Wednesday, March 31, 2010

International nurses’ organization write to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the release of 43 Philippine health workers

International support for the 43 illegally detained health workers who were arrested in a training conducted by the Council for Health and Development (CHD) and Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) or the “Morong 43” continues to pour in.

National Nurses United (NNU), a 150, 000 strong organization of registered nurses based in the United States recently wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thru its co-presidents Deborah Burger, Karren Higgins, Jean Ross.

NNU underscores their concern regarding the arrest and the continuing human rights violations inflicted upon the detainees.

The health organization also posed their deep concerns on how dedicated health workers are being treated in a country where a lot of medics are forced to leave because of the lack government support.

NNU commends the efforts of the 43 health workers and takes particular mention of Gary Liberal, a fellow nurse and an operating room nurse from Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital who is also the National Auditor of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), a recognized union of healthcare workers in the Philippines.

Earlier, the National Council of Churches also petitioned Secretary Clinton to investigate the case of the 43 health workers.

Dr. Eleanor Jara, one of the spokespersons of the Free the 43 Health Workers Now! Alliance, says they very are pleased with the overwhelming support from support letters, mobilizations, here and abroad, including fasting and other symbolic actions.

“This outpouring of support is a great source of inspiration to all the detainees, their relatives and all their colleagues and everyone working for their release.”

Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, one of the two physicians among the 43, writing from detention also expressed her gratitude on the amount of support coming from around the world. Among the organizations who have earlier expressed their support include Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), Red Mundial de Mujeres por los Derechos Reproductivos Réseau Mondial de Femmes por les Droits Reproductifs (Netherlands), Organizing Centre for Social and Economic Justice (Canada), Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia, KASAMMAKO (Korea), Peoples Health Movement and other international human rights and religious organizations.##
For reference:

Eleanor A. Jara, MD
0917-9789297 / 929-8109

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Danao City Jail Political Detainees-SOLIDARITY FASTING

March 6, 2010
WE ARE ON SOLIDARITY FASTING!

We are four political detainees here at Danao City Jail (DCJ). We are holding today- March 6- a fasting to support the Morong 43 health workers illegally arrested at a seminar house in Morong, Rizal, last February 6. We strongly condemn the torture of the Morong 43 at the AFP’s Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, where they remain illegally detained to this day.

Through this one day fasting from 1 in the morning to 11 in the evening, we add our voices to the strong clamor for the Court of Appeals (CA) in Manila to issue a favourable decision to the Morong 43’s petition for the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

By refusing to eat our regular meal ration, we send to the proper authorities our demand that the Morong 43 detainees- who include Dr. Alexis Montes and Dr. Merry Mia Clamor- be immediately transferred to the PNP’s Camp Crame, or to a similar jail facility that can put a stop to the wanton violations of the Morong 43’s basic rights, foremost of which are the rights to self-incrimination and morning-till-night interrogation, and their freedom from physical and psychological torture.

These human rights violations are expressly outlawed by Republis Act 9745, or the Anti-torture Law that was enacted last November 10, 2009. These also violate the 1998 GRP-NDF Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), as well as the 1977 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We uphold that human rights violations are Marcosian acts that ultimately serve to fuel the struggle of the poor and the oppressed in our society.

Signed:
ALBERTO ACERDIN   NELSON CAPUYAN
TRINING HERMITA   RAMON PATRIARCA

Note 1:
This fasting by the Danao City Jail Political Detainees is a follow-up to their first one-day fasting for the Morong 43 last February 15, after the AFP failed to bring to court the Morong 43 during their Writ of Habeas Corpus hearing before the Court of Appeals in Manila.

Note 2:
A similar fasting is being held today (March 6) at the Tagbilaran City District Jail in Bohol by political detainees:

RUBEN BUSALANAN   EDWIN LOFRANCO
RODRIGO MEJIAS   RODOLFO QUINIO
ANTONIO SANCHEZ   ELPIDIO TAGSIP

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Military Accused of Harassing Kin of Morong 43 to Force NPA Admission

Five of the Morong 43 who admitted to being rebels were tortured, their families harassed, according to relatives. The children of one of the detainees have allegedly disappeared, according to their grandmother.

By: Ronalyn V. Olea
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Five of the Morong 43 who recently “admitted” that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were subjected to interrogation and pressure by the military, according to relatives, lawyers and other detainees.

Elenor Carandang, Cherilyn Tawagon, Valentino Paulino, Jenilyn Pizarro and Jhon Mark Barrientos have been separated from the rest of the Morong 43 and have not been presented to their lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

In an interview with Bulatlat, Carandang’s mother, Norma Orgena, said three out of four of Carandang’s children have been missing. A neighbor, she said, told her that a van fetched her grandchildren together with Carandang’s sister Grace from their house in Lopez, Quezon, on March 8.

“The military might have taken my grandchildren,” Norma said in Filipino. “And they may be using them to force Elen to admit something that is not true,” she added.

Norma said she last saw her daughter on March 5 during the supposed arraignment of the Morong 43 before the Morong Regional Trial Court. “She was crying then. I could not talk to her because the soldiers pulled her away from me,” Norma said.

On the same day, to Norma’s surprise, Atty. Cyrus Jurado and Atty. Hilda Sacay-Clave presented themselves as the counsels of her daughter and two other detainees, Tawagon and Paulino.

Norma said she has not also seen her grandchildren aged 13, 11 and five and Grace, too.

Meanwhile, Paulino was presented by the military in a press conference on February 11 in which Paulino admitted he is a member of the NPA.

On February 25, Adoracion, Paulino’s mother, told Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairwoman Leila de Lima what her son had told her: “Mother, I am afraid for our family. They beat me repeatedly that is why I was forced to tell a lie… I did what the soldiers instructed me to do because they told me that they already deployed men to our place.”

Still quoting her son, Adoracion added: “They torture me mentally.” She joined the filing of complaint before the CHR.

Based on sworn affidavits attached to the supplemental complaint of the PILC and NUPL lawyers filed before the CHR, Tawagon and Carandang were taken out of the detention facility on March 1, Pizarro on March 4 and Barrientos on March 5.

The other detainees conducted a noise barrage in protest, and Maj. Manuel Tabion shouted at them. “He told us not to test his patience, that we have only seen his kindness and we have not witnessed his being violent and if we do not stop, he told us that we would be electrocuted,” Mercy Castro, one of the Morong 43, said in Filipino in her affidavit.

Since March 2, the lawyers for the Morong 43 have not been allowed to see the three detainees Paulino, Carandang and Tawagon. Starting March 7, Pizarro and Barrientos have not also been presented to their lawyers.

Junie, Pizarro’s brother, told Bulatlat that he last saw his sister on March 4. “She was separated from the rest. She told me that me that many had been talking to her, forcing her to turn against her companions,” Junie said in Filipino.

The next day, Junie said he sensed something different. A certain Lt. Nelmeda was looking for him. “It usually takes us two hours before we get to see our loved ones but that day, the soldiers were the ones inviting me to come in. I did not go with them. If I did, I might not be able to come out again.”

The whereabouts of the five detainees had not been disclosed to their relatives and lawyers. On March 20, the five were interviewed by a media outfit at a safe house inside Camp Capinpin, admitting they are NPA.

Same Tactics

The same tactics have apparently been used on other detainees.

On March 6, another detainee, Miann Oseo, was forced by Tabion and the soldiers-guards to transfer to the cell previously occupied by Pizarro. When Oseo refused and invoked Republic Act No. 9745 and her right to counsel, Tabion ordered the guards to bodily carry Oseo. Oseo held on to the metal bars. The soldiers-guards physically dragged Oseo causing her to sustain bruises on her arms, hands and feet and other parts of her body.

Another detainee, Samson Castillo, also held on to the metal bars when he was being forcibly taken by Tabion and four soldier-guards on Feb. 28. Lt. Col. Crisobal Zaragosa told Castillo in Filipino: “I pity you but I cannot do anything for you if you do not cooperate with the government.” In his affidavit, Castillo also said that Tabion and Zaragosa were always threatening him that his children would not be spared.

Detainees Angela Doloricon, Jacqueline Gonzales, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan and Ma. Elena Serato are still under solitary confinement. In their affidavits, the detainees also complained of relentless interrogation.

Violations

Lawyers of the Morong 43 said that the respondents committed the following violations: Violation of the right of counsels to visit and confer privately with victims-detainees; violation of the right to be informed of the right to remain silent and to have a competent and independent counsel; violation of the right to remain silent; violation of the right to have a competent and independent counsel; violation of the right of detainee to be visited and to confer privately with family members for a sufficient period of time; violation of the right of family members to visit and confer privately with the victims-detainees for a sufficient period of time; violation of the right to prompt medical services; violation of the right to be visited by a priest or religious minister of the detainee’s choice; violation of the right not to be taken out of a detention facility without any court order.

