Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inescapable Conclusion

by Atty. Alnie G. Foja

Today, I was awakened with thoughts of Doc Merry and Rey. Doc Merry (Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor) and Rey (Reynaldo Macabenta) are two of those illegally arrested at a health training in Morong, Rizal and who are now being illegally detained at Camp Capinpin.

Who are Doc Merry and Rey? Doc Merry is the humble doctor who very diligently checked up my father’s ears sometime in 2008. She is the doctor who would, every now and then, check up Manang Grace, a member of my household. Doc Merry is the same doctor who looks after Lisa and me and who also entertain us every time we visit the CHD office, which is a very short drive from where we live, for acupuncture treatment from Celes.

When Manang Grace saw her on TV as one of the Morong 43 accused of being an NPA medic, she frantically ran up to the third floor to tell Lisa about it. She simply could not believe it! And rightfully so, for Doc Merry was always at the CHD ever ready and willing to provide practically free medical service to whoever comes in. Doc Merry is one of the few medical practitioners who chose to help bring the medical service closer to those who can least afford it.

Doc Merry is also the same doctor who accompanied her friend Celes and me to court hearings in Pasig. For a time we joked at how she was almost refused entrance to the courtroom for wearing a nice and decent but sleeveless blouse. She ended up wearing my coat. After the hearing, she celebrated with members of my law office the dismissal of the case against Celes. And so when people at my office learned that Doc Merry was one of Morong 43, they too were as dumbfounded as Manang Grace was.

Rey, on the other hand, is that quiet young man at CHD. He is almost always at the clinic every time we visit. He has been CHD’s full-time and regular driver for 5 years now. I was told that, aside from being a driver, Rey does the technical repairs of CHD’s appliances and equipment and that in December last year he enrolled in a TESDA training. Rey now is being accused as one of those who had been identified as member of the NPA team that allegedly raided a police post in Rodriguez, Rizal on December 20, 2009.

It is at CHD that I came to know Doc Merry and Rey. CHD’s clinic is located at Examiner’s Street in Quezon City, not so far from Pres. Cory’s residence. Its doctors and health workers are respectable medical practitioners who provide medical service to those who, as I said, can least afford it. And what is a lawyer like me doing at CHD? I am regular visitor because the acupuncture that Celes gives me relaxes my muscles and puts my mind to rest.

In case you are wondering, let me assure you, I am not an NPA.

I find myself writing an article such as this because I cannot seem to erase from my mind the looks in Doc Merry’s and Rey’s faces when I personally saw them in their detention cells at Camp Capinpin last Thursday. Doctor Merry managed to smile but her eyes betrayed the suffering that she and the rest of Morong 43 are heartlessly made to go through. We hugged several times, said a few things to each other, but I cannot even remember what she told me (or what I told her) – her eyes said it all.

For his part, Rey was simply speechless for a while but what I can’t forget was what he said about having to admit that he is an LFS member after the military insisted that he is one. I was told that the military found a student ID in his belongings – - perhaps the ID that he was issued at TESDA. In the military’s documents, Rey is being claimed to be an NPA member who took part in the Rodriguez raid and who has “admitted” to be an LFS member of LFS’ Cubao Chapter. Now, I do not know if that chapter exists!!

In closing, I have to admit that writing this arouses some fear within me. Fear that I would, henceforth, be branded as an Atenean lawyer (who also happens to be Liza Maza’s and Gabriela’s and Gabriela Women’s Party’s lawyer, an NUPL member, a part of Atty. Romeo Capulong’s team in the Batasan 6 and Nueva Ecija cases, and a friend of many activists) who patronizes acupuncture and who must, therefore, be an NPA lawyer or sympathizer.

Now, that’s talking of how rules of logic and evidence must have drastically changed!

The Doctor is IN (JAIL)

by Dr. Nickson Austria

My lacrimal glands are overworked with anger as I write this.

Just recently a group of 43 health workers and close friends were arrested in a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal for conducting trainings in health care. Amongst them are 2 doctors, one a surgeon from the south having taken time off his busy clinic schedule for his “retirement” and the other a mother of 2 her youngest an 11-month old, taking time off “moonlighting” from different hospitals, both opting to spend their time training community health workers serving in areas so far flung that the words “Marcos” and “Philippines” fail to ring a bell amongst locals.

I am no sucker of ad misericordiams and so are Drs Meri and Alex. In fact if you ask them they will never consider themselves as heroes though their efforts are not a bit less heroic. In times when most of our colleagues opt to stay in carpeted air-conditioned clinics earning big bucks for their services, some actually a handful of others volunteer to hold clinics in waiting sheds, farmhouses and even under the trees to help those who have neglected for so long in exchange for smiles and salamat, docs .

Furthermore these doctors did the extra mile training community health workers to impart their knowledge and skills in the hope to broaden the base of an already dwindling number of skilled personnel ready to render services in the barrios. Quite outrageously, the AFP thanks them with illegal detention, trumped up charges on top of physical and mental torture.

Also one of these "bomb- making experts" is Mama Del or Del Obera, a 60 something health worker who has no public declaration as to her age for obvious reasons. Mama Del is a health professional but by the way I know her I sincerely doubt her capacity to understand the complexities of making bombs or even to entertain thoughts of making such for the creation of mass hysteria to jeopardize the elections as per AFP claims. Though terrorists can really be masters of deception, they still follow common/practical sense. A feeble sixty something lola who if my memory serves me right does not even know to navigate the internet, as a member of an elite group of explosive specialists and assassins? Who is next Rosa Rosal harboring weapons of mass destruction in the Red Cross blood banks?

I am appalled with the absurd conclusions of the AFP’s intelligence service or the obvious lack of intelligence in the AFP itself. They must at least have done a profile check of the people they are about to arrest. The list of these unlikely suspects totals to all 43 and they are all real people like us.

The AFP is also setting a dangerous precedent to the conduct of future search and arrests for matters of the state. Armed with a search warrant issued by a Cavite RTC they raided a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal. These dimwits in the AFP took the name Regional Trial Court quite literally and expanded the jurisdiction of the Cavite branch to the entire Southern Tagalog which is of course absurd in legal parlance. The Velmontes have every right to refuse the execution of the warrant for it violates the simplest judicial protocols on jurisdiction, which states that the warrant should have been issued by a Rizal RTC. Even the address written in the warrant was unclear, it only stated Bgy Maybangkal, Morong, Rizal and nowhere in it was the Velmonte farm mentioned. If it were to be followed, the entire barangay can be searched which is absurd and reminiscent of martial law.

Also the AFP claimed to have an arrest warrant for a certain Mr. Conde who happens to be not one of the 43. These people are being detained for orders not valid and clearly not intended for them. If this is how the AFP executes the law, anyone of us can be searched, arrested and detained anywhere we are in the Philippines for a warrant issued against a certain Ping Lacson.

I am a doctor and not lawyer but somehow there seems to be something gravely wrong if this continues to be the conduct of things. Just to drive it home, the AFP has no right to serve the warrant as these people they alleged to be doing illegal activities are non combatants and unarmed. Even if it were a subversion case, the basis which of by the way is no longer in existence, the PNP should be the implementing agency and they should be detained by the BJMP and not the AFP.

Lastly I am also concerned on the impact of these arrests to the future of community medicine. Given the current situation, low compensation, physical isolation, political instability and lack of career growth options have already taken their toll on the few kindred souls who stay in the far flung barrios. Adding illegal arrests, torture and harassment plus the serious threats to our lives, I doubt if a barrio based practice remains to be one of the career options for any of our young doctors and medical students. In the end as always the underserved communities are the ones in the receiving end of this tragedy, tao na naman ang talo.

There is but one way to at least do some damage control, it is for the AFP to apologize for their errors, to punish those who abused their authority and to FREE THE 43. NOW.

Letter from Maquila Solidarity Network








February 22, 2010

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
E-mail:corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

Dear Mrs Macapagal-Arroyo;

We are writing to draw your attention to the case of 43 persons who were arrested, detained and tortured by military and the police on February 6, 2010. A partial list of the persons detained includes:
  • Dr Mery Mia, Health Education and Training Services Coordinator for Council for Health and Development (CHD)
  • Dr Alexis Montes
  • Gary Liberal, Registered Nurse (Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center)
  • Teresa Quinawayan, Midwife
  • Lydia Ubera, Health Worker
  • Reynaldo Macabenta, Health Worker
  • Delia Ocasla, Health Worker
  • Jane Balleta, Health Worker
  • Janice Javier, Health Worker
  • Ailene Monasteryo, Health Worker
  • Pearl Irene Martinez, Health Worker
  • Ellen Carandang, Health Worker
  • Dany Panero, Health Worker
  • Rayom Among, Health Worker
  • Emily Marquez, Health Worker

On February 1, around 40 medical practitioners and health workers participated in a First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD) at Dr. Melecia Velmonte's Farm, a conference and training facility in Morong Rizal.

Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a consultant at the Philippine General Hospital. Her farm is a regular venue of health trainings, with participants coming from both the communities and academia.

According to initial reports, at 6:15 am on February 6, 2010, around 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the farm, frisking, handcuffing, blindfolding, interrogating and arresting the medical practitioners and health workers.

Human rights organizations report that police used a warrant that did not specify the address and referred to someone who was not the owner of the property. Human rights organizations also report that, since their detention, relatives and human rights groups have not been allowed access to the arrestees.

We are deeply concerned by the reports of irregularities in the manner of arrest and searches, as well as allegations that the victims were tortured and deprived of contact with their legal counsel.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has previously documented numerous cases of activists who were prosecuted over fabricated charges. In fact, two of the 43 arrestees, Franco Romeroso and Janice Javier, were previously arrested, tortured and prosecuted in September 2008. At the time of this prior arrest, they were hung upside-down, electrocuted, and forced to admit that they were members of a rebel group. However the local prosecutor in Cavite dismissed the charges in June 2009 for lack of probable cause. Although the charges in that case were ultimately dismissed, the police and military's arbitrary use of legal process is of serious concern.

We urge you to form an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into the raid and arrest of the health workers and should the allegations of torture and illegal arrest be verified, immediately release the arrestees and drop all charges against them.

Your sincerely,

signed:
Lynda Yanz
Executive Director
Maquila Solidarity Network


CC:
Ms Leila De Lima, Commission on Human Rights
Asian Human Rights Commission
Deputy Director General Jesus A Versoza, Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Ms Agnes Devanadera, Secretary, Department of Justice (DoJ)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Joint Statement by Japanese NGOs concerning Human Rights Violation in the Philippines

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: corres@op.gov. ph/ opnet@ops.gov. ph

February 26, 2010


Dear Ms. President,

We, the undersigned, have expressed grave concerns over the serious violation of human rights in the Philippines, such as political killings and enforced disappearance rampant during your administration, and have continuously urged you to address this problem. Our Japanese government has also formally expressed “the strong concerns among the Japanese about the human rights situation in the Philippines” to you several times, and has called upon your appropriate measures, especially in the context of the provision in the four (4) principles of ODA implementation of Japan’s ODA Charter, or “full attention should be paid to efforts for promoting …… the situation regarding the protection of basic human rights and freedoms to the recipient country.”

Likewise, domestic and international societies, including the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Philip Alston, have pointed that the significant number of killings, disappearances or tortures have been attributed to the military and the police of your country. In order to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines, they have recommended the necessity of the acknowledgement by the military and the re-evaluation on problematic aspects of counter-insurgency strategy, where legal organizations and civilian activists are labeled as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

Although your government has announced some measures, such as an action plan, in response to those various domestic and international calls, we are disturbed again that the cases of severe human rights violation by the military and the police have been still reported and seems to be even increasing recently before the coming election in the Philippines. Most recently, the one of those is the illegal detention of 43 health workers holding a health skills training seminar, accused as members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Rizal Province.

Also, we are shocked very much that the voters education on the automated election system held by a women NGO in Bohol province was monitored and was tagged as insurgency by the military last January. Some of the undersigned have worked closely with the NGO, or the Women’s Development Center (WDC) and its Executive Director, who were labeled by the military as part of a structure of the underground communists. It is to be deplored that one of our longtime friends and her organization, which have been addressing the problems caused by the Bohol Irrigation Project funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), are currently suffering from the human rights violation by the state agency of the Philippines.

We therefore reiterate our calls to you, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to;
  • Immediately stop using the policy of targeting civilian organizations and individual activists under the counter-insurgency program
  • Immediately release the 43 health workers who are illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal;
  • Stop tagging the voters education on the automated election system held by the WDC in Bohol as insurgency;
  • Condemn all human rights violation consistently and at every level of government;
  • Ensure that those responsible for human rights violation, including political killings and enforced disappearance, are brought to justice in accordance with international standards.

Respectfully,

Cebu-Bohol Solidarity Network
Friends of the Earth-Japan

Contact:
Cebu-Bohol Solidarity Network
c/o Chair Person Nishii Kazuhiro
Address:
19-1 Nakamichi Honkanbe, Imaise-cho
Ichinomiya City, AICHI #491-0053, JAPAN
Tel & Fax: +81-586-23-5017
E-mail:nishiikaz@nifty.com


With copy to:
Gen. Avelino Razon, Ret. PNP
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue, Pasig City, Philippines
Voice: +63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax: +63 (2) 638 2216
Email: osec@opapp.gov.ph

Secretary Norberto Gonzales
Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: +63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax: +63(2) 911 6213
Email: osnd@philonline.com

Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila, Philippines
Direct Line: +63(2) 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline: +63(2) 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: +63(2) 521-1614
Email: soj@doj.gov.ph

Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: +63(2) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: +63(2) 929 0102
Email: chr.delima@yahoo.com

H.E. Domingo L. Siazon, Jr.
Philippine Ambassador to Japan
5-15-5 Roppongi Minato-ku
Tokyo 106-8537, Japan
Tel: +81(3) 5562-1600
Fax: +81(3) 5562-1603

Mr. Makoto KATSURA
Japanese Ambassador to the Republic of Philippines
2627 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Philippines
c/o Embassy of Japan
P.O. BOX 414, Pasay Central Office
Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63(2) 551-5710
Fax: +63(2) 551-5780

Mr. Shiro SADOSHIMA
Director-General
International Cooperation Bureau
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Kasumigaseki 2-2-1, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +81(3)-3580-3311 ext. 3591

On Republic Act 7438

Reference:
Julie P. Caguiat, MD
0909-1133038 / 929-8109

We, volunteer medical doctors, strongly condemn the continuing psychological torture inflicted upon the 43 health workers illegally detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippine at Camp Capinpin. We also deplore the military’s disrespect for the basic human rights of the detained health workers, including their right to medical services. Despite repeated requests from lawyers and family members, we have been denied entry by the camp authorities nine times. We were only allowed to see the detainees on February 11 (six days since their illegal arrest) and only upon the intervention by the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, and on February 24, when only one of the 3 physicians was allowed to enter. Under severely restricted conditions, the check-ups merely lasted for 10-15 minutes and under the scrutiny of 2-3 guards standing in close proximity, which made our patients feel uneasy. Such is the violation of their right to health and their right to privacy.

After the medical check-ups, we still endorsed our patients and their particular medical needs to their custodians. However, to date, no medical intervention has been made accordingly.

According to reports from the families, our colleagues who are now our patients continue to suffer from various physical and mental conditions. Two of them asked their custodians for emergency medical help but no medical attention was provided.

Under Republic Act 7438 Sec. 2(f), “Any person arrested or detained or under custodial investigation shall be allowed visits by or conferences with any member of his immediate family, or any medical doctor or priest or religious minister chosen by him or by any member of his immediate family or by his counsel... The person's "immediate family" shall include his or her spouse, fiancé or fiancée, parent or child, brother or sister, grandparent or grandchild, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, and guardian or ward.”

These provisions, meant to recognize both the needs and the rights of the detained health workers, are being violated on a daily basis.

Hence, we demand that the rights of the 43 detained health workers be recognized. We demand an immediate end to torture.

Free the 43 health workers now!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dr. Carolyn V. Enriquez, Letter of Support

I am writing in support of Dra Merry Mia who has been illegally arrested and detained together with the other Morong 43 health workers. Have known Merry since medschool and she has been an active student leaderin our organization and has been an advocate of community based projects even before. Spearheading countless medmissions for our less fortunate countrymen even as a medstudent. I admire her selflessness and dedication for she opted to pursue a career as NGO volunteer instead of going into residency training or moon lighting for a more lucrative career path.

Being progressive in your speech or proactive in community works doesn't make you an NPA. Its unfair that she has been detained illegally and being branded as leftist. We live in the post martial law era where freedom of expression and beliefs is encouraged and respected. Everyone is entitled to his/her own political beliefs.

Illegally detaining these innocent health workers will act as catalyst that will deter other doctors and health workers from going into the rurals to engage in community work.

We call for the immediate release of the Morong 43. Pls send in testimonial of support for our colleague and alumnus Dra Merry MIa thru headphil@gmail.com. Lets pray that justice be rendered to the victims of this tragic incident.

Carolyn V. Enriquez, MD, DPPS
Cavite

Lawyer bares sexual harassment of ‘Morong 43’ women

NIKKA CORSINO, GMANews.TV

The female members of the so-called Morong 43 had been subjected to sexual threats by their military captors, according to their lawyer.

“Accounts reveal that they are being subjected to sexual threats and physical touching of a sexual nature during interrogations," lawyer Evelyn Ursua said in a phone interview with GMANews.TV on Wednesday.

