Monday, October 4, 2010

Foreign human rights lawyers back NUPL

International human rights lawyers pledged support to progressive local group National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), and especially its defense of 43 health workers considered political prisoners in the Philippines.

The lawyers, who attended the NUPL's second national congress on September 20, 2010 in Pasay, also visited the health workers, more commonly known as the Morong 43 at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. The lawyers said they will report back to their respective home affiliations, noting in general poor hygiene in the detention center. Costa Rican lawyer Luis Roberto Zamora Bolanos wrote: "Latrine and tap water is present, yet the latrine had no flow of water, creating a health hazard...Rain would come in the cells through uncovered windows, wetting the entire floor, which represents a health hazard."

Still, the inmates have said conditions are better than in Camp Capinpin, where they suffered torture. The Morong 43 were transferred to police-run Camp Bagong Diwa from the military's Camp Capinpin, after the NUPL questioned jurisdiction of the military over the health workers. The Morong 43 were charged with common crimes, but alleged by the military to be members of a rebel group.

Roland Weyl, dean of the Paris Bar Association and first vice president of the IADL, said their support for the Morong 43 is not only because of humanitarian reasons. “We know that by fighting for you, you are fighting for us.”

The foreign delegation was composed of IADL President Emeritus Jitendra Sharma (India), IADL President Jeanne Mirer (USA), IADL Secretary General Osamu Niikura (Japan), IADL First Vice President Roland Weyl (France), anti-Iraq war advocate Luis Roberto Zamora Bolanos (Costa Rica), human rights lawyer Gail Davidson (Canada), IADL Deputy Secretary General Jan Fermon (Belgium), IADL Bureau members Akhtar Hussain (Pakistan) and Fabio Marcelli (Italy), women’s rights advocate Nimalka Fernando (Sri Lanka), former Punjab chief justice Vijender Jain (India), and Haldane Society members Michael Goold and Russel Fraser (UK), among others.

The NUPL and its foreign guests also feted NUPL pillars Romeo Capulong and Frederico Gapuz. Capulong, who is also an ad litem judge at the United Nations, was the NUPL's founding chairman. Gapuz, president of the Union of People's Lawyers in Mindanao, was the founding president. They were awarded the group's highest recognition, the Peoples' Lawyer award and were bestowed Chairperson and President Emeriti, respectively.

The NUPL will be led in the next three years by its national executive board: Neri Javier Colmenares, president; Joven Laura, vice president for Luzon; Alfonso Cinco IV, vice president for Visayas; Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice president for Mindanao; Edre U. Olalia, secretary-general; Alnie Foja, treasurer; and Kathrina Castillo, auditor. NUPL associate members also selected Maria Kristina Conti of the UP College of Law as law student representative, and Ma. Agnes Pacres of Karapatan-Bicol as paralegal representative.

The NUPL is the Philippines' largest network of human rights lawyers, and represents besides the Morong 43, the farmers in the Hacienda Luisita case, drivers in the RFID petition, and political detainees all over the country. It also handles about 90% of the writ of amparo cases so far filed.

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