Violation of the right not to be held in solitary confinement; violation of the right not to be subjected to threats; and violation of the right not to be subjected to physical and psychological torture.

The supplemental complaint was filed before the CHR on March 18.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

‘Unholy trinity’ to blame for ‘43’

Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Court of Appeals, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo compose an “unholy trinity” that makes sure that Philippine democracy is trampled, civil liberties are bastardized and basic human rights violated as a matter of course.

The 43 illegally detained health workers have to endure another round of physical, emotional and psychological abuse, courtesy of the Court of Appeals which junked their petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In effect, the Court of Appeals justified all the atrocities committed by the military against the 43.

Every minute in illegal detention is in itself torture, every moment a physical and mental torment. The longer the 43 health workers are detained in the military camp, the more they become vulnerable. Worst of all, this Court of Appeals decision sends a chilling message: the military can go ahead with its violation of the people’s civil and democratic rights.

Families of the detained health workers are afraid that the longer the 43 stay in detention, the more they will experience abuses and violations of their rights. They have all the reasons to feel that way, as their rights were brazenly violated as soon as they were arrested. Coming from several families, some of them may have been living more comfortably than the others or may have the chance to live a better life. Others may be so poor like the ones they have committed themselves to serve. They may be missing their parents and loved ones while they are serving in barangays where no medical practitioners dare go.

They may have different backgrounds and levels of commitment, but they have one thing in common: all of them were arrested at the time when they were training to become better skilled health workers. The illegal arrest suddenly distracted them from this noble intention and has utterly deprived people, whom these health workers could have been serving now, of badly needed health care.

How do we now define the injustice done to the 43 health workers and the rest of the Filipino people? Just think of the AFP members who blindfolded, detained and continuously tortured them. Think of this decision of the Court of Appeals. Think of GMA whose power and despotic rule allow human rights violations to go unpunished.


—NORMA P. DOLLAGA,
Kapatirang Simbahan
Para sa Bayan (Kasimbayan),
3/F NCCP, 879 Edsa, Quezon City

A Violative Verdict, A Denial of Justice

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
2/F Doña Anita Bldg
284 E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City
Telefax: (02) 725 4760
Email: headphil@gmail.com

(Statement on the Court of Appeals Decision to Dismiss the Writ of Habeas Corpus Petition of the 43 Illegally Detained Health Workers.)

When laws are used to subvert justice, what is left for the people to do?

The decision of the Court of Appeals Special Division of Five to dismiss the Writ of Habeas Corpus petition filed on behalf of the 43 health workers violates the most fundamental tenets of even the most token democracy.

The majority opinion, with its mechanical application of existing jurisprudence, has condoned the excesses of the State. Such act is erroneously predicated on the belief that “...the subsequent filing of criminal charges against the detainees cured whatever irregularities or infirmities were attendant to their arrest, even assuming arguendo that their warrantless arrest and detention were initially illegal.”

But since when does a “cure” cause more harm than good?

In contrast, the two dissenting opinions highlight what is at stake for Philippine society, particularly the attendant abuses that will reverberate due to the violative decision.

Justice Normandie Pizarro puts it succinctly as “in a habeas corpus as the one at bench, an inquiry to the legality of the proceedings ... is necessarily called for as it is crucial in safeguarding the constitutional rights of the detainees ... the paramount consideration...should be the respect for the majesty of the law, springing forth from our respect in the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the people.”

Similarly, Justice Francisco Acosta waxes poetic with his ominous warning that “Allowing curative informations to justify illegal searches, arrests and detentions would definitely make every habeas corpus proceeding an exercise in futility, similar to a salt that has lost its taste. This is absolutely repugnant to the basic and primordial constitutional right to due process of law.”

Also cast into light is the abhorrent behavior of certain state prosecutors that reflect how the institution that should be a gatekeeper of justice has degenerated into the Department of Injustice under the current dispensation. Again, quoting Justice Pizarro, “Clearly, what the inquest officer should have done was to recommend to the Chief Prosecutor the immediate release of the persons who were arrested.”

Thus, it is not just a re-examination of the Ilagan doctrine that is required. We must likewise review the attitude of the courts, its officers, and the magistrates, upon whom much is expected when neither the executive nor the legislative branches of government are doing enough to protect the people.

That the Courts put more emphasis on process than on substance, on the letter of the law rather than on the spirit of the law, removes whatever real remedies are left for the people.

Worse, magistrates who perfunctorily perform their duties without weighing the issues at bar are no mere Pilates washing their hands. They become witting instruments of the fascist Arroyo regime. They perpetuate as legacy the vestiges, the abuses, and the violence of Marcos’ martial rule, all of which have been embraced by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It is therefore now that the system, rather than just its processes, that the people must judge. It is now more than ever that the people should seek and strive for meaningful change. A system that denounces its own sanctified rights and diminishes to naught all remedial measures is a system that will fester at the expense of its people.

This cannot be allowed to continue. Together, we must reclaim this nation and attain genuine freedom and democracy. We must build a society where there is equity, where rights are enjoyed, and where laws serve the rendering of justice. We must begin now. Free the 43 health workers!

References:

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General
Cellphone Number: 0920 460 3712


Dr. Darby S. Santiago
Chair
Cellphone Number: 0927 473 7700

Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos
Vice-Chair
Cellphone Number: 0927 483 2325

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Primer on the Illegal Arrest, Detention and Torture of 43 Health Workers

Contents:

Who are the 43 health workers?
Why were they arrested?

Were the arrests legal?
Were there violations of the rights of the 43 health workers?
Have the 43 health workers been charged in court?
Were the health workers really members of the NPA? Were they really making bombs at the time of their arrest?

Have the 43 health workers taken legal action? What has been done to secure their release?
Who are supporting campaign to free the 43?

Why are there volunteer community health workers?
Is this the first time doctors, health workers and volunteers have become victims of human rights abuse?

The military has a track record of targeting several other doctors and health personnel.
What are the implications of the arrest of the 43 health workers?


What are our demands and calls?

Who are the 43 health workers?
The 43 health workers, also known as “Morong 43”, are health professionals and volunteer community health workers who were arrested in Rizal on February 6, following a raid by the combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The 43 were part of a Community First Responders’ Health Training sponsored jointly by the Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD). The training was held at the residential compound located at 266 E. Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. The compound is owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, chairperson of COMMED’s Board of Directors and a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine.

On February 6, 2010 at 6:15 am, joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA) headed by its commander, Colonel Aurelio Baladad and the Rizal Provincial Police (PNP) headed by Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong raided the l compound of Dr. Velmonte.

Among those arrested were 2 doctors, 1 registered nurse and 2 midwives and 38 volunteer community health workers.

They are :
1. Merry Clamor y Mia, 33 y/o, medical doctor, CHD staff
2. Alexis Montes y Sulinap, 62 y/o, medical doctor, Commed volunteer
3. Gary Liberal y Apuhin, 43 y/o, registered nurse, AHW
4. Ma. Teresa Quinawayan y Roncales, 26 y/o midwife, CHD staff
5. Lydia “Del” Ayo Obera, 61 y/o, AHW staff & health educator
6. Reynaldo Macabenta y Torres, 30 y/o, CHD staff
7. Angela Doloricon y Manogon, 50 y/o, health educator
8. Delia Ocasla y Medrano, 46 y/o, community health worker
9. Janice Javier y Quiatchon, 22 y/o, community health worker
10. Franco Remoroso y Bilugan, 28 y/o community health worker
11. Linda Racel Otanez, community health worker
12. Pearl Irene Martinez y de los Reyes, 25 y/o community health worker
13. Eleonor Carandang y Orgena, 30 y/o community health worker
14. Danny Piñero, community health worker
15. Ray-om Among, community health worker
16. Emily Marquez y Manguba, 23 y/ocommunity health worker
17. Emilia Marquez y Manguba,20 y/o, community health worker
18. Jane Balleta y Beltran, 27 y/o, community health worker
19. Glenda Murillo y Cervantes, 26 y/o, community health worker
20. Eulogio “Ely” Castillo, community health worker
21. Jovy Ortiz y Quidor, 23 y/o, community health worker
22. Samson Castillo y Mayuga, 42 y/o, community health worker
23. Miann Oseo y Edjao, 31 y/o, community health worker
24. Sylvia Labrador y Pajanustan, 43 y/o, community health worker
25. Lilibeth Donasco, 24 y/o, community health worker
26. Jenilyn Vatar y Pizarro, 19 y/o, community health worker
27. Ramon de la Cruz y Santos, 21 y/o, community health worker
28. Jaqueline Gonzales, community health worker
29. Maria Elena Serato y Edeo, 35 y/o, community health worker
30. Ma. Mercedes Castro y Icban, 27 y/o, community health worker
31. Leah de Luna y Bautista, 28 y/o, community health worker
32. Judilyn Oliveros Y Abuyan, 26 y/o, community health worker
33. Yolanda Yaun y Bellesa, 51 y/o, registered midwife
34. Edwin Dematera y Bustamante, 37 y/o, community health worker
35. Cherielyn Riocasa Tawagon, 31 y/o, community health worker
36. John Mark Barrientos y Roldan, 20 y/o, community health worker
37. Mark Escartin y Esperida, 20 y/o, community health worker
38. Julius Duano, 30 y/o, community health worker
39. Ronilo Espera, 31 y/o, community health worker
40. Romeo de la Cruz, 53 y/o, community health worker
41. Valentino Paulino y Abale, 35 y/o, community health worker
42. Ace Millena, community health worker
43. Lorelyn Saligumba, community health worker

Why were they arrested?
The arresting authorities claim that the 43 health workers were caught in the act of undergoing training on bomb-making and that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The arresting authorities claim to have found firearms and explosives in the premises where the 43 were staying.