Morong 43 refers to the 43 health workers arrested in Morong, Rizal last February 6 on suspicions that they are members and supporters of communist guerrillas.

According to Ursua, women detainees were subjected to verbal threats such as “Anong magagawa mo kung ire-rape kita ngayon (What will you do if I rape you)" and “Gusto mo ba kung huhubaran ka namin at paliguan ka (Do you want us to bathe you naked)."

The military, on the other hand, dismissed this as propaganda.

“All these are propaganda. The military is not foolish to do such things seeing. It is a policy of the military to uphold human rights," said Armed Forces public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a separate phone interview.

Ursua said the 43 detained workers must be immediately transferred to a civilian facility instead of being detained in the military facility where she said they are continuously interrogated.

“They are being subjected to continuous interrogation, the latest of which was yesterday [Tuesday]. This is a clear violation of our law, because no interrogation must be allowed without a legal counsel," she said.

Ursua was among those permitted to talk to the detainees, who are detained in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal. The others were Alnie Foja, Dr. Hazel Soriano, and Senators Loren Legarda and Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby" Madrigal.

Brawner said they are open to the transfer of the detainees to a provincial jail, but he claimed that the detainees themselves do not want to.

“We are open to the possibility of transferring them to a provincial jail, but it is [they] who do not want to be transferred because conditions here [Camp Capinpin] are better than in provincial jails," he said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Continuous harassment of health workers in other places of the country


35 Examiner Street, West Triangle Homes
Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: (02)929-8109
Email: chdmancom@gmail.com

Eleanor A. Jara, MD
cellfone: 0917-9789297/(632)929-8109

The harassment and intimidation of health workers continue to spread around the country. The incidents following the illegal arrest, detention, and continuous torture of 43 health workers on February 6 send a chilling effect among health professionals alike who are rendering services in rural communities.

On February 10, two staff with two Swedish exchange students of the Mobile Nursing Clinic (MNC) of the Saint Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City. They were accosted by personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) when they were coordinating for a presentation of MNC entry plans with the Sangguniang Bayan in one of the municipalities of Benguet. The lady police officer told the coordinator of MNC that “her boss” wanted to get their names and needed to know why they were in the area. She said that they were on red alert since the incident in Morong, Rizal happened.

The Community Health Education, Services, and Training in the Cordillera Region or CHESTCORE issued a statement denouncing said incident. “These terrifying incidents send wrong signals to health professionals wanting to serve the people in the countryside. Serving the people is now more than just self sacrifice and giving up comfortable lives, it means giving up so much more because of the dangers that go with it. Yet despite these, the committed health professionals and health workers opted to stay behind to serve the Filipino masses, resisting the bandwagon of overseas migration that would have given them opportunities of earning the much needed cash for their families. Hence, they do not deserve such treatment! They must be regarded instead as the unsung heroes of the country,” Dr. Erlinda Palaganas, RN, member of CHESTCORE’s Board of Directors said.

Meanwhile in Davao del Sur, Community Health Worker (CHW) Benjei Faldas, a 38 yo male, has been falsely accused of participating in an armed encounter between the New People’s Army and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on January 20, 2010 resulting in the injury of CAA Antonio Amo. On February 11, Faldas together with nine others were reportedly charged with the frustrated murder of Amo. CHD’s regional partner, Urban Integrated Health Services (UIHS) condemned this latest incident, “we cannot understand why health workers are subjected to such treatment by the Armed Forces of the state. Faldas was falsely accused. Hence, cannot anymore tend his rice fields or man the community clinic and pharmacy.” The community clinic and pharmacy in Barangay Sibulan in Davao del Sur was funded by the European Union through CHD and UIHS under the project Bringing Health into the People’s Hands.

This string of incidents against health workers of community-based health programs shows the AFP’s brazenness and utter disrespect of human rights. Health workers are continuously subjected to persecution for mere allegations and suspicions of “subversive “association.

“We call on the attention of the European Union and other international agencies who believe in the sanctity of human rights to state their positions regarding the continuous and aggravating harassments of health workers in the Philippines. We likewise enjoin the entire Filipino people and the international community to put pressure on the Philippine government and the AFP to stop the harassment of health workers all over the country. We also enjoin everybody to demand for a stop to the torture and illegal detention of the 43 health workers,” Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, Executive Director of the Council for Health and Development concluded.##

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CHD: AFP is a shameless institution


35 Examiner Street, West Triangle Homes
Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: (02)929-8109
Email: chdmancom@gmail.com

Eleanor A. Jara, MD
cellfone: 0917-9789297

“Plain shameless and inhumane,” was how Dr. Eleanor A. Jara described the declaration of the The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that it is giving the fourth-highest military award – the Bronze Cross Medal -- to Colonel Aurelio Baladad and Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Abawag this Wednesday in Camp Nakar in Lucena City, home of the Southern Luzon Command. The two military officers were directly involved in the illegal arrest, detention, and continuing torture of 43 health workers last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

“In order to receive promotion and recognition in their careers, the officials of the AFP can tweak the truth and justify their lies at the expense of innocent civilians,” Jara said. The 43 health workers have been languishing in prison for trumped up charges since their illegal arrest.

“The health workers’ and their families’ basic human rights have been violated by the AFP and PNP and the government awards them for that. It all the more exposes the corrupted values this government has,” Jara lamented.

According to Jara, it is simply immoral and bereft of humanity to honor those who led the illegal arrest and continued torture of their colleagues who were undergoing health skills training in the house of a renowned infectious disease specialist and professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines.

Jara added that Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr’s claim that they are conferring the said award in “honor” of their feat is tantamount to honoring human rights violators and promotion-driven military officials who will prey on any citizen of this nation.

“They dragged, blindfolded, handcuffed without any reason and tortured our colleagues and now they are being rewarded with highest recognition? Where is the honor in that?” Jara asked.

She added that this latest conferment of medals further exposes the AFP as a shameless institution.

CHD, founded in 1989, is the national secretariat of more than fifty Community-Based Health Programs (CBHP) in the Philippines.

The case of the 43 health workers is now of international interest as different rights groups and health professionals all over the world, including the sister of EU President Herman Van Rompuy, keep signifying their call to immediately release the 43 health workers.##

Reporter's Notebook: Morong 43


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Monday, February 22, 2010

Human Rights Advocates Deliver Petitions and Prayers For the 43 Health Workers to Senator Boxer’s Office

Reference:
Kuusela Hilo
Vice Chair of BAYAN-USA
vc@bayanusa.org
(818) 395-9207

Los Angeles , California --Concerned leaders and human rights advocates representing various communities in Los Angeles sent a delegation to speak with California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s office. They met with Senator Boxer’s office to deliver petitions signed by over 500 people and organizations to demand the immediate release of the 43 health workers who have been illegally arrested, detained, and tortured by the Philippine military since February 6, 2010. Representatives of the delegation urged Senator Boxer to continue her commitment to human rights by supporting the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 and to stop human rights violations in the Philippines .

The delegation included community leaders Reverend David Farley and Reverend Sandra Richards of the United Methodist Church; Melissa Roxas, a survivor of abduction and torture in the Philippines; Chito Quijano of California Nurses’ Association and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS); Kuusela Hilo of BAYAN-USA and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA); representatives from the organizations AnakBayan Los Angeles; Habi Arts; Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken!; International Action Center; Confederation of Iranians; and other concerned individuals.

ILPS representative Quijano stated, “We request Senator Barbara Boxer to support the release of the 43. As long as the 43 health workers are languishing in a 'Guantanamo-like prison' and the Philippine military continues violating human rights, no U.S. tax dollars should be given to the Philippine government.”

In 2008, following a hearing in the United States Senate on the human rights situation in the Philippines, convened by Sen. Boxer, the US Congress voted to withhold $2 million of 2009 military aid until the Philippine government complied with certain human rights conditions. However, the Philippine government has not made any significant efforts to improve the human rights situation in their country. The Ampatuan Massacre in November 2009, which saw the slaying of 58 people, along with the illegal arrest and abuse of the 43 health workers at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines only demonstrate the worsening human rights conditions in the country.

Rev. Richards, Rev. Farley, and Hilo took part in the United Methodist Church California Pacific Pastoral and Solidarity visit to the Philippines last week. They also participated in a delegation that visited the 43 health workers illegally detained in the military Camp Capinpin . Rev. Richards shared her firsthand accounts with Senator Boxer’s office, including the conversations with the families of the 43 detained health workers and the forum with Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima. Rev. Richards concluded, “Regardless of whether one believes that the 43 health workers are innocent of the charges, it is a fact beyond doubt that their civil and human rights have been violated. They were forced to sit handcuffed and blindfolded for 36 straight hours, were not told with what they were being charged, were not allowed to lie down or sleep, and were fed and toileted by strangers. This kind of torture is illegal in the Philippines . The military has shown extreme disregard for human rights and the law of the country they are meant to protect.”

