something I needed to do.”

The authorities “did not seem to discriminate” as Sitsabaiesan recalled that the detainees were young and old, and included two pregnant women. Judilyn Carina Oliveros gave birth to a baby boy on July 22 amongst appeals to extend the three days to week leave from detention allowed for her and her baby. The fundraiser included a guitar performance by local activist musician Levy Abad.

One attendee, Erin Atendido spoke of the precedence established by former Pres. Cory Aquino. “Historically Noynoy’s mom, after coming into power in 1986, released all political prisoners.” Said Grajo: “The only thing needed to release them is sufficient international political will.”

Vigilance for the victims of human rights abuses in the Philippines was also shown at the event called “State of the Nation: the People’s Agenda” later the same day. The event was organized by Bayan Canada and held at the OISE building on Bloor St W. It was held in anticipation of the State of the Nation address by Noynoy to be held two days later “to push the agenda of the people” said Dr. Claver, the headline speaker.

In his speech, he spoke of the poverty and lack of jobs of the masses that push many to Canada and elsewhere, and the human rights abuses under Arroyo.

“More than a thousand killed and more than 200 abducted never to be seen again - a product of a mad counter-insurgency policy called Oplan Bantay Laya. And then during the first month of the new president’s term, five more are killed. The instruments of the State have gone overboard with the killings, abductions and the filing of false charges.”

Claver’s wife, Alyce, died in an extra-judicial killing when their car was riddled with bullets near their daughter’s school in Kalinga in 2006. Claver narrowly escaped with his life. He was an advocate for land rights for indigenous people.

A documentary about their story, “Philippines: Waging War on the People,” was shown. He and his three daughters have moved to Canada and were approved for refugee status this past March. In an interview before his speech he stated, “nobody was prosecuted, parang walang nangyari” (like nothing happened).

He also said he does not blame Noynoy personally for the extra-judicial killings in his presidency, stating the policy existed before his administration. It was “the military apparatus that was carrying the policies. We hope he will do something about that.”

Malcolm Guy, director and producer of the documentary addressed the audience. “Political assassinations are not done in the dark of the night. They are done in full daylight, in front of your house, school, children. What’s the point? To send a message. If you stand up for your rights, your life will be in danger. Like the Bayan Muna person just killed. Who’s the message for? To the people, the president? I think it’s both.”

Joe Calugay who leads human-rights based organizations in Ottawa told the audience his hopes for change come from “the people on the ground who organize” not from the elite or government, or Aquino who is part of the landlord class.

The event also included cultural performances, a poetry reading, and messages of solidarity from the Tamil and Latin American communities.

Read the Source Article

Two Women Political Prisoners During Martial Law Join Calls for Release of Two Pregnant Women of the Morong 43


MANILA – Professor Judy Taguiwalo of the University of the Philippines made an urgent appeal through Facebook on behalf of two women political detainees, from among the Morong 43, who are pregnant but still languishing in jail at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.

“As a former detainee during the Marcos years, I was aghast by their experience during the early days of their captivity. We join the call to have the two pregnant women political detainees released immediately for humanitarian reasons. This was done during the martial law years and I cannot see any reason why this cannot be done by the present government,” Taguiwalo said in her note posted at the social networking site.

Carina Oliveros, 27 would be giving birth to her first child any time soon. Mercy Castro, 26, would give birth to her second child in October. Both women are health workers from Central Luzon who were among those arrested in while conducting a health training in a farm house in Morong, Rizal on February 6.

Taguiwalo visited the two pregnant women in jail. “They do not even have a place to walk on. Their cell is congested and even the female quarters are also congested,” Taguiwalo told Bulatlat.

“Pregnant women who are not guilty of any crime do not belong in jail. These two pregnant women are health workers who serve the people,” Taguiwalo said.

Recalling Their Own Ordeal

Taguiwalo herself went through the same ordeal during martial law. Taguiwalo was already four months pregnant when she was arrested in1984. Although her pregnancy was not delicate, she could not eat properly then.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairperson, was among the first activists arrested in1974. Her husband was also arrested at that time. She was not yet pregnant at the time of her arrest. She joined the hunger strike for the release of two other women political prisoners who were pregnant. “We held the hunger strike while in detention in Fort Bonifacio. I collapsed because of that and then I discovered that I was also pregnant,” said Enriquez.