The military allege that they found C4 explosives, a pistol with seven bullets, three grenades (one allegedly found under a pillow) and some improvised landmines beside the grenade. However the search was conducted without being witnessed by Dr. Velmonte, any other house occupant, or independent witnesses such as baranggay officials. According to witnesses, the military conducted the search in the compound premises only after all the victims as well as the house owners and their house help were already outside the buildings.

Were the arrests legal?
No, the arrests were illegal. These were based on a patently defective February 5, 2010 search warrant issued by Judge Cesar Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court. The warrant was issued against a certain Mario Condes of Barangay Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal on allegations of illegal possession of firearms. It did not specify any address except for the name of the barangay. The house raided was not that of Mario Condes but that of Dr. Velmonte. There is no Mario Condes among the 43 arrested.

Were there violations of the rights of the 43 health workers?
Yes, there were gross violations of the right to due process, the right against illegal searches and seizures and the right against torture.

1. Violations in securing the search warrant
As stated earlier, the search warrant was patently defective and issued with grave abuse of discretion. The warrant did not indicate any exact address and in effect covered the entire baranggay, thus violating the rights of the accused against unreasonable searches and seizures. The house that was searched was not indicated in the warrant and did not belong to “Mario Condes”.

2. Violations during arrest
The 43 were arrested without any warrants of arrest; they were not informed of the reasons for their arrest nor where they were being taken. All throughout they were denied the right to call a lawyer.

All the training participants were frisked and ordered to line up outside the house. They were immediately handcuffed, interrogated and photographed by the military. Their personal belongings were confiscated. The military used old shirts and packaging tape which they brought with them to blindfold all the participants before loading them onto several trucks.

3. Violations during detention
For five days, the 43 were denied their right to counsel During the first 36 hours of their detention, the 43 were not informed of the reasons why they were being held. They were subjected to continuous interrogation and were being forced to admit that they were members of the NPA. Their fingerprints were taken while they were blindfolded.

Only during the inquest proceedings on the second day were they finally informed of the charges being levelled against them. The prosecutor from the Department of Justice (DOJ), State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, simply called out their names, then read the charges against them. The 43 were denied their right to counsel even during the inquest proceedings.

There were several accounts of torture and ill-treatment as attested to by the detainees and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The AFP violated several provisions of Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law: both physical and psychological torture were inflicted on the 43. These include: being blindfolded and handcuffed for 36 hours; being subjected to multiple and prolonged tactical interrogation with death threats, harassment and intimidation; being deprived of sleep and urgent medication; being manhandled and beaten; being denied legal counsel for days; being denied medical treatment; being coerced to wrongly make admissions and implicate others; and being subjected to various indignities during their captivity. Some were held incommunicado and some remain in solitary confinement up to now.

Some detainees who were blindfolded and handcuffed were also subjected to the indignity of having their captors lower their pants and underwear just so they could relieve themselves.

The 43 remain detained in a military camp when they should have been transferred to a civilian detention facility especially after charges were filed against them in court.

Have the 43 health workers been charged in court?
Despite all the violations of due process committed by the AFP, PNP and the DOJ, charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violations of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban were filed against the 43 at Branch 78 of the Rizal Regional Trial Court in Morong. The charges were only filed on February 11, five days after they were arrested. Forty of the accused face non-bailable offenses (illegal possession of explosives). Clearly, the purpose of the hasty filing of said charges is to attempt to cure violations of due process and justify the continued illegal detention of the 43.

Were the health workers really members of the NPA? Were they really making bombs at the time of their arrest?
The military has made the sweeping accusation that the 43 are members of the NPA. Their proof consists of the firearms and explosives allegedly found in the premises of Dr. Velmonte. But the accounts of Dr. Velmonte and her household give sufficient ground to believe that the firearms and explosives were planted by the military/police.

Mere membership in the NPA cannot be used as basis for a warrantless arrest. Jurisprudence tells us that an overt act or an actual crime (in this case, taking up arms against the government) must first be committed to justify an arrest. There was no shoot-out at the time of the arrest; the 43 and Dr. Velmonte’s household were either doing their morning ablutions or getting ready for breakfast. It is a stretch of the imagination to claim that the 43 health workers were caught in the act of making bombs as early as 6:00 am when they were arrested.

What the military did was to fabricate and plant evidence and then accuse the health workers as NPA members, to justify their warrantless arrest and illegal detention.

The military has since concocted many versions of who the 43 really are. At first, the military alleged that the 43 were not health workers but bomb-makers. Later, the military would allege that the 43 were indeed health workers but were also undergoing training in making explosives. The military now calls them “medics” of the NPA.

The military also goes on to make the preposterous claim that Dr. Alexis Montes, a 62-year old surgeon, is a member of the NPA Special Operations Group tasked to assassinate Gen. Jovito Palparan.

According to CHR Chair Leila de Lima, even assuming for the sake of argument that the 43 health workers are NPA members, they still have the right to due process, including the presumption of innocence and the right to be free from torture and other degrading treatment.

Have the 43 health workers taken legal action? What has been done to secure their release?
The health workers through their relatives and their organizations have filed before the Supreme Court a petition for the writ of habeas corpus last February 9. The Supreme Court ordered the AFP to produce the 43 at the hearing at the Court of Appeals on February 12, 2010. The military defied the SC by not bringing the 43 to the scheduled hearing citing alleged security reasons and lack of time to prepare. The AFP received a strong rebuke from the CA and was ordered to produce the 43 at another hearing on February 15. As of this writing, the CA has yet to issue its decision on the petition.

A complaint has also been filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), asking it to investigate the allegations of rights abuses committed against the 43. The CHR has issued the order for the AFP to present the Morong 43 before the Commission in a scheduled hearing on March 18.

Who are supporting campaign to free the 43?
The campaign “Free the 43” is supported by a broad range of sectors of society, from colleagues in the health professions, lawyers, lawmakers, political leaders across party lines, religious formations, human rights advocates, artists, and advocates and beneficiaries of community-based health programs where the community health workers render their services. It is a national and international campaign calling on the Arroyo government to immediately release the Morong 43 and drop all charges against them. It is a campaign that supports the legal defense of the 43 and undertakes advocacy work and mobilizations. The campaign also supports the immediate needs of the families of the 43 in terms of visits, psycho-social counseling and other forms of concrete assistance.

Why are there volunteer community health workers?
In the Philippines, where seven out of 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor and where public health services are sorely lacking or inaccessible, non-government organizations (NGOs) like CHD and COMMED play an important role by bringing health services to the people. This means that these non-government organizations try to reach poor and underserved communities, set up community-based health programs, organize health committees, and train community health workers (CHWs). This way, the poor people living in urban and rural areas can attend to their health needs in the absence or dearth of government services.

For 37 years, community-based health program practitioners have been training volunteers who would like to become CHWs regardless of their educational attainment. CHD, for example, has trained tens of thousands of community health workers nationwide. Training participants are selected by the people themselves with little regard to their educational and socio-economic background nor their religious or political beliefs, so as long as they commit themselves to serving the people in their communities.

The Community First Responders’ Health Training is one of the courses CHD offers to community health workers. The training is in response to the assessed needs of the communities after the disastrous effects of the lack of disaster preparedness in the wake of tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng”. The community health workers are also the frontliners in providing health services during disasters, so additional health skills are needed for them to be able to respond adequately, especially since many communities have no access to government health services.

Is this the first time doctors, health workers and volunteers have become victims of human rights abuse?
No, there have been similar attacks against health workers in the past. These can be better understood in the context of the government’s counterinsurgency programs, most especially the Arroyo regime’s US-supported Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) or Operation Freedom Watch.