Rev. Richards elaborated, “The global United Methodist Church has determined that two of its four goals are: global health and ministry with the poor. The 43 health workers were living out this call. It's troubling that the Philippine government has criminalized the work on behalf of these goals. If these selfless acts of mercy are allowed to be categorized as criminal, then who can be safe?”

Rev. Richards highlighted, “The United States is widely seen as a partner in the Philippine Military, and is a funder. If the U.S. Government does not step in to free these health workers, the United States Government will have become a party to religious persecution of the Christians in the Philippines .”

On February 15, 2010, after the petitioning for writ of habeas corpus and mounting public pressure, the Philippine military presented the 43 health workers to the Court of Appeals. The testimony from one of the victims, Dr. Alex Montes, shows proof of psychological torture, physical abuse and other inhumane and degrading treatment of the detainees. The deadline for the court to make a decision on the writ of habeas corpus is Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

“All the 43 health workers did was to serve the poor and the most vulnerable in society and they filled a great need that the Philippine government was not able to provide,” stated Roxas. “I know what it feels like to be detained and tortured. No human being should have to go through that. The situation is critical. Every day that the 43 health workers are not released, it is one more day they have to endure of pain, fear, and torture. We demand the immediate release of the 43 health workers. We need to help stop human rights violations in the Philippines .”

An on-going petition http://www.petitiononline.com/Free43/petition.html has been launched online. All supporters of human rights are invited to join the international effort to Free the 43. More information can be found at http://www.freethehealthworkers.blogspot.com/

Reynaldo Macabenta: A Loving Father, Devoted Co-Worker

By Ronalyn V. Olea
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Mikaela Marie turned three years old last February 5. Her father, Reynaldo Macabenta, was on a health training that day but he promised her that he would come home the following day for her birthday celebration. She waited but soldiers and policemen prevented her father from coming home.

At around 10 p.m., Rey’s wife, Ma. Christina or Maricris, received a text message from Rey’s colleagues at the Council for Health and Development (CHD) telling her that something happened. It was only the following morning that Maricris came to know about Rey’s arrest.

Rey works as a driver for the CHD, a nongovernment organization dedicated to building community-based health programs (CBHPs). He was among the 43 who were arrested by around 300 combined elements of the police and military in Morong, Rizal, on Feb. 6. Along with the others, he was handcuffed, blindfolded and brought to Camp Capinpin. The 43 were branded as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Upon hearing the news of Rey’s arrest, Maricris was shocked. “Rey has been to many urban poor communities, accompanying his colleagues at the CHD in conducting medical missions and health trainings. I did not expect that something like this would happen,” Maricris told Bulatlat.

Rey has been the CHD’s driver since 2003. He also takes on other tasks in the office.

“Helping others has now become a crime,” Maricris said, in reaction to the military’s allegations. “It hurts me… They [military] could not even produce evidence,” she added.

Rey and Mariciris grew up together inside the Religious of Good Shepherd (RGS) convent in Quezon City. Both of their parents worked at the convent. Rey himself worked there as a driver and as a seller at the bakeshop. The two got married in 2000.

A Loving Father

The couple has two daughters. The eldest, Barbie Abigail, is seven years old.

Maricris describes her husband as a loving father. “He loves his children so much. Whenever he comes home, he would play with them. They would play computer games or watch television together,” Maricris said.

Rey would always check on the studies of his eldest daughter, now in Grade 2. “He would always guide her in her assignments,” Maricris said. “He is more patient [with the kids], too.”

Rey would also bring home something for the kids. “He brings them sandwiches and tetra-pack juice. He could have eaten those himself but instead he would give them to his daughters,” Maricris said as she wiped her tears. “I just miss how he took care of us.”

Maricris said her daughters, especially their eldest, always ask when their father would come home. “She [Barbie] has been sad since and would always cry. They are the most affected.”

She had taken her two daughters to Camp Capinpin to see Rey. However, Rey told her not to take the children to the camp again. It turned out that the military has been threatening Rey that they would harm his family.

“The soldiers took his wallet and they saw our family picture. They were telling Rey that they know our whereabouts,” Maricris said.

Fearing for her children’s security, Maricris talked to the school’s principal and requested for a leave of absence for her eldest daughter.

Maricris said Rey has been subjected to continuous interrogation. “They [soldiers] would ask him names of persons… They insisted that he is a member of the LFS [League of Filipino Students]. They would hit him and he felt that he was being electrocuted at times.”

Good Co-Worker

Rey is also a good co-worker, his colleagues at the CHD said.

“He is the silent type and is shy maybe because he grew up inside the convent,” said Vicky Neri. During lunch time, Vicky said, Rey would still hesitate to eat with them. “That’s how shy he is.”

“He is very responsible and would take on any task given to him. He does not know how to say ‘No.’” Vicky added.

Katha, another colleague, agreed. “You can always rely on him. Even during weekends, he would always be ready to fulfill tasks without complaining.”

“He is a loving father. He would always talk about his daughters,” said Katha. “When one of his children gets sick, he becomes frantic and worried,” added Vicky.

Coming Home

Maricris said even now, Rey would always think about them. “He would ask me if I am tired and would always say I have to take a rest.”

She visits Rey every day. They are allowed to talk for only 20 minutes per visit.

“Even if this is painful, I try to be strong for the kids. I also do not want Rey to see me crying. I will not stop until he finally comes home,” Maricris said.

Rey missed her daughter’s third birthday. This March 17, the couple would mark their 10th anniversary. “I hope by then, he would be free,” Maricris said.

Gary Liberal: Dedicated Head Nurse, Committed Unionist Now Finds Self Under the Gun

By Marya Salamat
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — After 18 years of working as nurse at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC), a public hospital in Manila, Gary Liberal, 43, is now head nurse at its operating room. With his experience and good record, as the JRMMC itself attested to last Feb. 10, he has had ample opportunities to work abroad and earn a bigger salary. But he chose not to take any of them.

“For Gary, the need to serve his fellow Filipinos here has prevailed,” Emma Manuel, president of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), told Bulatlat.

Gary is also union president of the health workers and employees at JRMMC, as well as auditor of the progressive nationwide Alliance of Health Workers (AHW). His colleagues at the JRMMC and fellow union leaders from other public hospitals praised his honest, capable services as a nurse and his calm, persevering leadership in public health workers’ campaigns.

Apart from being their much-loved colleague, Gary is also a board member of the organization of nurses in operating rooms, said John Paul Gubaton, another nurse from JRMMC and auditor of their employees’ union.

Last Feb. 5, after five days of straight duty, Gary ditched a comfortable Friday night’s rest in his own home to travel for more than three hours to Morong, Rizal, the site of an intensive health training for community health workers sponsored by the Council for Health and Development (CHD) and COMMED. In that training, he had a topic to deliver, called “Basic Life Support.”

Although Gary was scheduled to deliver his topic on Saturday, Feb 6, he requested the sponsors of the training to let him sleep at the venue Friday night so he would not be late the next day.

When he got down and saw soldiers prowling the resort of Dr. Melecia Velmonte that morning of Feb 6, he thought they were just passing by en route to a fiesta. But the military handcuffed him and the rest of the 42 others with him — resource persons like him, participants in the training, the staff and even the driver of the CHD.

Some 300 soldiers herded and brought them blindfolded to what turned out to be Camp Capinpin, a military camp where the 2nd Infantry Division of the army is based. There, they were interrogated, kept handcuffed and blindfolded for 36 hours and held incommunicado for days until furious public reaction forced the military to open their camp for brief periods to relatives of the detainees and to their lawyers.

The nurse who has been working for 18 years at the JRMMC with good service record as attested to by the JRMMC itself suddenly became a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), according to the military. He was there, the military alleged, not to train health workers how to save lives but how to make bombs.

At first, Gary and the 42 other health workers were accused of being members of the NPA’s military commission in training to make explosives. They were later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. When the charges didn’t fly, the military admitted they were health workers, indeed, but still accused them of working under the NPA’s “health bureau,” which the military said is the rebels’ version of the Department of Health.

It has been two weeks now since they were arrested and detained. “This is two weeks that Gary Liberal and the other detained health workers could have spent in service to the health needs of our people,” Manuel said.

“Our Operating Room Head Nurse and Union President Gary Liberal together with others have suffered long enough for two weeks just because they are serving the less fortunate,” said Gubaton, his colleague at JRMMC. Gary is currently on an “indefinite leave” from the JRMMC.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Health workers detained in the Philippines

Original Text
Margaret Harris Cheng
The Lancet


Human-rights groups are concerned for the welfare of 43 Filipino health workers who were arrested by government forces while attending a training seminar. Margaret Harris Cheng reports. Typhoon Ketsana, the massive storm that wreaked havoc in the Philippines, continues to have consequences. But for a group of 43 community health workers, nurses, and doctors now languishing in a military prison, the consequences were way beyond their worst nightmares.

