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. +++

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