The illegal arrest and detention of 43 doctors and health workers is directly linked to OBL. The latter has given rise to a rash of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detention and mass displacement of poor communities. Under OBL the military has been given a carte blanche by the Arroyo regime to disregard the most basic tenets of due process and human rights. For the AFP, once a person is accused of being an “insurgent” or “terrorist”, he or she is guilty until proven innocent. This is the kind of militarist mindset that the Arroyo regime has in pursuing its counter-insurgency program.

The military has a track record of targeting several other doctors and health personnel.
Just recently, on February 23, 2010, Ronald Capitania, a community health worker of Sipalay, Negros Occidental was shot by two unidentified bonnet-clad men on a motorcycle. Luckily, he survived the attack.

On February 11, 2010, Benjei Faldas, a community health worker in Davao del Sur was reportedly charged with frustrated murder following the wounding of a CAFGU member in an encounter with the New People’s Army. He is prevented from performing his duties as a community health worker.

In July last year, Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca Jr., a respected psychiatrist at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and chairperson emeritus of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), filed a complaint before the CHR regarding his inclusion, together with four Davao-based doctors, in the military’s “Order of Battle” thus making him vulnerable to being targeted for “neutralization” by military and paramilitary “death squads”.

This was a month after another Davao-based physician, Dr. Rogelio Peñera, was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding assailants near his house in Davao City.

In 2008, Dr. Oliver Gimenes, a community-based doctor serving farmers’ communities in Cebu and Bohol, was placed under surveillance by the military and was vilified as a “rebel sympathizer”. He was later charged with murder in a questionable criminal case stemming from an NPA raid of a military detachment.

In 2007, sisters Emilia and Maricris Quirante, both community health workers of Guihulngan Mountain Clinic in Negros Oriental were arrested for trumped-up charges of child abuse and rebellion.

In July 2006, unidentified armed men ambushed Dr. Chandu Claver and his family in Kalinga province. The attack killed Dr. Claver’s wife, Alyce, seriously injured Dr. Claver himself, and traumatized their young daughter.

These attacks share several characteristics: they are politically-motivated; they are directed against those who serve poor communities or underserved sectors; the government attempts to justify these attacks by red-baiting the victims; and they have all been all perpetrated with impunity.

As the government’s self-imposed deadline to defeat or “render inconsequential” the communist-led armed revolutionary movement draws near, the military will even be more hard-pressed to show results. Thus, human rights violations are bound to continue and even escalate.

What are the implications of the arrest of the 43 health workers?
The illegal arrest, illegal detention and torture committed against the 43 health workers by the AFP are clear violations of human rights. The methods resorted to by the military are clearly unconstitutional, show a blatant disregard for the rule of law and pose a grave threat to ordinary Filipinos everywhere.

This incident is disturbing for health professionals and health science students as it imperils the people’s initiatives and efforts to build their own capacity and capability to manage their health needs in the absence of adequate public service.

For health professionals who may be considering the option of public service, this incident has a chilling effect. For the community-oriented academe, this single act of the military could undo decades of encouraging graduates to stay in the Philippines and create the necessary exposure and experience in community-based health trainings.

This will deprive the people of much needed health services which will worsen the already deplorable state of health.

What are our demands and calls?
The campaign “FREE THE 43” demands the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 health workers who were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal and are currently illegally detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal. We also demand that all the false charges against them be dropped.

We hold to account all the government officials involved in the illegal arrest, detention and torture of the 43 including those who have command responsibility over the military and police forces directly involved in the incident. The complaint filed before the CHR states those responsible as:

“The President of the Republic of the Philippines herself, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is primarily responsible as Commander-in-Chief under the principle of command responsibility because she knew or, owing to the circumstances at the time, should have known that the state forces were committing or about to commit the crimes stated in this complaint.

The public officials and cabinet secretaries also responsible for gross violations of Constitutional rights following the doctrine of command responsibility include National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, the Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Meanwhile, the public officers who are also exercising command responsibility over the 202nd IB, 2nd ID PA and the Rizal Provincial Police, PNP and directly responsible for the illegal search, illegal arrests, physical and mental torture and other blatant violations of the Constitutional rights of the 43 doctors and health workers are Gen. Victor Ibrado, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army; Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, Commanding General, SOLCOM, Philippine Army; Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Chief of the 2nd Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Col. Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army; Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion; Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa; and P/Supt. Marion Balonglong of the Rizal Provincial Police.

In the same vein, the Honorable Judge Cesar Mangrobang is also responsible for the issuance of the bogus and constitutionally defective Search Warrant that the military and police officers used to justify the raid of the farmhouse located at 266 Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal.

State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, the Department of Justice Prosecutor who conducted the defective inquest of the 43 doctors, nurses and medical workers and issued the Resolution indicting them with trumped-up charges, and Senior Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Severino Gaña, the reviewing prosecutor who signed the findings of Prosecutor Romeo Senson, and Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera are accountable for their complicity in the efforts to legitimize the military and police’s commission of human rights violations.”

We demand an end to the counter-insurgency program OBL, which has targeted unarmed civilians accused of supporting the NPA, in the name of fighting insurgency.

We call on freedom-loving people to make a stand for human rights and condemn in the strongest terms the human rights violations perpetrated with impunity by the Arroyo government.

(This primer was prepared by Free the 43 Health Workers)

National Nurses United_US


March 23, 2010

Secretary Hillary R. Clinton
U.S. State Department
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton,

On behalf of the 150,000 RN members of the National Nurses United, we write to express our deep concern of the arrest of 43 healthcare workers in the Philippines.

The 43 healthcare workers were attending a health seminar sponsored by the Council for Health and Development (CHD) when arrested. According to reliable sources including the Asia Human Rights Commission, there are reports of psychological and physical torture and the detainees were interrogated without the presence of their legal counsel. Their continued detention is a tavesty of justice in a country were more than 3,000 nurses and doctors leave the country yearly to seek better lives abroad and where 5 out of 10 Filipinos go from cradle to death without ever seeing a doctor or a nurse. The Philippines is the number one exporter of nurses in the world and second in exporting doctors.

I commend the dedication of the 43 healthcare workers who opted to serve the health needs of its people instead of going abroad to seek for a better life. One of the detainees is an operating room nurse who is also the Auditor of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), a recognized union of healthcare workers in the Philippines.

The National Nurses United represents thousands of Filipino-American nurses, and we stand in solidarity with the international community in condemning this act of arbitrariness and calousness on the part of the Philippine Military and the government. We join the international community to demand the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 healthcare workers in the Philippines.

Sincerely,

Signed:

Deborah Burger, RN
Co-President
Karen Higgins,RN
Co-President
Jean Ross,RN
Co-President

Monday, March 22, 2010

AFP desperate, Name Drops DOH and PMA- HEAD

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
2/F Doña Anita Bldg
284 E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City
Telefax: (02) 725 4760
Email: headphil@gmail.com


There is no official statement from either the Department of Health or the Philippine Medical Association stating that the 43 detainees are not health workers.

According to Health Alliance for Democracy, neither the DOH nor the PMA has made any such statement and that once again, the desperate Armed Forces of the Philippines is resorting to outright lies.

“The military is deliberately misquoting or misrepresenting statements in order to draw public sympathy away from their victims,” said Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary-general. “They need somebody to lend credibility to their vilification campaign against the 43 illegally detained health workers.”

However, the detainees’ credentials belie the preposterous claims made by the AFP.

According to Dr. Rivera, “Dr. Alex Montes of Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) is an elder of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). He was the UCCP national coordinator for health services for twenty years (1986-2006). His sacrifice and service is acknowledged by his fellow church leaders here and abroad.”

Yet the AFP alleges that the mild-mannered Dr. Montes, who is more than 60 years old, is the head of a communist assassination team.

“Dr. Merry Mia is a community physician of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) since 2004. The 34-year-old doctor finished medicine at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2001.”

“Mr. Gary Liberal is a licensed nurse working at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center. He is also currently a board member of the Operating Room Nurses Association of the Philippines (ORNAP).”

“These are the people we see every day, quietly fulfilling their sacred duties of providing healthcare to those in need. Yet, these are the people now accused by the AFP of being New People’s Army medics,” decried Dr. Rivera.

HEAD believes that the military needs to paint these health workers as enemies of the state in order to justify why they are waging a war on unarmed civilians.

“The AFP is training their guns on civilians. Their battlefield is now people’s homes. This is Oplan Bantay Laya. This atrocity must stop now!” concluded Dr. Rivera. ###
See Related Story
References:

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General
Cellphone Number: 0920 460 3712


Dr. Darby S. Santiago
Chair
Cellphone Number: 0927 473 7700

Saturday, March 20, 2010

AFP Using PNP as Scapegoat for Violations!