The group was taking part in a week-long training seminar organised by the Community Medicine Foundation, to build first-responders capacity at provincial level, so the effects of disasters like Ketsana could be mitigated.

Participants had come from all parts of the Philippines to a farm in Rizal, east of Manila, owned by Melecia Velmonte, a leading infectious diseases specialist who regularly lends her farm to medical organisations for conferences, training sessions, and meetings.

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines, viewed the seminar as something entirely different. They insist that what was going on was a terrorist training camp where participants were being trained to make explosives. At first light on Feb 6 they swooped on the farm to achieve what they described as their biggest-ever mass arrest of insurgents.

“Around 6.15 am, 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the farm”, says a report released by the human rights Karapatan (whose deputy general secretary is married to one of the doctors arrested during the raid).

“At gunpoint, the military forced the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.”

“When Dr Velmonte and her son, Bob demanded for a search warrant, they were merely brushed aside by the military. All medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed…The male victims were then blindfolded with old shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape. All of the personal belongings of the victims were also taken by the military.”

While the medical workers waited outside, cuffed and blindfolded, wondering what would happen next, the soldiers searched their sleeping quarters. There they found, according to an official announcement made later that day, C4 (composition 4) explosives, a gun with seven bullets, and three hand grenades. One of the grenades was allegedly found under someone's pillow.

“Would you hide a grenade under your pillow?” asked Roneo Clamor, husband of one of the detainees, Mary Mia-Clamor, during a press conference held by relatives and friends to demand that the 43 individuals be freed immediately.

Their demands fell on deaf ears. The health workers remain locked up in a military camp in Rizal—the women all in one room, the men in smaller cells in ones and twos. Relatives who have been able to see them for short periods say they have been tortured, and subjected to lengthy interrogation, sleep deprivation, and, in some instances, sexual abuse.

Their military captors say the interrogations have yielded evidence that some were involved in attempts to abduct senior commanders involved in counter-insurgency operations. However, this has yet to be tested legally. The Philippines' supreme court issued a writ of habeas corpus commanding the military to produce the 43 in court on Feb 12, but they did not, citing a “lack of resources”. They eventually produced the health workers in court on Feb 15.

To outsiders the two versions—a disaster medicine training seminar and a terrorist training camp—are so far apart, the arrests seem absurd. But those familiar with the extrajudicial arrests, detentions, and killings often done in the name of counter-insurgency by a powerful, well funded military poorly controlled by the judiciary or the elected government, are not surprised.

Doctors who choose to become community health specialists and work with poor people in the provinces, are automatically considered leftists and targeted. “It's sending a really bad message—not only to the health sector…we already have problems with our health-care delivery and now doctors are frightened of going to the provinces”, said Gene Nisperos of the Health Alliance for Democracy.

STATEMENT on the Morong 43 by the Concerned Health Professionals of Davao City

We view with profound concern the illegal arrest and torture of the 43 community health development workers in Morong, Rizal. Among them are the health professionals who decided to stay in our country despite the blatant lack of support system inherent in the State’s health care delivery system. This incident totally defies a logical frame of mind in the face of the abominable health situation of our people.

These are community health workers who are the real health practitioners trying to participate meaningfully in health development and broader community development work while struggling to support their own families.

The arrest and torture of the 43 are appalling. We are horrified by the apparent display of disregard and lack of concern for health care workers who should even be upheld for doing the job and obligation of the government to bring health closer to the people despite, threats to their lives. We are concerned because there is still so much to be done for the marginalized majority whose health needs the State failed to prioritize. We are concerned because the very people who try to bridge this health gap have been subjected to harassment and in a number of instances, killed shamelessly, even if they are unarmed and helpless.

Our government has been sending away world class health professionals for the dollars, draining the country with much needed human resources in health that should have addressed the basic health needs of our people.

The health professionals, especially our best, seem to be traded in Japan for garbage through JPEPA. As if these exploitations and marginalization were not enough, the health workers who chose to stay and respond to the widespread health care needs of our people are now being subjected to different forms of harassment and torture.

Dr. Alexis Montes, who is known among his colleagues as a man of principle and professionalism is now being besmirched by biased claims of the military. They ignore the fact that Dr. Montes is a well-respected health practitioner who has devoted his life contributing to the cause of Community-based Health Programs in most of his medical practice. He is a distinguished member of the United Church for Christ in the Philippines and has helped in the inception of the of the Brokenshire Integrated Health Ministries, Inc.

This latest incident exemplifies an indifferent State that is most probably trying to cover up a blunder that it could not hide or suppress anymore with its inutile response to the Maguindanao massacre that clearly pointed to an unprecedented State violence. And now they are preying on hapless health workers whose only weapons are their determination and dedication to bring health to the ‘forsaken’ Filipino people in the hinterlands, in areas where government services come in trickles.

We are disturbed and disheartened that somebody who has been positively identified as responsible for the brutal killing of 57 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao gets VIP treatment. In contrast, the whole world saw how the health workers were treated when arrested by the military, as if all 43 of them have been convicted criminals, handcuffed and tortured and forced to admit a crime that have no basis at all! Such abominable treatment is cowardly and inutile, actions that are not to be expected from so-called defender of the people’s security who are supposed to be well-disciplined and respectful of the Filipino people’s human rights.

The Filipinos deserve a just, humane, and decent society no less. We believe that each individual’s rights should be respected and upheld. It is within the context of human dignity that the health sector serves the needy. We strongly believe that the 43 health workers are innocent and deserve to be treated as such!

We therefore appeal to all responsible government line agencies to take immediate and responsible action and intervention on the Morong 43. We appeal to the Arroyo government to make the necessary intervention and undo the wrong its military arm is blatantly committing, instead of resorting to red-baiting and witch-hunting.

This is an urgent call to the public now. Let us be vigilant and make our protestation heard, make the State realize its folly. Let us not allow ourselves to be conned into believing that what they are doing is the right thing. Arresting and torturing the health workers are tantamount to suppressing the right of the Filipino people to basic health services.

Let us stand our ground and not be cowed into silence and cynicism and fear because that is exactly what this government wants its people to be.

LET US CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS NOW!
STOP THE HARASSMENT OF THE HEALTH SECTOR!
LET US ALL BE VIGILANT, FOR OUR BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY FROM US!
“RAGE, RAGE INTO THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!

CONCERNED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS OF DAVAO CITY

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Morong 43

by CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Bulatlat.com

Respected human rights lawyer, Romeo T. Capulong, minced no words in stating before the Court of Appeals hearing the petition for habeas corpus of the Morong 43 that de facto martial rule was in effect vis a vis his clients.

This started from the time of the February 6 raid without a valid search warrant; their mass apprehension without valid arrest warrants; their ordeal of torture – being continuously interrogated while denied food and sleep, threatened bodily harm or actually being beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed, treated to indignities like having their private parts handled by soldiers when they used the toilet; their being held incommunicado and denied visits by relatives, lawyers, physicians and human rights officials; their questionable ongoing detention in a military camp rather than a police detention facility; up to the military’s initial defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that the detainees be produced in court citing security concerns.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has tried to get away with its patent disregard of due process and even its human rights abuses by insisting that the 43 health workers are members of the New People’s Army.

To make the NPA label stick further, the military made much of the presence of progressive legislators and senatorial candidates, Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, during the hearing on the habeas corpus petition; the battery of defense lawyers headed by Atty. Capulong, a veteran human rights lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of activists, progressives and even avowed revolutionaries; the campaign paraphernalia of progressive party list groups as well as acupuncture needles apart from the firearms and explosives allegedly found in the seminar house; and the way some of the detainees raised their fists in protest when brought to court as constituting positive proof that the 43 are indeed NPA combatants.

What they succeeded in doing, however, is underscore the policy and practice of the Arroyo regime in its counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, of demonizing activists and their supporters as “communist terrorists” and subsequently targeting them for “neutralization”, military doublespeak for extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearance, illegal arrest, torture and illegal detention.

When Human Rights Commissioner Leila de Lima rebuked the military that even assuming the detainees are all NPA, they continue to have rights especially the constitutional presumption of innocence, Gen. Jorge Segovia retorted that soldiers should also be accorded “presumption of innocence”. With a straight face, the general said, “We know we are right; we know we did not commit those allegations.”

This statement only shows the military’s utter ignorance of what constitutes human rights and state responsibility in upholding and protecting them. On the other hand it is also an unwitting admission that the military itself is on trial before the public eye.

The military has tried to impugn the credentials of the 43 as health professionals and workers. They accused the 62-year-old doctor, Alexis Montes, of being assigned by the NPA to assassinate a retired military general only to have to conveniently drop the reckless charge when they realized how incredulous it was. (The doctor testified in the CA hearing that the only time he held a gun was in military training in college decades ago.)