Until Enriquez and all other political prisoners were transferred to Camp Crame, the women and men political prisoners were detained in separate cells. It was difficult for her, Enriquez admitted.

Both Taguiwalo and Enriquez underwent regular pre-natal check-up by the doctor in Camp Crame. They also took care of themselves; they walked inside the jail premises to have some exercise. Relatively, their situation inside jail then was different from the situation Oliveros and Castro are now in. Unlike them, Enriquez and Taguiwalo had more spacious cells.

Their needs such as vitamins and baby’s needs were provided by their relatives and other supporters. They were also provided with food to augment the jail rations. “The food inside the jail was not very good, so the political prisoners cooked their own food,” Taguiwalo related.

“The donations were centralized so that everybody had their share. The first ones who got their shares were the pregnant women and those who were sick,” Enriquez said.

Nursing Babies in Jail

Both Taguiwalo and Enriquez gave birth to healthy babies. They both delivered their babies at the Camp Crame Station Hospital. Unlike Taguiwalo who was accompanied by her mother, Enriquez was alone when she gave birth. Her husband was allowed to visit her but was not permitted to stay and take care of her while in the hospital.

Enriquez’s detention was more hostile. The commanding officer of the Constabulary Security Unit (CSU) threatened to take her baby away from her. Enriquez said, “They were scandalized because of the presence of my baby. The head of the CSU wants to give my baby to an orphanage, but I defiantly told him, ‘if you could do that to your own child, then why don’t you send them instead?’”

Her anxiety caused by the threat that her baby would be taken from her resulted in difficulties in breastfeeding. When they went on hunger strike for their release, the soldiers cut off the electricity and water supply in their cell. However, the military eventually gave in after two hunger strikes in 1976 and released Enriquez and the two other women political detainees.

Taguiwalo’s experience was different. During that time, from 1984 to 1985, the support of international organizations, human rights groups and church organizations was overwhelming. “We all could feel that it was only a matter of time before we would be released,” she said. But like Enriquez, she was also stressed out. She was not able to breastfeed because she had no milk. Taguiwalo recovered with the help of her fellow political prisoners. They took turns in taking care of her baby so that she could sleep and eat. They also took turns washing her baby’s clothes. The late Crispin Beltran was among the fellow political prisoners who helped her a lot. Taguiwalo was released after the first people power uprising that installed the late Corazon Aquino as president in 1986.

Prison Not a Place for Mothers and Babies

Taguiwalo’s daughter Inday June, now 26, said she was aware of her mother’s detention. “Mama told me of our experience during her detention, and how her fellow political detainees helped her when I was still a baby. By that I know that to have a baby and raise her in prison is difficult. The condition is just not right for children,” June, told Bulatlat.

Taguiwalo said a prison is not a place for nursing mothers and babies. Making it worse is the fact that women political prisoners, such as the two from the Morong 43, committed no criminal offenses.

Taguiwalo said President Benigno S. Aquino III should prioritize holding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for her crimes and giving justice to the victims of human rights violations. “He should also order the immediate release of Oliveros and Castro and all the political prisoners. If he does the opposite, then he would not be faithful to the legacy of his mother.” (

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spare young mother and her baby from detention

Judilyn Carina Oliveros, one of the Morong 43 gave birth last July 22 at 12nn to a baby boy. However, her return to detention remains a great ordeal to the young mother.

“Our plea stands that Oliveros stays out of detention for a much longer time due to her condition and that of her baby, said Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE.

In the decision penned by Morong Regional Trial Court Branch 78 Judge Gina Cenat Escoto approved Oliveros to give birth at the Philippine General Hospital due to the availability of better and adequate medical facilities and was given three days to a week’s time before going back to Camp Bagong Diwa.

“There are particular medical needs which should be given to Oliveros, needless to say that Camp Bagong Diwa does not have facilities to deal with post natal care. We hope that the authorities exercise prudence in giving Oliveros more time” Caguiat said.

