Monday, December 6, 2010

SET THEM FREE: A Candlelight Vigil at the Philippine Consulate General for the Detained Health Workers (Morong 43) -On Their First Day of Hunger Strik

Vancouver, B.C. – Around 78 people came out in the rain and the cold to support the early evening vigil for the release of the Filipino detained health workers, or the Morong 43 last December 2nd. It started off with rousing songs of freedom and hope. The Solidarity Notes Labour Choir, composed of activists led by choir director Earle Peach, came to sing for the release of the 43. Yvon Raoul played the bagpipes, music which drowned the sound of traffic from cars and buses. Jim Edmondson from the Vancouver-Kensington Community Singers played his guitar and sang the songs for the Morong 43, including one that he had memorized, “Bayan Ko.”

The crowd at the Philippine Consulate General in downtown Vancouver included members, friends and supporters of the Vancouver Free the 43 Committee, the Alliance for People’s Health, Migrante B.C., the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, the Social Justice Class contingent of the Lord Byng Secondary and other human rights advocates. Candles were lit, “Free the 43” signs held onto and the photos of the detained health workers held high or taped on the glass panels of the building.

Friends of the Morong 43 spoke to the crowd, the pedestrians and people waiting for their buses on why the Morong 43 must be released immediately and unconditionally. They spoke of the illegality of their arrest and detention, the defective search warrant used by the military, the torture and other human rights violations committed on the detainees. Valerie and Yvon Raoul who went to observe the last Philippine elections told their personal stories of meeting the detainees and their families. Aiyanas Ormond and Martha Roberts spoke of the great work done by community health workers in the poor and rural communities, and the personal friendships they made with Rey Macabenta and Dr. Clamor who they met in the Philippines. A Lord Byng Secondary student spoke on behalf of her Social Justice class and was later joined by her teacher, Alain Raoul, who then described the “Write-a-thon” his students would be doing on December 10th. A young student from Tupper Secondary led the crowd into another round of chanting “Free, free, free the 43!”

Aiyanas Ormond from the Alliance of People’s Health broke the news to everyone that the Morong 43 had just declared that they were on hunger strike – the hunger strike started at 6:30 a.m., December 3, Philippine time. That day would have marked their 300 days in detention since their arrest last February. December 3 also marks the International Day in Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

The Morong 43 is made up of 2 doctors, 2 midwives, 1 nurse and 38 community health workers. They are two nursing mothers, Judilyn Oliveros and Mercy Castro; both delivered their babies in detention. There are the sick. Dr. Merry Clamor suffers from uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and infected skin wounds aggravated by poor jail conditions. Jane Balleta is epileptic and has had seizures in prison. Both have been taken to the hospital by the military in the recent past. There are the elderly. Dr. Alex Montes and community health worker Lydia Obera are both in their sixties.

Free the 43 Committee members Valerie Raoul delivered a letter for Philippine President Aquino to the staff of the Philippine Consulate General.

Valerie Raoul

Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada)
1230 East 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604.224.3723
Photo: JR Guerrero
Photo: JR Guerrero
Photo: JR Guerrero

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