Madrigal slams AFP for giving awards to ‘Morong 43’ jailers

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for deciding to confer awards on two officers who led the military operation against the 43 health workers suspected of being communist rebels.

Madrigal, an independent presidential candidate, joined on Tuesday militant groups and legislators in criticizing the military's allegedly “arrogant behavior” towards the so-called "Morong 43."

“It is an insult to human rights victims and a clear case of arrogant conduct on the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal pointed out “the arrest of the 43 health workers is still being questioned in the Court of Appeals. It is also being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Red Cross and other international groups.” Madrigal said, “This is what happens when the military considers itself above civilian jurisdiction and even our courts of law.”

The senator has scheduled a visit to the health workers at Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, Rizal, on Tuesday.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general, described as “self-serving” the AFP move, which he said was “meant to cover up the AFP's liability" in the illegal arrest and detention, as well as the torture of the "Morong 43.”

Reyes called the awards "a hollow counter-move to the snowballing public opinion in support of the 43 health workers.”

“We vow to block any future promotions for these officers, including Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Balalad (commander of the Army's 202nd Brigade) and Col. Jaime Abawag (commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion). Complaints of human rights abuses will also be filed against them this week before the CHR,” Reyes added.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said "The arresting team was accused of illegal arrest and torture, among others. Is the military honor an attempt to legitimize, justify and reward illegal acts?”

For the young legislator, “It should be the 43 health workers who should be honored by government for choosing to stay in the country and for volunteering in communities.”

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo noted “despite clear evidence that the Morong 43 are genuine health workers, the AFP insists they are New People's Army members and alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders at that.”

“It isn't surprising that they claim the arrests as a major military gain to defeat the NPA this year. Hence, awarding medals to the officers who led the (Morong, Rizal) operations is aimed at projecting this fake feat,” Ocampo said.

Meanwhile, the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based OFW group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) said the AFP move was “not surprising at all.”

“The Arroyo regime has been giving rewards to its faithful violators of human rights and civil liberties, like General Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan,” said M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona added such “dishonorable awards” only promote the prevailing culture of impunity that may even escalate into violence in the coming nationals elections.

Friday, February 19, 2010

HEALS condemn abduction of 43 Health Workers













We, from the Health Empowerment and Action in Leyte and Samar (HEALS), stand in solidarity and denounce in strongest terms the abduction of our 43 fellow health workers in Morong, Rizal. We call for their immediate release and their safety be ensured by the Government.

On February 6, around 300 state military and police forces raided the property of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, where a health training was being conducted by non-government health groups. According to reports, the victims including two doctors, one nurse, and one midwife, were robbed of their personal belongings, handcuffed, blindfolded, and forcibly brought and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Leila de Lima of the government’s Commission on Human Rights stated that the 43 health workers suffered “mental torture through long hours of blindfolding and scare tactics, including threats to kill the detainees and their loved ones if they don’t cooperate.”

From lawyers, women, journalists, progressive party-list groups, teachers, youth, human rights workers, church people, and now the target of the security forces of the state expands to the health sector. Perhaps because these people and groups have been critical of the Arroyo administration or simply because these people and groups do what the government cannot accomplish or fails to start – to serve and empower the oppressed masses.

We are embittered that instead of being rewarded and saluted for committing and volunteering to serve the health needs of our citizens in far-flung marginalized areas, where health services of the government are not felt, these unsung heroes are being harassed. The harassment and the maltreatment to the detained Morong 43 is a sheer disrespect and persecution to all the healthworkers in the country committed in serving the underserved and unserved communities. This act shamelessly and blatantly disregards the basic human dignity.

We demand the prosecution of those guilty of the illegal arrest, continued illegal detention, torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment of the 43 health workers.

We call all our fellow health workers and the entire Filipino nation to unite and denounce state terrorism in the strongest possible terms. Free the 43 health workers NOW!

Dr. CORAZON GRACE MORALDE-FERNANDEZ
Board of Directors Chair
HEALS

Charges against ‘Morong 43’ are outrageous

Philippine Daily Inquirer

STOP THE TORTURE OF THE “MORONG 43”! Free all 43 health workers now! Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change demands the unconditional and immediate release of the 43 health workers illegally being detained in Camp Capinpin, Rizal.

The group also denounces the non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the health workers. The Department of Justice has yet to establish if these were indeed found in their possession or were planted by the military.

Pagbabago! believes that the charges against the health workers are outrageous. The 43 are all community doctors, midwives and health workers most of whom are members of the Council for Health and Development (CHD). Many of them are colleagues of Pagbabago!’s coordinating committee member, Dr. Eleanor Jara, and they have actively participated in Pagbabago! forums in the past year. In fact, Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor is one of the members of Pagbabago! Manila chapter and was one of the doctors who led the Manila contingent of the State of the Nation Address (Sona) protest in July 2009.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines should be held liable for the illegal arrest and torture of doctors, nurses and other health workers who were holding a health seminar in Morong, Rizal last Feb. 6. By accusing the health workers of being rebels, the AFP is also maliciously linking the New People’s Army to the progressive party-list Bayan Muna, whose campaign paraphernalia were supposedly found with the explosives.

It took five days after the arrest before the military granted the right of the 43 health workers to see a lawyer. Close relatives who visited the camp daily were barred from seeing the detainees and were even questioned if they were indeed family members. Worse, the 43 were subjected—and appear to be still being subjected—to torture, harassment and isolation in detention cells every day to this day.

Pagbabago! is concerned about the safety of the 43 health workers in the hands of the military. In the country’s history, the Arroyo administration has one of the worst records of human rights violations. And political killings, abductions and harassment continue. The case of the 43 health workers only confirms not only the military’s involvement in these violations but also that these are targeted against people’s organizations and individuals who organize and put up community-based programs serving the needs of the poor and underprivileged.

Pagbabago! demands that the military drop the charges, stop the torture and immediately release the 43 health workers. The group also vows vigilance in the coming elections against violations of human rights and violence perpetuated by the AFP, Philippine National Police and government-sponsored paramilitary forces.

BIBETH ORTEZA
Spokesperson
Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change
pagbabago.movement@gmail.com

Thursday, February 18, 2010

FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS!

Community Based Health Services, Zamboanga Del Sur Community Based Health Services, Zamboanga Del Norte Zamboanga Peninsula Health Extension Program

We, representing as regional health partners of the Council For Health and Development in Western Mindanao, strongly denounce the illegal arrest and detention of the 43 medical practitioners and community health workers since February 6, 2010 by 300 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Southern Luzon Command and Rizal Philippine National Police. We also condemn in the strongest term, the human rights violations inflicted upon the 43 victims in the hands of their AFP and PNP abductors. The fascist attack by the Arroyo government against innocent health providers is a terrible mistake. The victims whom the military repeatedly claim to be “members of the New People’s Army who were making explosives” are the very people who devote their lives caring for the poor and the deprived in far flung communities where government health services are inadequate. They are the people who sacrifice their comfort in order to deliver health services to the lumads and peasants, without demanding for big salaries and recognition for their humble efforts. While many health professionals and other health care providers are leaving the country, the 43 are among those who chose to stay behind to treat our sick people. They do not only treat the sick, but they educate them. They teach them about taking the vital signs, management of common diseases, of making herbal medicines, and many other health trainings that are truly useful to the barrios. The 43 victims are not carrying armalite rifles and calibre pistols as what their abductors claimed, what they always carry to the barrios are their stethoscope, bp (blood pressure) apparatus, thermometer and health manuals. They are not making explosives, but they are making health training modules for community health workers. These people are the ones worthy of recognition for their unwavering commitment in serving the poor. It is shameful and outrageous to call them “insurgents, bomb makers or terrorists.” What happened to our fellow health workers shows that the Arroyo government will not spare anyone whom she tags as “enemies of the State.” Arroyo is indeed beating the deadline of her Oplan Bantay Laya by viciously attacking progressive groups, including the health sector, regardless of the gross human rights violations her government has continuously committed for the last nine years of her presidency.

We demand justice for the 43 health workers. We demand for their immediate release. They have suffered long enough while in detention. We cannot imagine the torment they experience in the hands of their military interrogators. We strongly condemn the military for using mental and physical torture against the detainees.

Free the 43 health workers, NOW.

Position paper from Registered Nurses Dr. Jose Reinhard Laoingco, Carmen C Bolinto, and Carolina V Bayla

For Press Release
18 February, 2010

Public/Community Health Nursing is one of the least road taken in nursing practice but where the biggest challenge is found because of the deplorable health situation, especially in terms of health manpower. The global and national goal of Primary Health Care vision of “health for all and health in the hands of the people” requires nurses to use the Primary Health Care approach in delivering health services to the people in the rural areas. As community health development workers following the Primary Health Care approach, we uphold the following principles:
  1. Health and illness are affected by so many factors such as social, political, economic, cultural, geographical, ecological and environmental factors.
  2. Health is a basic or fundamental HUMAN right.
  3. Empowerment, self-reliance and sustainability in health
  4. Availability, accessibility, affordability, acceptability and relevance of health services.