Oliveros still needed to stay out of prison to fully recover from her elective caesarian delivery and breastfeed her baby which is necessary as part of the child’s developmental stage. Also, Dr. Caguiat said it is impossible to nurse an infant inside the prison; more so in their damp, cramped and poor ventilated detention cell housing all 23 of the female detainees.

Both the gynecologist and pediatrician looking after Oliveros and her baby also have recommended it is best to suspend jail time for Oliveros due to her condition and for her baby’s health and welfare.

Meanwhile, Dr. Caguiat said that some religious groups have expressed their willingness to house and take care of Oliveros and her child.

The recommended full recovery of a mother coming from a caesarian delivery is 65 days, while exclusive breastfeeding for a child is necessary for the first six months and mixed breastfeeding up to 2 years.

The FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE urge authorities to have Oliveros released under humanitarian reasons while it also calls for the unconditional release of the rest of the illegally detained Morong 43.##

Dr. Julie Caguiat
Contact Number: 0909 113 3038 / 929 8109

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Judilyn Carina Oliveros, l’une des « 43 de Morong », ne doit pas retourner en prison après son accouchement

Morong 43 files case before GRP – NDF Joint Monitoring Committee to seek redress for human rights violations

The Council for Health and Development files an official complaint of human rights violations on the Morong 43 before the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

CHD is the national organization of community based health programs in the country which hosted the medical training where the Morong 43 were illegally arrested and charged with trumped –up charges.

Dr. Eleanor Jara, CHD’s executive director and one of the conveners of the FREE THE 43 HEALTHWORKERS ALLIANCE said that turning to the Joint Monitoring Committee is an apt and crucial step in obtaining justice for the Morong 43.

Dr. Jara said “nearly six months since the Morong 43 were arrested and the wheels of justice have been grinding slow on our detained colleagues. For these innocent health workers, being held each day more in detention is a continuing torture and a serious injustice.”

The group said while they are engaged in various legal actions including petition for the writ of the habeas corpus in the Supreme Court which is now on appeal, complaint filed at the Commission on Human Rights, they are now exploring all ‘lawfully available’ venues to seek the release and justice for the detained health workers. The group has also sought the help of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland.

Filing the complaints before the NDF-GRP Joint Monitoring Committee is an opportune engagement to raise the gross human rights violations of illegal arrest and detention committed by state parties including the military and elements of the justice department of the past Arroyo administration.

Pursuing this venue is but appropriate because the state is obligated to adhere to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL) whose provisions were violated in this case.

CARHRIHL was signed in 1998 during the Estrada Administration between the government and the National Democractic Front to guarantee protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Filipinos and is also being monitored by Norway as a third party observer.

“Within this framework, we look forward to the independent and credible investigations which could properly identify the abuses and breaches of human rights laws in the case of the 43.”

“We also hope by taking this venue, our much awaited search for justice can be found. As for the Aquino government, this is a serious challenge to take - to desist from a policy of impunity of the previous Arroyo administration.”**

Dr. Eleanor A. Jara

Executive Director
Council for Health and Development (CHD)
Contact No. 0928 445 1293 / 929 8109

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ona backs release of ‘Morong 43,’ health subsidies for poor

By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Health Secretary Enrique Ona agreed with representatives of cause-oriented groups that the 43 community health workers arrested in February in Morong, Rizal on suspicion of being communist rebels should be released.

In a dialogue, the Alliance of Health Workers national president Emma Manuel, Health Alliance for Democracy secretary general Dr. Geneve Rivera, and union leaders in national government hospitals in Metro Manila also raised the following issues with Ona:
  • Increase in next year’s health budget to P90 billion (from the current P24 billion);
  • Free health care and medicines for the poor;
  • Increase in the salary and benefits of health workers;
  • A stop to any planned privatization of government hospitals;
  • More health professionals to far-flung areas; and
  • Assessment of the performance of directors of some government hospitals “because there have been issues of corruption and abuse in some hospitals.”

“I’m very familiar with all these things. I am not new in the DoH. I’m here to make sure we understand each other. I hope you understand that I support the issues you’ve raised to the best of my ability,” Ona told them.

Ona, a leading transplant surgeon, had been director of the National Kidney Transplant Institute since 1998 before he accepted President Benigno Aquino III’s offer to be health secretary.