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
2/F Doña Anita Bldg
284 E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City
Telefax: (02) 725 4760
Email: headphil@gmail.com


The Armed Forces of the Philippines is now using the Philippine National Police as a convenient scapegoat for their illegal raid and human rights violations.

According to Health Alliance for Democracy, the AFP is desperately trying to justify the illegal raid they conducted last February 6 in Morong, Rizal, which led to the illegal arrest, detention, and torture of 43 health workers.

“The AFP has previously insisted that the raid was legitimate by virtue of a warrant that was to be served by the PNP. However, such excuses have cast the PNP in a bad light by showing them to be either totally inept or mere subordinates of the military,” said Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary-general.

Recent statements made by PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa directly contradict claims made by military officers that the raid was a “police operation”. His statements on the search warrant also reveal that the police had very little control of the February 6 raid, which explains the blatant human rights violations and wanton disregard for due process and standard operating procedures.

“The alleged warrant is crucial to the lies being peddled by the military because they have used it since day 1 to show that they ‘respect’ the rule of law,” added Dr. Rivera.

“Now, it is not just the legitimacy of the warrant but the raid itself that is being put in question. By the sheer volume of violations committed by the raiding party that day, it will appear that the PNP does not even know how to conduct an arrest. At least, that is what the AFP is making it look like.”

The statements of Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, spokesperson of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, also reveal that the military had absolutely no intentions of following due process and merely used any warrant to justify their actions.

“If the military operation’s real targets were the so-called rebels, as Lt. Col. Detoyato admitted, then theirs was not a police operation as they earlier claimed,” added Dr. Rivera. “The military only used the warrant, and the PNP, to justify why they launched an attack on unarmed civilians.”

For HEAD, statements of PNP also belie claims by the military that the reason why the 43 remains in their custody is because the PNP has no adequate facility. “Such lame excuse is passing the buck of inefficiency to the PNP.” Now, the AFP is again using alleged statements, supposedly from the Department of Health and other medical groups, to lend credence to their accusations that the 43 are rebels.
“The 43 are health workers. No amount of accusations or concocted stories made against them will negate this simple fact.” “Instead, by the PNP statements, the detainees should be immediately released, since there is obviously no due process followed in their arrest and detention. Even the police acknowledge that!” concluded Dr. Rivera. ###

References:

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General
Cellphone Number: 0920 460 3712


Dr. Darby S. Santiago
Chair
Cellphone Number: 0927 473 7700

Friday, March 19, 2010

Military Defies CHR, Fails to Produce Morong 43 at Hearing

By Ronalyn V. Olea and Anne Marxze D. Umil
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) defied the constitutional mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as it refused to produce the 43 health workers before the commission during a hearing today.

The AFP, in a manifestation sent to the CHR yesterday, said that the commission should first get clearance from Regional Trial Court (RTC) and Municipal Trial Court in Morong before the AFP could produce the detainees.

The 43 health workers were arrested February 6 at a farm house in Morong, Rizal. The military claimed the health workers are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives have been filed against the Morong 43 in the said courts.

Named respondents by the CHR in today’s hearing are retired AFP Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado, AFP chief Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, PNP Dir. Gen. Jesus Versoza, Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Balabad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade and Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, among others.

State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson states that according to the prevailing jurisprudence, the trial courts should have jurisdiction over the case.

Senson is also named respondent to the complaint as he was the one who subjected the Morong 43 to inquest proceedings without the presence of lawyers.

“Are you saying the CHR is in danger of violating of the sub judice rule?” CHR chairwoman Leila de Lima asked Senson.

“It’s the law; the trial courts have exclusive jurisdiction over the accused,” Senson insisted.

“You may be following the law but you are misconstruing the CHR,” de Lima said, adding that the CHR has the constitutional mandate to investigate allegations of human-right violations.

De Lima said that in the case of Morong 43, there are allegations of illegal arrest, illegal detention, torture, incommunicado detention, violation of the right to legal counsel, among others.

CHR Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing even read aloud the judicial powers of the CHR as stated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“We will continue with this proceeding because we have the mandate of the Constitution,” de Lima said.

Atty. Ser-me Ayuyao, counsel for military respondents, insisted that the complainants should prove their allegations first. He then invoked the right of the military against self-incrimination.

But De Lima said the AFP cannot invoke the right against self- incrimination yet. “This is not a court of law, it is a fact-finding body. We need to clarify facts,” de Lima said.

When Ayuyao asserted the respondents’ right to remain silent, De Lima said: “Do not restrict our authority to determine the truth.”

Quisumbing said respondents are not defendants at the CHR hearing and the commission can adopt its own proceeding.

Atty. Romeo Capulong of the Public Interest law Center (PILC), lead counsel of the Morong 43, said there is no valid reason for the AFP not to bring the 43 detainees at today’s hearing.

“The CHR powers cannot be subordinated by any court in this country,” Capulong said. “It is not true that the Morong courts have jurisdiction over the Morong 43.”

Capulong said they have questioned the legality of the arrest and detention in their petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) and submitted an appeal after the CA junked their plea.

QC court throws out ‘forum shopping’ case vs CHR on ‘Morong 43’

By Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:15:00 03/18/2010


MANILA, Philippines—A Quezon City judge has thrown out a petition filed by a state prosecutor to stop the Commission on Human Rights from investigating the Armed Forces of the Philippines for allegedly violating the rights of 43 health workers arrested recently on charges of rebellion.

In a one-page order dated March 16, Judge Rosa-Samson Tatad of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 105 said the petition of State Prosecutor Romeo Senson was “defective” because it lacked documents pertinent to the filing of the petition.

"The Court finds the verification and certification of non-forum shopping as defective for it was not accompanied by a written authorization from the Department of Justice showing that State Prosecutor Senson has the legal personality to file this petition for and in behalf of the Department of Justice," the order said.

Court records showed Senson filed the petition on Tuesday and asked for a temporary restraining order and a declaration that the CHR had no jurisdiction to investigate the case.

In asking for the issuance of the TRO, Senson said the CHR might tamper with the evidence of the military against the so-called Morong 43, who have been charged with rebellion before the Rizal RTC.

Named respondents in Senson’s petition were CHR chairperson Leila de Lima and Commissioners Cecilia Rachel Quisumbing, Ma. Victoria Cardona and Jose Manuel Mamauag.

According to a court staff who asked not to be named, Senson was given until Wednesday afternoon to submit the additional documents, but failed.

“He did not show up and failed to submit the required certification from the justice secretary, and because of the ‘defective’ petition, the judge deferred the issuance of a TRO that would have stopped the CHR hearing today (March 18),” the court staff said.

In his petition, Senson stated that the arrest of the health workers had been deemed valid and upheld by four government institutions.

He mentioned the local court that issued the search warrant, which became the basis for the operation; the DoJ, which accepted the complaint against the health workers; the criminal courts where the charges against the health workers were filed; and the Court of Appeals, which upheld the suspects' detention.

“With the CHR's investigation, these institutions are wittingly and deliberately being disrespected," he said.

The proceedings being conducted by the CHR he said, “are clearly out of procedure and abet a case of forum shopping.”

The 43 health workers were arrested by operatives of the Philippine Army from a resort in Morong Rizal, in February, on suspicion that they were members of the communist New People’s Army undergoing training in bomb making.

Letter of Support: Silliman University, Dumaguete City

 
 
11 March 2010

BISHOP ELIEZER M. PASCUA
General Secretary
United Church for Christ in the Philippines

Dear Bishop Pascua:

We join the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and the rest of the country, in condemning all forms of human rights violations.

It saddens us to hear about the state of Dr. Alex Montes and the rest of the 42 detained health workers. Silliman University extends our prayers to Dr. Montes, his colleagues and their families as they go through a challenging phase in their life. We pray that the truth and their faith in the Lord will carry them through.

The University calls on the Philippine government to help ensure an objective and speedy trial of the case. We hold in high esteem the members of judiciary, and we pray that their decisions be impartial and free of external influence.

Together with the Silliman University Church, Silliman University will explore how else we can be of assistance to Dr. Montes and his colleagues in the best way possible for us.

With my best regards,

Signed:

Ben S Malayang III
President

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where the Court of Appeals feared to tread

The CHR Investigation on human rights violations committed against and the conditions of the arrest and detention of the Morong 43 must be supported!

The human rights alliance Karapatan, today, joins and supports the 43 illegally arrested and detained health workers and their relatives in their fight for justice. The human rights Alliance also expresses its full support to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) in conducting a public hearing today to shed light on the allegations of torture of the detained health workers, collectively known as the Morong 43, as well as the illegality of their arrest and detention.