Our commitment to uphold the above principles are obviously manifested in the activities that we do with the community people:
  1. Our activities are not only limited to health education and health services but include training activities and other activities related to those factors affecting health.
  2. We go to the far-flung areas that are short of fully-equipped barangay health centers, very minimal hospitals, if at all present, 1 doctor and 1 nurse for the whole municipality and 1 rural health midwife for one or two barangays.
  3. We empower people and train them to become self-reliant and develop sustainable methods, instead of enhancing their dependence on a system that is not capable of providing complete basic health services.
  4. We follow Dr. Noburu Iwamura’s maxim, “Why should I imperil the sick to come to me when I, a healthy doctor [and nurse or midwife] can go to them?”. We, therefore, deliver these services to where the people are and we live/immerse with the people.

Our passion to encourage future nurses and colleagues to work in this least chosen field of nursing practice challenged us to expose student nurses, other clinical instructors and other health workers to the far-flung areas with the biggest hope that if they will actually observe for themselves the actual health realities out there, then they will be enticed to serve in these areas where 8 out of ten Filipinos get sick without having felt the hands of a caring doctor or nurse.

Now, with the illegal raid and abduction of the 43 COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS in Morong, Rizal and whose rights were allegedly violated by the supposed protectors of the masses, and with the interrogation that two nurses and two students experienced in Benguet by the police, allegedly because of the red alert situation brought about by the Morong raid and abduction, we are now very fearful of the same possible violation of human rights as we go to the far-lung areas. We are fearful that the people’s and our mission, values, goals and principles of Primary Health Care will further go down the drain. We are the more fearful that all nurses in the Philippines will leave the country because 43 defenseless (no guns to protect themselves) community health workers were abducted by 300 (not only 43) armed commissioned men. We are MOST FEARUL because dedicated doctors, nurses and health workers whose “guns” are their principles and ideals of service are now equated to armed rebels. And because of that, they can just be helplessly abducted, blindfolded, and tortured.

We are one with all the rest who are calling on the Arroyo administration to:
  • RELEASE the detained 43 COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS (doctors, nurse and trained community volunteer health workers), show them in front of the public so they can answer the allegations they are accused of.
  • STOP using dedicated and defenseless community health workers (doctors, nurses, midwives and trained community volunteers) as scape goats to your inability to end the insurgency problem in the country!!!
  • STOP equating defenseless doctors and nurses-to-the-barrios as armed rebels and STOP forcing arms into their hands which they are not capable of holding or manipulating!!!
  • PROVIDE sustainable job opportunities in the rural areas for the thousands of nurses who graduate every year!!!
Prepared by
sgd:
Carmen C Bolinto Dr. J R Laoingco Carolina V. Bayla
R.N. & R.M. R.N., Ph.D. RN
cp # 09293988962

Speech of Necta Montes condemning the illegal arrest and detention of his uncle, Dr. Alexis Montes, one of the "Morong 43"

source: Eman Villanueva

Note: Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Necta Montes, regional secretary of the World Student Christian Federation - Asia Pacific (WSCF-AP) during a protest action held right outside the doors of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.

Magandang Umaga po sa inyong lahat! Good morning to all of you! Thank you for giving me this chance to express my indignation on the illegal arrest, detention, and torture of the 43 health workers in the Philippines.

My name is Necta Montes, I am a niece of one of the illegally arrested health workers, Dr. Alexis Montes. My uncle was accused by the Military of being a member of the New People’s Army and taking part in a plan to assassinate General Jovito Palparan, also known as the Butcher of Activtists and a favorite general of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Not able to find substantial evidence to prove these ridiculous accusation against my uncle and the 42 health worker, the Military charged them with Criminal offences and illegal possession of firearms. Using the guns and explosives they themselves, the Military, have planted as evidences during the raid and arrest they conducted last February 6.

My family and the families of the 42 illegally arrested health workers strongly deny and condemn the Military for spreading malicious accusations and making-up false charges against our loved ones. We are enraged by this incident and angered by the physical torture and the mental anguish that our loved ones have been subjected to by this fascist Military.

As doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers they commit themselves to an oath to provide medical care and attention to ANYONE, and I repeat ANYONE needing their help at all times and in any place. In fact, when the illegal arrest was conducted on February 6, they were undergoing a First Respondents Training, NOT to build explosives as this stupid military accused them, but to equip community health workers to SAVE LIVES and NOT TO DESTROY LIVES!

My Uncle Dr. Alexis Montes is a 62 year-old licensed medical doctor. He has used his professional training and skills to heal the sick among the poor in my country. He has tirelessly devoted his service to people who cannot afford to go to the hospital for all sorts of ailment and treatment. He has spent nearly 40 years of his life visiting poor rural communities organizing Medical Mission together with members of our the Healing Ministry of our church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippine. As his eldest niece, my uncle has often asked me to assist him in simple surgical procedures when poor families from nearby slum communities would come to our home to seek for his help. He would not only do the surgical procedure for free, but he would send the patients with medicines and oftentimes give them few pesos for their ride home.

In a country where half of our population have no access to basic health care, where 40 % of our people cannot afford basic medicines even to treat a simple cold and where 10 women die every day because of childbirth related complications, health workers like my uncle and his 42 co-workers are the only HOPE and lifeline for the poor people.

Now I ask our government, Is it a CRIME to heal the sick poor people? Is it a crime to take on the responsibility of the failure of this government to provide basic medical care to its people? Is it a crime to be motivated by your faith to follow the example of Jesus Christ to heal and serve the people?

The illegal arrest of Dr. Alexis Montes and 42 health workers is a miscarriage of justice! It is an act of blatant disregard of human rights and the ideals of any democratic society! The arrogance of the Military establishment indicates a direct approval of the president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of these actions!

If the Philippine government will not act to stop the Military’s wanton disregard of people’s rights and welfare and continue to commit crimes against the people, WE WILL ACT!

Justice to all the victims of human rights violation of the Gloria Arroyo Regime!

Free the 43 Health workers Now!


Bruce Van Voorhis delivering his opening message yesterday, 18 February, during a protest action at the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong. Beside him is Necta Montes, a HK-based activist and niece of Dr. Alexis Montes, one of the "Morong 43".


Necta Montes, regional secretary of WSCF-AP, while delivering her speech.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PERMANENT PEOPLES’ TRIBUNAL appeal for the release of the 43 health workers

Founder: LELIO BASSO (Italy)

President:
SALVATORE SENESE (ITALY)

General Secretary:
GIANNI TOGNONI (ITALY)

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic of the Philippines,

As Jurors of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, and as part of the larger human family, we recognize that the dramatic and worsening human rights situation in the Philippines is the responsibility for us all. During the PPT's Second Session on the Philippines held in The Hague in March 2007, we expressed our commitment to defeat those powers which, under the pretext of the so-called war on terrorism, deprive the marginalized peoples of a life in justice, dignity and peace.

We sympathize greatly with the plight of the Filipino people who suffer from poverty and who cannot afford medical care. That is why we admire and fully support health professionals who can volunteer their talents and time to help the more needy. Forsaking private gain, they teach their skills to community volunteers and provide their health services for free. They should be treated as heroes of the Filipino people, worthy of our esteem and emulation.

It was thus with great alarm that we received the news about the questionable arrest and detention of 43 volunteer health workers in Rizal province in your country. The victims include two medical doctors, one registered nurse, one midwife and 39 community health workers.

We are greatly dismayed to hear that in the morning of 6 February 2010, combined elements of your government's Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines barged into the private home of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Morong, Rizal. Without showing any legal cause nor mandate, your security forces proceeded to conduct an illegal search of the premises and illegally took into custody the 43 volunteer health workers. They were handcuffed, blindfolded, manhandled and taken, not to prison, but to a military camp.

We are appalled to hear that as of this writing, that they are still in detention in the military camp, even undergoing interrogation. Relatives, lawyers and human rights organizations have not been allowed to visit them. Initial reports from the Commission on Human Rights and non-government human rights organizations said that the victims remained in handcuffs and blindfolded for more than 36 hours; they were denied food and bathroom privileges confined in dark cells, forced to listen to sounds of gunfire and slapped several times during the night. They were not allowed to speak to each other and they were forced to admit that they were members of the New People's Army. And today, your military officers arrogantly did not heed the orders of the Supreme court to bring all the 43 to court.

