Sunday, December 5, 2010

‘Morong 43’ detainees getting sick due to hunger strike - doctor

JERRIE M. ABELLA, GMANews.TV

Volunteer doctors on Sunday were finally allowed to check the condition of female “Morong 43" detainees who are on their third day of hunger strike to pressure the government to expedite their release.

In an interview, Dr. Geneve Rivera of the Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance said jail warden Senior Inspector Mary Jane Clemente had earlier refused to allow volunteer doctors and medical personnel to check on the female detainees.

On Sunday afternoon, however, Rivera and her medical team were finally allowed to enter the Camp Bagong Diwa jail facility in Taguig City.

“We were able to visit them (today), but it’s lamentable that it had to take a lawyer to pressure the jail warden to allow us to visit the detainees," she said.

The Morong 43 detainees are health workers arrested last February in Morong, Rizal, on suspicion that they are members and supporters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. They are facing charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

According to Rivera, some of the detainees now need medical attention, citing the case of Jane Balleta who suffered an epileptic seizure Saturday night. Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, one of the detainees, reported to Rivera that there were no available medical personnel from the jail management to attend to Balleta.

Rivera said other health workers on hunger strike are also experiencing dizziness and headache.

“Both male and female Morong detainees are determined to go on hunger strike and we respect that. We hope that Warden Clemente would be responsible enough and accept that we are willing enough to provide medical services we know their facility may not be able to provide," Rivera said.

‘BJMP has doctors, nurse’

In a separate interview, Clemente said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has nurses and doctors who monitor the conditions of the workers. She, however, said they respect the right of the detainees to be checked by a doctor of their choice.

Clemente denied that she did not allow the medical volunteers to enter the jail facility, saying they only have procedures that must be observed regarding the medical checkup of the detainees. She did not elaborate.

“Hindi naman sila pinababayaan, kasi kung anuman ang mangyari sa kanila, kami ang mananagot (We are not taking them for granted because we will be placed in bad light if something bad happens to them)," Clemente told GMANews.TV.

She neither confirmed nor denied, however, if Balleta had a seizure and if there was indeed no medical personnel from the facility to attend to her condition.

“Dati na siyang maysakit, so ‘pag may change ng weather or stressed siya, nagkaka-seizure siya (She has a lingering illness so a change in the weather or stress can lead to her seizure)," Clemente said.

Five of the 43 remain detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, while the rest are detained at Camp Bagong Diwa except for two, Mercy Castro and Judilyn Oliveros, who are confined at the Philippine General Hospital after giving birth while in detention.

Various local and international groups of health workers, human rights advocates, church leaders and lawyers have been calling for the release of the 43 detainees.

Malacañang review ongoing

As this developed, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated that the case of the Morong 43 is under review and that actions are being undertaken to “rectify" whatever mistake was committed.

"I am not at liberty to discuss the details of this at the time but what we can say is something is being done to rectify the situation within the bounds of the law. [Justice] Secretary [Leila] De Lima, I believe, has already submitted another recommendation to the President, so hintayin na lang natin ‘yung magiging action ni President Aquino tungkol sa bagay na ito (so let’s just wait for President Aquino’s action on this issue)," she said in an interview over government-run radio dzRB.

She also expressed concern over the hunger strike being staged by the detainees.

"Ayaw naman nating malagay sa peligro ang buhay ng mga detainees (We don’t want something bad to happen to them), but it's in their discretion at may ginagawa na tayo (and we’re doing something) within the bounds of law," Valte said.

Valte meanwhile expressed hopes the case of the Morong 43 will not derail the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

NDFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni, upon his arrival in the country on Saturday, urged the government to release the 43 health workers, as well as the other political prisoners, as "goodwill and confidence-building measures" for the resumption of the peace talks.

"Wala naman sigurong magiging epekto ito dahil sa nakita natin sa mga nakaraang linggo hindi lang naman ang CPP at ang NDF ang nagtatawag para sa release ng Morong 43. But again, ang ating masasabi sa panahong ito ay something is being done to rectify the situation within the bounds of law," Valte said.

(I don’t think this will have an effect on the peace talks because as we can see not only the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NDF are calling for the release of the Morong 43.)

Valte clarified that the 43 could not be granted amnesty as President Benigno Aquino III’s Proclamation No. 75 covers only the soldiers and policemen who allegedly participated in attempts to bring down the Arroyo administration.

Senator Joker Arroyo earlier suggested to Aquino to grant amnesty to the 43 detainees. - KBK, GMANews.TV

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