“Although we are angered by the continued illegal detention and torture of the Morong 43, we see a ray of light in the decision of the CHR to conduct this investigation, despite the dismissal of the petition for habeas corpus by the Court of Appeals, which did so on the basis of an outdated martial law doctrine utilized by the hated fascist dictator in sending to jail hundreds of thousands of political dissenters during the dictatorship years, “ stated Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of Karapatan. She enjoins the public, thus, “At a time that people’s rights are gravely assaulted, the efforts of a human rights body, such as the CHR, to investigate cases of human rights violations, must be strongly supported.”

“We take heart in the CHR’s correct assertion to investigate the conditions surrounding the arrest of the Morong 43 and the torture heaped on them. These were the important matters that the Court of Appeals chose to ignore – a fact that makes us wonder if the Court was cowed, as in the dark years of martial law, by the military might that maybe used against them or if the judges have wittingly allowed themselves to become an arm of the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya,” continued Hilao-Enriquez.

Hilao-Enriquez also takes note of the Order of the CHR for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to submit her comments within 10 days from receipt of the CHR’s Order. “It is high time that the President be made to explain her policy on supposed “enemies of the state” as well as her policy on human rights violations committed by state security forces,” she added.

The Karapatan Chairperson said that human rights advocates and relatives of the health workers, will continue to fight for justice and the release of the 43, despite the Court of Appeals decision. “The CA’s decision allows continuing impunity which favors state security forces in their violation of the rights of the 43 health workers. We call on the people to demand for justice, be vigilant and assert their rights to ensure that such violations will not happen again,” concluded Hilao-Enriquez. ###

Reference :
Marie Hilao-Enriquez
Chairperson (0917-561-6800)
KARAPATAN

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. It was established in 1995.

Health Workers Unite Against Repression and Fascism

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
2/F Doña Anita Bldg
284 E. Rodriguez Ave.
Quezon City
Telefax: (02) 725 4760
Email: headphil@gmail.com

Media Release
18 March 2010

“This is a stand against a very dangerous precedent. Health workers who were once at the frontlines of healthcare in rural and frontier areas are now at the frontlines of the political struggle for civil liberties.”

Health Alliance for Democracy today joined the relatives, friends, and colleagues of the 43 illegally detained health workers in the hearing conducted by the Commission on Human Rights regarding the illegal arrest, detention, harassments, and torture perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police-Rizal Province.

“The Arroyo regime has long eroded whatever token system of checks and balances existed in this country,” declared Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary-general. “The excesses of the state must be exposed and opposed!”

The AFP and PNP are consistently the top human rights violators in the country. The United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, in his updated report in April 2009, said that “the AFP has not changed...its counter-insurgency techniques...forced disappearances and illegal detentions remain all too common, as does the bringing of trumped up charges against Filipino activists...”

Moreover, the Alston report made a foreboding statement that “numerous statements continue to be made...by other military officials identifying and vilifying members of civil society organizations. Such statements continue to be justified by reference to President Arroyo’s order that the AFP should end the insurgency ‘once and for all’ by 2010.”

Similarly, the “2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” released by the United States Congress last March 11 raised concerns regarding the persistent impunity in the country, saying “…arbitrary and warrantless arrests and detentions were common…Leftists and human rights activists were subjected to harassment by local security forces.” For HEAD, all of these remain manifest in the AFP’s handling of the 43 health workers. The military officers continue to deny sexual harassments and torture despite overwhelming evidence. They deny violating human rights yet disallowed the entry of relatives, legal counsel, and even the CHR team in the first two days of the detention. Then, they justify everything by accusing the health workers of being rebels, and that these were all part of the successes of Oplan Bantay-Laya.

“The Arroyo regime has embraced all that has been abominable with the Marcos dictatorship - from the corruption to the profligate spending, from the unscrupulous politics to the spiteful disregard for human rights.”

“The prevailing political repression and punitive violence enforced by security forces under the direction of the chief executive and commander-in-chief is a scourge on the Filipino people. This must stop now!” concluded Dr. Rivera. ###

References:
Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General, 0920 460 3712

Dr. Darby S. Santiago
Chair, 0927 473 7700

Kins and colleagues of 43 health workers urge CHR to fully fulfill its mandate to: check on state forces’ abuses and uphold and protect human rights

Media Release
Dr. Eleanor Jara
Mobile : 0917-9789297

The families, supporters, and colleagues of the 43 health workers trooped to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) today to demand for justice on their unlawful arrests, detention, and torture. CHR Chair Leila de Lima ordered a hearing today between military and police officials, the judge issuing the search warrant, Dr. Melecia Velmonte and son Jose Manuel, and the 43 health workers.

“We want speedy justice for our colleagues. Each day that they spend in detention translates to the delay in delivery of health services to government-neglected areas. They do not deserve another day in jail,” said Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, one of the spokespersons of the Free the 43 Health Workers alliance.

She shared her optimism that the CHR thru Chair de Lima will maintain its independence and live up to its mandate to probe on cases of human rights violations. “We challenge the CHR not to submit to pressures from the military and other high ranking officials and maintain their independence in probing the truth and seeking justice for the health workers,” Dr. Jara explained.

Community Health Workers or CHWs, whom a police official called “uneducated” and therefore unfit to undergo health skills training, number to hundreds of thousands and serve communities in the farthest recesses of the country. Where government services lack or are simply non-existent, these CHWs render much needed health services that save thousands of lives each year. Dr. Jara explained that the lack of high educational attainment does not make anyone unfit to learn and render health skills because the main requirement to become a CHW is the understanding of the importance of the role that ordinary people play in setting-up a people-managed health care at the community level and the commitment to serve others without expecting anything in return.

Dr. Jara also took note of Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo’s apparent silence on the wanton human rights violation committed by her state troops. “Mrs. Arroyo’s silence on the unlawful arrest and torture of the 43 is tantamount to allowing the culture of impunity to perpetuate and a brazen disregard for the rule of law, “she said.

She stressed that the alliance is optimistic that the Commission on Human Rights will stand by its mandate and bring the perpetrators of this grave human rights violation to court but primarily, it is the people’s unrelenting struggle that will ensure justice will be served.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Appeals Court Decision on Morong 43 Sets Dangerous Precedent

By Benjie Oliveros
Analysis
Bulatlat.com


MANILA — The search warrant was highly irregular: it did not contain the correct name of the owner of the house and the list of items to be searched. There were clear violations of the detainees’ rights. They were handcuffed and blindfolded for days and denied their right to counsel and visits. Before they were allowed visits, the military brought in a fiscal who conducted inquest proceedings even if the 43 health workers were not represented by their counsels.

Worse, one of the detainees Dr. Alex Montes, 62, recounted, at the Court of Appeals hearing, the torture he endured while being interrogated. Another detainee Jane Balleta was sexually harassed, and chances are other women detainees may have suffered the same fate. Even the government’s Commission on Human Rights has declared that the rights of the 43 health workers were clearly violated.

It was obvious that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was lying right from the start. The military initially declared that the 43 health workers were conducting a bomb-making training; later it changed its storyline claiming that the 43 belonged to the health bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, likening them to the “Department of Health” of the communists. But eventually, it filed cases of illegal possession of explosives and illegal possession of firearms against the 43 health workers before the Morong court, perhaps because it is easier to manufacture evidences for these cases than in a rebellion case.

And yet, despite the glaring violations of the rights of the 43 health workers, the Court of Appeals (CA) junked the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Why?

A rich man represented by a good lawyer could have been ordered freed on a mere technicality, such as an irregularity in the search or arrest warrants or a violation of the right to counsel. Even Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre that claimed the lives of 57 people is having a better day in court.

However, this case goes way beyond the unequal dispensation of justice. It is already about a denial of justice. Worse, it is about the impunity in rights violations. The CA decision sets a dangerous precedent at a time when impunity is prevailing. In fact, the decision fans the flames of this impunity. It sends the signal that the military can run roughshod on the rights of people, illegally arrest, torture, and detain them, and justify it later on by filing a case in court.

Romeo Capulong, counsel for the 43, has brilliantly pointed out that the Appeals Court, in explaining its decision, has effectively revived the Ilagan vs. Enrile doctrine, which was issued under martial law.

“Once a person is duly charged in court, he may no longer question his detention through a petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be allowed after the party sought to be released had been charged before any court,” the CA wrote in its 20-page decision.

The Ilagan vs. Enrile Supreme Court decision was issued October 21,1985 on the writ of habeas corpus petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Free Legal Assistance Group, and the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism in behalf of three Mindanao-based human rights lawyers Laurente Ilagan, Marcos Resonar, and Antonio Arellano. The three lawyers were arrested one after the other on the basis of a Mission Order issued by the Ministry of National Defense on May 10, 1985. Named respondents were then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Acting AFP Chief of Staff lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and Brig. Gen. Dionisio Tan-Gatue, Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) Regional Commander for Region XI based in Davao City.