As the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Republic of the Philippines, you have the obligation to uphold and defend the rights of Filipino citizens. We see in this lamentable episode that the citizens' inviolable right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against searches and seizure has been violated. The victims are clearly suffering physical and psychological torture, their right to be informed of their alleged offenses is being trampled and they have been denied access to legal counsel of their choice.

As the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Republic of the Philippines, you also have the obligation to enforce the law. Those who attack the inviolable rights of the citizens must be brought to justice. For starters, Colonel Aurelio Baladad of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and Superintendent Marion Balonglong of the Rizal province PNP, should be relieved of their duties and undergo judicial investigation for gross ignorance and violation of the Bill of Rights.

We pray that your government would put an immediate end to this deplorable situation. Release the 43 volunteer health workers. Return all their private belongings and the belongings of Dr. Melecia Velmonte.

Thank you for your attention and prompt action.

Salvatore Senese (Italy ) – PPT President

Gianni Tognoni (Italy) – PPT General Secretary

François Houtart (Belgium) – Session President

Irene Fernandez (Malaysia) – Session Judge

Ties Prakken (The Netherlands) – Session Judge

Lilia Solano (Colombia) – Session Judge

Øystein Tveter (Norway) – Session Judge

With copy to:

Gen. Avelino Razon, Ret. PNP
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
osec@opapp.gov.ph

Norberto Gonzales
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
Email: osnd@philonline.com

Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email: soj@doj.gov.ph

Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chr.delima@yahoo.com

EU President's sister condemns jailing of 43 health workers in the Philippines

http://uk.asiancorrespondent.com/tonyo-cruz-blog/eu-president-s-sister-condemns-jailing-of-43-health-workers-in-the-philippines

A sister of the European Union's recently-elected President Herman Van Rompuy has added her voice to the growing international protests over the plight of 43 health workers wrongfully arrested and detained by the Philippines.

In a statement issued from Belgium, Christine Van Rompuy, who is a also nurse, called on Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to "immediately release" the health workers now known as "Morong 43" who are now incarcerated at Camp Capinpin.

"As a nurse who has visited the Philippines, I personally know and note that the organizations of these detained health workers do an excellent job. They provide primary health care in the poorest areas of the Philippines. They are brave men and women who defy very difficult circumstances to help their fellow citizens," said Van Rompuy.

"I object strongly to their illegal arrest and detention without a warrant," said Van Rompuy.

Van Rompuy said she was "horrified" when she learned that the Philippine Army allegedly tortured the imprisoned health workers.

Van Rompuy appear to have a keen interest in the Philippines and reminded the Arroyo government that "justice must be done" not just for the "Morong 43" but also for victims of 1,070 political killings and 202 enforced disappearances that have occurred since 2001, when Mrs. Arroyo first assumed the presidency.

The European Union last week started a 15-month, 3.9-million Euro project with the Arroyo government to stop and solve extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

Dubbed as the "EU-Philippine Justice Support Program", the project's team leader on the EU side is Detlev Mehlis, a senior prosecutor and section head at Berlin's Office of the Superior Prosecutor.

Assisting Mehlis are Bo Åström of Sweden, head of the Swedish National Police Academy's international affairs division, and Benedetta Odorisio of Italy, who has worked extensively with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Church organizations and churches across the world have condemned the Arroyo government over the plight of the "Morong 43" - including the World Council of Churches, the World Student Christian Federation, the United Church of Canada and the Presbyterian Church of the United States.

The Presbyterian Church has informed US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the case of the "Morong 43".

STATEMENT: Nicanor Perlas and PANGMASA on Morong 43

by Nicanor Perlas and PANGMASA

Practice of Medicine and Treatment of the Sick Knows No Ideologies. Free the Morong 43 Now!

The continuous detention of the Morong 43 composed of doctors, a nurse, a midwife and health volunteers despite the absence of official charges for more than a week is a clear violation of human rights.

The military’s ignorance of the Supreme Court’s order for the “Writ of Habeas Corpus” is an act that deserves the highest condemnation.  In a 17-page writ of habeas petition, the relatives of the health workers and members of the Community Medicine Development asked the High Court to order the military to produce all the 43 health workers and order their immediate release.

They were never presented in court until Monday, February 15.

This is a clear violation of the basic rights protected in our Constitution.The Morong 43, arrested in a joint police and military raid in a rest house in Morong, Rizal, on Feb. 6 while they were conducting health training, shows the need for the professionalization of the police and the military.

Professionalization can be done by means of an adequate incentive system that rewards moral and exemplary conduct, and punishes violations of law and order.  The military and police personnel must respect and uphold human rights at all times.

We uphold the fact that the practice of medicine and medical attention should be given to all regardless of their political ideologies.  The members of the medical profession should not be subjected to any harm or danger in the performance of their official functions as embodied in the Geneva Convention.

We, therefore, call on AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado and PNP chief Director General Jesus Versoza to immediately order the release of the Morong 43.  And, if the rights of these workers were, in any way, violated, those responsible should be held accountable.

The current insurgency problem in the Philippines cannot be solved by mere suppression of those involved in the insurgency, or by showing force and ruthlessness.  This problem can only be solved by addressing the root causes of the problem which include poverty and the inequitable distribution of resources.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

APPEAL FOR DONATIONS

Everyday, families and supporters troop to Camp Bagong Diwa to visit their loved ones – the 43 health workers that were illegally arrested and detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Despite the anguish and difficult situations they are in, they remain strong and steadfast in their battle for freedom and justice for the 43 health workers. These families, who hail from different parts of Luzon and are mostly farmers and urban poor, are in need of your help.

In addition to your continuing solidarity, we again appeal to your kind hearts to help us for the following:
  • Food and transportation expenses for families and supporters
  • Expenses for campaign materials calling for the immediate release and justice for the health workers
  • Expenses for the legal requirements
Financial donations can be placed in:

Account name:

COUNCIL FOR HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT

Philippine National Bank
Savings Account # 219-8303219 Timog Branch Timog Avenue,
Quezon City, Philippines

Bank of Philippine Islands
US $ Account # 3144 00 5391 with the swift code BOPIPHMM
Kamuning Branch, Tomas Morato Avenue
Quezon City, Philippines

Or can be delivered to:

COUNCIL FOR HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT
35 Examiner Street, West Triangle Homes,
Quezon City, Philippines 1104
Telefax: 929-8109

‘Morong 43’ wins first round battle

http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/news/nation/11590-morong-43-wins-first-round-battle
By WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL Reporter

THE so-called Morong 43, whom the military tagged as alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA), has won their first round battle with their military custodian during a hearing Monday by the Court of Appeals.

All 43 health workers were presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the sala of Justice Portia Aliño Hormachuelos in compliance with the writ of habeas corpus issued by the Supreme Court last week.

The health workers arrived at the appellate court from Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, in an eight-vehicle convoy. Each of the workers was handcuffed to a uniformed soldier. Their handcuffs were removed inside the appellate auditorium where the hearing was conducted.

The health workers were presented by a group of counsels led by lawyer Romeo Capulong. The military, on the other hand, was represented by the Office of the Solicitor General.

During the hearing, both parties were given 24 hours to submit their respective arguments on whether the arrest was legal or not.

Capulong also moved for the transfer of the health workers from Camp Capinpin to Camp Crame in Quezon City.

“Under the law, whether the arrest was legal or illegal, they [workers] must be brought to the nearest police station,” Capulong said.

But the appellate court did not immediately rule on the manifestation, saying it has first to rule on the writ of habeas corpus petition, which would determine the legality of the workers’ detention in the military camp.

Presented as witness by Capulong was Dr. Alex Montes, who was one of those arrested.
Montes, on direct examination by Capulong, narrated the events leading to their arrest on February 6. He said their constitutional rights to due process were violated, claiming that they were handcuffed, kept incommunicado and blindfolded by the military following their arrest on suspicion that they were members of the NPA.

The military also claimed the group was undergoing explosive training, an allegation the workers have denied.

In their petition, the workers accused the military of using a defective search warrant to enter the premises where the 43 health workers were undergoing community health training over the weekend.

They added that the search warrant was issued by a Cavite court, which is outside the jurisdiction of Rizal province.

Meanwhile, the military denied the allegations that some of the workers were physically abused and sexually harassed, adding that the institution already expected such kind of allegation to discredit the successful operation of government troops.

Maj. Gen. Jeorge Segovia, Army’s Second Infantry Division commander, maintained that male soldiers are not allowed to touch or handle the female detainees and that the soldiers are being closely supervised.

“We expect that we will be receiving such allegations . . . they will concoct every story to discredit this operation,” Segovia told reporters.

The military official said the arrest of the 43 health workers is a big blow to the communist movement, especially to the NPA’s Southern Tagalog regional committee, which, according to military’s deep penetration agents, has never suffered such a setback.

Segovia said 21 of the 43 detainees are from the Southern Tagalog Command of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA and are either from regional, provincial and guerilla front level.

With report from Jefferson Antiporda
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