As his predecessor Esperanza Cabral did, he gave his support to the AHW and the HEAD’s call for the release of the so-called “Morong 43.”

“I wish we can get (a budget of) P90 billion. Since it was P24 billion last year, our target is to get P60 billion,” said Ona, who revealed that one of the reasons why he was persuaded to leave his medical practice and accept the health portfolio was Aquino’s promise to “significantly increase” the health budget.

He said the government could help the poor get access to health care through the automatic enrolment of some 25 million “really indigent” Filipinos in the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth).

The minimum Philhealth annual premium is P1,200 or P100 a month.

“I also think it’s very necessary that we differentiate Filipinos who can afford to pay P100 a month because the government cannot afford to offer all basic services for free. That’s why we have a system like Philhealth,” he said.

Ona, however, asked the health workers to be pragmatic and realize that public hospitals could not rely solely on government financing. But he assured the health workers that government hospitals would not be privatized.

He stressed that the Department of Health would observe the “zero-based budgeting” principle where allocations in past years would not be automatically adopted.

“That is our dream, to provide (free) health care services to all. But we have to look at our capacity given that the health sector has not been given that much budget in past years,” he said.

“Our hospitals and (barangay health) clinics have not been given attention. I know that it’s said of some hospitals, ‘they just lie there and die there.’ I intend to change it as soon as possible,” he said.

He said he understood very well the lack of health professionals in the provinces and the inadequate salaries and benefits given to public health workers.

Ona’s parents were public health workers themselves: His father who was also a doctor was the first provincial health officer of Zamboanga Del Sur while his mother was a health center nurse.

As to corruption charges against certain hospital directors, Ona said the complaints “have to go through the legal process.”

Reposted From Inquirer.Net
Read the Source Article

Monday, July 12, 2010

When Signatures Take Wings: Support for the Morong 43 Continues!

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPS-HR)

Political prisoners all agree that letters and cards, from friends and particularly from strangers, have always been treasured by them. Imbedded in these letters and cards is the power of words that lift up their spirits in prison where the military is bent on breaking their will and fragile hopes. “Please know that you are not forgotten,” is written on one of the cards for the detained 43 health workers, also know collectively as the “Morong 43” to indicate where they were arrested last February 2010. The Vancouver movement to free the “Morong 43” is assurance that the campaign is strong and determined for their release.

Ordinary men and women, appalled when told of the illegal arrest, torture and continued detention of the 43 health workers (2 doctors, a nurse, a midwide and 39 community health workers) amidst the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines, readily sign the “Release the 43” petition. The story of the detained health workers, which include two pregnant women, has touched the hearts of many in the Filipino community, as well as the Canadian public.

At the June 12 Independence Day event in Vancouver, at least 150 signatures were gathered by members of Migrante BC and the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPS-HR). Among those who signed were Member of Parliament Don Davies, City Councilor Geoff Meggs, and Member of the BC Legislative Assembly Mable Elmore.

At a potluck-gathering last June 24, delegates from the 2010 Peoples’ International Observers Mission (PIOM) to the Philippine National Elections gave brief report backs, complete with photos and video clips. Norma Dollaga, Secretary General of the Ecumenical Development Centre/KASIMBAYAN was the special guest. At this event, Canadians and Filipinos added their signatures to the petition and wrote messages of solidarity to the detained health workers on special freedom cards with the artwork of local artist Bert Monterona. The 43 cards featured Monterona's “Vision and Hope for Justice and Peace” on the front. At least 23 signatures were added to the petition count.

At the Lakeview Multicultural United Church last June 27, Rev. Brad Newcombe welcomed their Philippine guest Norma Dollaga, Secretary General of the Ecumenical Development Centre/KASIMBAYAN. She brought greetings of peace and solidarity from the Philippines. She thanked the invaluable work and support of the United Church of Canada as a global partner with KASIMBAYAN and other ecumenical institutions in the Philippines. She put a human face on partnership, bringing the story of Dr. Alexis Montes, an active member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and known as the “doctor of the poor.” He is one of the Morong 43, the group of health workers who were illegally arrested, tortured and continue to be detained. The case of the Morong 43 illustrates the terrible human rights situation in the Philippines. More people signed on to the petition for the release of the 43 and wrote their greetings on the cards.