During the hearing regarding the petition on May 23, 1985, the military tried to justify the arrests by citing that the three lawyers were arrested on the basis of a Preventive Detention Action and that the writ was suspended, then expounded on a supposed state of rebellion in Davao City implying that the three were involved in subversive activities. However, the Supreme Court ordered the release of the detained lawyers on that same day due to lack of evidence linking the detained lawyers to the alleged subversive activities being cited by the government to justify their arrest and detention. The PC-INP refused to release the detained lawyers and filed a rebellion case against the three before the Regional Trial Court of Davao City on May 27, 1985, which issued a warrant of arrest. The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed the petition for habeas corpus for being moot and academic citing the filing of the rebellion case against the three lawyers.

The Ilagan vs. Enrile jurisprudence was clearly in consonance with the prevailing martial rule then. It is a case of arrest now, justify later. But it has no place now that the Filipino people are supposedly enjoying their formal democratic rights.

The country is in a confused state nowadays. The May 2010 elections is fast approaching, supposedly indicating that we are no longer under martial law. But impunity in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and -with the CA decision- torture and arbitrary arrest and detention is prevailing resulting in what Karapatan calls as “undeclared martial law”. Likewise, the freedom of the press is hampered by the impunity in the killing of journalists.

If a failure of elections do occur in May – as most people fear – the picture would be complete. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would succeed in bringing us back to the dark years of martial rule. If not, no matter who wins in the next presidential elections, the Filipino people’s rights would still hang in the balance, as the same jurisprudences, repressive decrees, laws and polices, which were issued during the Marcos dictatorship are being used time and again to curtail the people’s rights and to suppress the Filipino people’s struggle for genuine freedom and democracy. However, it is this same struggle that would end the impunity and reclaim, nay, push further our rights to a new and higher level: when the rule of majority will be realized, not only in form but in essence.

Related Stories:
CA ruling on Morong 43 case condemned

Katribu Sends Report to UN Rights Body on Morong 43

By Sloan Ramos
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat.com


BAGUIO CITY – The Katribu Partylist sent a report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the continued detention of the 43 community health workers, known as the “Morong 43,” who were arrested by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, February 6.

In a press conference Wednesday, the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) announced that it has endorsed the said report. Abigail Anongos, CPA secretary general, noted that the case of the Morong 43 is a concern given that two of the detained are indigenous women, one coming from the Cordillera region, referring to Angela Manugan Doloricon, a Kankanaey from the northern town of Sagada, Mountain Province.

Anongos condemned the arrest of the 43 community health workers by elements of the 2nd ID of the AFP. She also said that the CPA has been supporting the campaign of Katribu Partylist, especially in the release of the 43 health workers.

Katribu is a partylist that is representing the indigenous peoples of the country. CPA is one of its founders. It is aiming for a seat in Congress in the May 2010 elections.

Anongos noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, therefore the human rights of the 43 arrested health workers must be respected.

However, Anongos said the human rights of the 43 detained health workers are deliberately violated, noting that the men have undergone physical torture, apart from the emotional and mental torture that they are experiencing under detention.She argued that the Morong 43 must instead be commended in their dedication to provide health services to marginalized and far flung communities.

Anongos added that local health workers in the Cordillera are also experiencing harassment from state agencies. She said that members of the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore), a community health organization, also experienced intimidation from soldiers while they were conducting a medical mission in the province of Kalinga.

Teresa Quinawayan: Bringing Health Services to the Poor

By Marya Salamat
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Ma. Teresa R. Quinawayan, 27, is a licensed midwife, a young mother to four-year-old Paula and a devoted though strict sister to her siblings. Her family lives in Navotas City where her parents strive to support the family by fishing

As a midwife, Teresa, or Tere as she is fondly called by friends, can handle normal deliveries and suturing perineal lacerations. She has nursing aid skills and is capable of providing care giving services. She wants one of her sisters, a high school student, to take up midwifery, too, so they could open a small clinic in their community in Navotas.


As a member of the Council for Health and Development (CHD), a nongovernment organization that aims to develop the capacity of people’s organizations to set up community-based health programs, Tere works in its Field Assistance Unit. Part of her tasks is to “provide trainings and organize medical missions.” This was what she described in the affidavit she made for their petition for habeas corpus. Tere also helps out in implementing projects being undertaken by their member community-based health programs (CBHPs).


Tere has gone to Batangas, Morong and Mindanao to help their member CHBPs in conducting health trainings.

She is one of the 43 health workers still detained at Camp Capinpin as the Court of Appeals junked their petition for habeas corpus. Mary Grace, her younger sister who always visits her there told Bulatlat that every night, Tere is worried about their plight, especially of her fellow community health worker who shares her cell. Tere wrote in her affidavit that Bernadette, her fellow health worker from Mindoro, is often being taken out for interrogation till the wee hours of the morning.

“Her daughter Paula misses her so much,” Mary Grace told Bulatlat. Paula has seen her mom very briefly, four times, since Tere was jailed last February 6. Each time, Tere, despite normally being cheerful and tough, was in tears.

“Our father is angry at what the army is doing,” said Mary Grace. “Are they insecure?” she quoted her father as saying. Their mother’s vertigo seemed to have worsened since Tere was imprisoned.

We hope they (the military) would free my sister and the rest of the 43 health workers soon,” said Mary Grace, who has put her high school studies on hold since her sister was jailed because she alone in their family could visit Tere regularly and help out in needed errands for her legal case. “My Ate (elder sis) would doubtless get angry at me when she learns that I have stopped attending my classes for a while,” said Mary Grace. But she says she has asked her teachers for support. The teachers seemed to have agreed to allow her to take special tests.

“The interrogations and threats continue,” said Tere in her affidavit. “I asked the interrogator what do they want from us and he told me that we belong to a group of NPA and that some of our companions were armed… I am very afraid and I know that this fear could affect my disposition and mental being. I fear that when I would be released from detention I would be killed.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Women's Global Network Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)

Statement of the Women's Global Network Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) on the arrest of 43 health workers in the Philippines.

On the 6th of February 2010, 43 health workers were arrested in Morong, Philippines by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The 43 are accused of belonging to the New People’s Army, a faction of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Over a month later, the ‘Morong 43’ are still detained in the custody of the AFP without having complete recourse to the law. WGNRR reaffirms the international community’s condemnation of the detention of the Morong 43 and urges the Philippine government to afford them their human rights.

WGNRR is extremely concerned by reports of the human rights abuses suffered by the 43 and implores authorities to comply with international documents such as the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, in addition to the statutes of Philippine law. WGNRR supports the growing number of voices asking for the charges against the detainees to be outlined clearly and following all the procedures of the law. WGNRR fully believes that torture and force go against the fundamentals of our human rights and appeals to the Philippine government to investigate these worrying reports in a fair and timely manner.

WGNRR is a staunch advocate for the respect for human rights and calls on the Philippine government to afford the 43 their full rights and to ensure that the entire process is transparent, lawful and just; fully compliant with the internationally binding agreements on human rights. We request that all military and police personnel be trained in international human rights standards, ensuring that the rights of the people are in no way violated. We also request that a fully transparent method for redress is set-up.

WGNRR calls on its members to extend its support and solidarity for our Philippine partners in these trying times.

Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
Red Mundial de Mujeres por los Derechos
Reproductivos Réseau Mondial de Femmes por les Droits Reproductifs


WG-Terrein
Marius van Bouwdijk Bastiaansestraat 56
1054 SP Amsterdam

13 Dao Street, Project 3
Barangay Quirino 3-A
Quezon City, 1102 Philippines
Tel.+ 63 (2) 913 6708
Telefax: + 63 (2) 7093193
www.wgnrr.org

Morong 43 lawyers to appeal CA decision

PRESS STATEMENT
March 10, 2010


Lawyers of the Morong 43 will appeal to the Supreme Court the decision of the Court of Appeals denying their petition for habeas corpus.

We have no other recourse but to elevate the case to the Highest Court, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) headed by Atty. Romeo T. Capulong said today after the Court of Appeals issued a resolution denying their petition for habeas corpus filed in behalf of the 43 health workers still detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

“In simply adhering to the outdated Ilagan v. Enrile, a notorious martial law doctrine, the Court of Appeals seriously disregarded the litany of blatant violations of the constitutional rights of these 43 health workers from the time that they were unlawfully arrested and the continued abuse of their basic human rights in the hands of the military,” said Atty. Capulong. It is clear that the CA has not mustered the courage to revisit a doctrine handed down during the Marcos dictatorship and has actually legalized the abuses committed by the military, he added.

The Court of Appeals followed the Supreme Court ruling in Ilagan v. Enrile in denying Morong 43’s petition. The doctrine declares that a petition for writ of habeas corpus becomes moot and academic once an information/indictment is filed in court and a warrant of arrest or an order of commitment is issued against the person detained.