On the eve of the Philippine inauguration of the new Philippine president Noynoy Aquino, an hour-long information picket for the Morong 43, in front of the Philippine Consulate, was organized by the Alliance for People's Health, a member organization of the League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS). Supported and particpated in by fellow ILPS member, the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, with the Philippine-based KASIMBAYAN, Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association (VESTA ) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the picket drew the attention of those waiting for their buses and of passersby. They stopped and listened when speakers spoke about the plight of the 43 health workers as they read the placards, banners and leaflets. Signatures were collected and cards were signed. Norma Dollaga urged the crowd to join her in the chanting for the 43: “Free, free the 43! Free, free the 43! No justice, no peace, Free the 43!”

For the open letter to Pres. Aquino and the Canadian government from CPS-HR, please see

Also, visit the blogsite of the Alliance for People's Health at

A creative version of the written petition was organized earlier by artists Bert Monterona and Melissa Roxas last June 5. It took the form of a live-art petition or mural. At a busy corner in East Vancouver, in front of the Constituency office of MLA Mable Elmore, the public watched, and some even took up the paint brush, as adults and their children painted well-wishes for the detained 43 health workers on the canvas mural. In the film Dukot screenings and related events, at least a hundred signatures were collected as well.

Pictures of the live art petition.

The signatures for the Morong 43 have taken wings! The signed petitions are on their way, if not already in the hands of the new President and his Secretary of Justice, with the recommendation to ask that the Morong 43 be immediately released to their families so they can continue to render the much needed medical service to the poor and impoverished in their communities. In the interest of justice and human rights, President Noynoy Aquino can do no less than free the Morong 43 and other political prisoners, in the same way that his mother, the former President Cory Aquino, released the political prisoners when she became President in 1986.

The movement to free the detained Morong 43 and all political prisoners is steady and strong. Over 300 signatures were gathered and funds collected have been sent to the Morong 43 and their families. The commitment to continue the campaign until their freedom is gained is a promise. +++

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

President Aquino urged to immediately release pregnant and ailing health workers among Morong 43

Today is a very sad day. It marks the fifth month of detention of the 43 health workers, it marks five months of being incarcerated without any legal basis, and it marks the month where Judielyn Carina Oliveros, 26 years old and one of the Morong 43, is about to give birth to her child – inside Camp Bagong Diwa. Mercy Castro, 27, another detainee and one of the 43 is also due to give birth in October – also inside Camp Bagong Diwa.

“Judielyn Carina Oliveros and Mercy Castro of are expected to give birth soon, free them now!” This was the urgent plea of relatives and supporters of the Morong 43 under the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS! ALLIANCE.

According to Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the group, they urge the Aquino government to immediately release the 43 illegally detained health workers especially the pregnant and ailing detainees.

“At this point, medical and health issues should outweigh all the legalities of the custodial detention, they must be released under humanitarian considerations to show that the state at least have respect for human rights.” She recalled that President Noynoy Aquino’s father Benigno Aquino II, who was then a political prisoner under Marcos dictatorship, was himself allowed to have an emergency bypass operation for humanitarian reasons.

Dr. Caguiat says “not just for the Morong 43 but for every detainee for that matter, the state is obliged to accord all detainees decent conditions and just welfare while in prison. Unfortunately, that is not the case.”

The doctor reveals that present detention of the female detainees is cramped and damp making the pregnant women and the rest of the detainees susceptible to infectious diseases. It would be of best consideration to have pregnant and ailing detainees released.

The dismal conditions of the detention have also in fact been identified as a trigger to the epileptic seizures of Balleta.

The group also calls for urgent medical attention to some of the detainees who are also suffering from various health concerns exacerbated by sorry conditions of the prison facilities.

Caguiat said that for 5 months now, the health workers have suffered long enough. “Although, they are no longer subjected to physical and psychological torture inflicted by the military in Camp Capinpin, their present conditions of being detained under false charges and being away from the their families and people they serve remain an ordeal.”, Caguiat said.

FREE THE 43 HEALTHWORKERS ALLIANCE challenges the new Aquino administration to begin genuine nation building by giving justice to the victims of the Arroyo regime.#
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