On February 11, 2010, two days after the filing of the petition for habeas corpus, 40 of the Morong 43 were charged in a Morong court with illegal possession of explosives, while three were charged with illegal possession of firearms.

Atty. Capulong lamented that Morong 43’s right to due process has been gravely violated by the recent CA ruling. He cited the Umil v. Ramos case where the Supreme Court made an exhortation to all courts that in all petitions for habeas corpus the court must inquire into every phase and aspect of petitioner's detention, from the moment petitioner was taken into custody up to the moment the court passes upon the merits of the petition, that only after such a scrutiny can the court satisfy itself that the due process clause of our Constitution has in fact been satisfied, and that if the conditions set by the Constitution or the rules are not met the petitioner must be ordered released.

He said his team of lawyers had asked the CA to look into the (il)legality of the warrantless arrest of the Morong 43 and to order their immediate release but they were flatly ignored.

It is high time the Supreme Court re-examine this antiquated doctrine which has served as a tool of the government, the AFP and the PNP to carry out the unlawful warrantless arrest and arbitrary detention of members of progressive organizations, Atty. Capulong stressed.

In the early morning of February 6, 2010, 43 doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers were rounded up in the farm house of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Morong, Rizal where they were attending a health training-seminar. They were blindfolded, handcuffed and taken at gun point to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal. They were held incommunicado, some in solitary confinement, subjected to prolonged tactical interrogation and physical and psychological torture, and denied access to their relatives, lawyers and doctors days after their warrantless arrest. They are still being held in the military camp where the 43 victims continue to suffer violations of their constitutional rights.#

For reference:
Atty. Romeo T. Capulong 0917-8827923
Atty. Rachel F. Pastores 0927-9219539

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Using Martial-Law Doctrine, CA Junks Morong 43’s Habeas Corpus Plea

By Ronalyn V. Olea
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) denied the petition for habeas corpus filed in behalf of the 43 health workers detained by the military in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

Dubbed as the Morong 43, the health workers were arrested February 6 by around 300 elements of the police and military. Authorities claimed that the 43 are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The court followed the Supreme Court ruling in Ilagan v. Enrile in denying the Morong 43’s petition. The doctrine declares that a petition for writ of habeas corpus becomes moot and academic once an information/indictment is filed in court and a warrant of arrest or an order of commitment is issued against the person detained.

“Once a person is duly charged in court, he may no longer question his detention through a petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be allowed after the party sought to be released had been charged before any court,” the CA said in its 20-page decision.

“Having established that the detainees’ continued imprisonment is by virtue of a valid court process, we find it unnecessary to dwell on the other issues raised by the petitioners,” it added.

On February 11, 2010, two days after the filing of the petition for habeas corpus, 40 of the Morong 43 were charged in a Morong court with illegal possession of explosives, while three were charged with illegal possession of firearms.

“In simply adhering to the outdated Ilagan v. Enrile, a notorious martial law doctrine, the Court of Appeals seriously disregarded the litany of blatant violations of the constitutional rights of these 43 health workers from the time that they were unlawfully arrested and the continued abuse of their basic human rights in the hands of the military,” Romeo Capulong, lead counsel of the 43, said in a statement.

Capulong said the CA “has actually legalized the abuses committed by the military.”

“We have no other recourse but to elevate the case to the Highest Court,” Capulong and the other lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said, referring to the Supreme Court.

Capulong said the CA ruling violates the Morong 43’s right to due process, citing the Umil v. Ramos case. In that jurisprudence, the Supreme Court made an exhortation to all courts that in all petitions for habeas corpus the court must inquire into every phase and aspect of petitioner’s detention, from the moment petitioner was taken into custody up to the moment the court passes upon the merits of the petition, that only after such a scrutiny can the court satisfy itself that the due process clause of our Constitution has in fact been satisfied, and that if the conditions set by the Constitution or the rules are not met the petitioner must be ordered released.

He said they had asked the CA to look into the legality of the arrest of the Morong 43 and to order their immediate release.

In a separate statement, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) criticized the decision of the CA but also lauded the dissenting opinions of CA Justices Normandi Pizzaro and Francisco Acosta.

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said the CA decision sets a dangerous precedent. “…[O]ther illegal arrests can be done by the AFP and PNP, and that these can be ‘legalized’ once the information has been filed against the detainees,” Reyes said.

Capulong called on the Supreme Court to re-examine the Ilagan v Enrile doctrine which, he said, has served as a tool of the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to carry out the “unlawful warrantless arrest and arbitrary detention of members of progressive organizations.”

Two More of the 43 Taken Out

In another statement, the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Amnestiya (Selda) said that two more detainees — Jennilyn Pizarro and John Mark Barrientos, both from Quezon province — were reported by relatives to have been forcibly taken in isolation by their army guards. The two were reportedly brought to the officers’ lounge and were being pressured by the military to “cooperate.”

Earlier, three others were isolated and were being pressured by military officers to “surrender.” The three, Valentino Paulino, Cherrilyn Tawagon and Ellen Carandang, were even offered P50,000 as part of the package for “rebel returnees.”

Selda also said that the Morong 43 were served spoiled rice for breakfast. The relatives found the detainees looking tired and lethargic, and the latter reported that they felt sick after eating, Selda added.

“This is the latest assault on the rights of the health workers who are continuously being held and tortured by the military,” said Father Diony Cabillas, Selda’s spokesman. Cabillas said that deliberate or not, the serving of spoiled food to political detainees is inhuman and cruel. “It is meant to degrade them and wear down their resolve to give in to military pressure to turn witness against themselves and their co-workers,” he added.

“The AFP uses its divide-and-rule tactic, and targets to isolate and pressure not only the detainees but also their relatives,” Cabillas said.

Related Stories:
  1. Tortyur sa Kampo Capinpin-By Kenneth Roland A. Guda (Pinoy Weekly)
  2. Walang patumanggang tortyur-Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano (Pinoy Weekly)

Children of Morong 43 Speak Up: ‘Free Our Parents!’

By Marya Salamat
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — “Most children are candid and direct to the point,” said Sophia Garduce, spokesperson of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns. “Children will give it to you straight, how they feel, what they think.” Which is why when Salinlahi hosted a press conference with two children as speakers, it was their shortest press conference on record, Garduce said.

Salinlahi held the press conference in response to the children’s request that they be allowed to speak as well for the 43 jailed health workers.

In the press conference, Garduce aired the appeal of the detainees’ children. “As we are about to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8, children of the 43 jailed health workers want their mother, sister and grandparents to celebrate the day together with them, outside Camp Capinpin and away from any harm, threat and abuse.”

Salinlahi conducted workshop sessions with the children and grandchildren of the jailed 43 health workers last week of February. In the sessions, the children were urged to talk about their parents’ situation in detention.

At the workshop, the children asked the adults: “What have my mother done wrong? They are not criminals, why are they imprisoned?”

Egoy, or Diego Gabriel Clamor, 4, the son of Dr. Merry Clamor, one of the 43 health workers currently jailed at Camp Capinpin, and Vince Michael Montes, 8, a grandson of Dr. Alex Montes, another detainee, asked the press to give their messages to the military.

“I don’t know why my Lolo is being kept in prison. I wish they would set him free,” Vince said.

Vince said he wanted to tell the military: “Free my Lolo now. He did nothing wrong. He is a kind, helpful man.”

Egoy was shy at first. In the Salinlahi workshop, he had said that “my mom is a doctor who is always in PGH (Philippine General Hospital) because she had many patients there. But that was before. Now, her patients will suffer because she was detained. She did not commit any crime. How will her patients cope now?”

At the press con attended by sons, daughters and other relatives of 43 health workers and classmates of Egoy, he was less talkative. But asked what should be done with the military who arrested his mother, he said “Jail them, too!”

“My mother is a doctor, serving the poor. I hope she would get out of jail,” Egoy later said.

Garduce said that Dr. Clamor also served as the vice president of a daycare center run by the Parents Alternative on Early Childhood Care and Development or PAECCD, a member organization of Salinlahi. “Nanay Merry is not only mother to Egoy, she is also a mother to all students in the daycare center as she conducts regular checkups for the children and provides medical service anytime she is needed. As the 43 heath workers continue to languish under the hands of their illegal custodians and torturers, thousands of children in rural and urban poor areas are being deprived of their health services.”

Garduce stressed that “the impunity of the present government, ironically headed by a woman president, creates a society of orphans, traumatized children and broken families through extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearance, displacement, massacres and illegal arrest and detention. Arroyo’s coddling of this culture of impunity and continued tyrannical rule is only made possible because our society is in a de facto martial rule. For the sake of our children, this should end.”
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