Wednesday, June 30, 2010

High hopes for immediate end to human rights abuse

THIS IS IN REFERENCE TO THE REPORT that one of the “Morong 43” is in the hospital. (Inquirer, 6/12/10). There is great hope as the Philippines welcomes its 15th president, the son of two great icons of Philippine democracy. Expectations are high that justice will be served the victims of human rights violations and that all political prisoners will immediately and unconditionally be released. President Noynoy Aquino and his sisters need not be reminded of the suffering they personally went through when their father was held in prison as a political prisoner for more than seven years.

Auckland Philippines Solidarity joins all freedom-loving people in asking President Aquino to immediately free all political prisoners just as his mother did right after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. We are aware that among the 43 community health workers illegally detained on fabricated charges is Jane Beltran Balleta, a granddaughter of the late Ka Bel. She suffered serious epileptic seizures due to extreme stress caused by detention. Worse, two of the 43 detainees are pregnant women mercilessly deprived of the comforts of their homes and families. The babies in the wombs of these two mothers who have been tortured and illegally detained have also become victims of state brutality.

When Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited New Zealand and many other countries, she was greeted with protests over the endless series of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and illegal detention during her watch, including the detention of the late great labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran. If the new President Aquino does not wish to be met with the same protests in his future trips abroad, he simply must fulfill his campaign promise to give redress to the victims of corruption and abuses of the past administrations.

If the Filipino people, more particularly, the landless peasants and exploited workers like the ones in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita, indigenous peoples and others displaced by the massive militarization of communities, will continue human rights abuses and economic injustice, we concerned citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand will be watching with the whole world, and will continue to support international protests to press President Aquino to fulfill the Philippines’ obligations under the international conventions on human rights.

—HELEN TE HIRA,
convener, Auckland Philippines Solidarity,
New Zealand, helent@nzctu.org.nz
ED. View Original Article

President Benigno Aquino III – Free the Health Workers Now!

30 health workers, teachers, community organizers, and allies gathered outside the Philippine Consulate in Vancouver on the eve the Philippines Presidential Inauguration to the demand the release of 43 health workers that have been detained since February 6, 2010.

“These courageous health care workers provide essential health care to poor and marginalized communities in the Philippines, often at great personal sacrifice” said Martha Roberts of the Alliance for People’s Health. “Absolutely no evidence has been produced that would justify their imprisonment or the supposed links to the armed New People’s Army.”

The Philippines currently spends 6 times more on the military and 63 times more on IMF/WB debt servicing than on health care to its own citizens. As a consequence of privatization and the labour export program of the government of the Philippines many Filipinos have virtually no access to health care. At the time of their abduction the 43 health care workers who have come to be known as the ‘Morong 43’ were participating in a “first responders” health training to respond to the unmet need in their own communities.

“One of the detainees I have known since 2003. Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, is a midwife who provides care to the most marginalized mothers of Filipino society. The accusation that with one hand she brings life into this world, and with the other she builds bombs, is simply outrageous. Doctor Merry Mia-Clamor I have personally witnessed, on a number of occasions, examining patients with the deepest love and respect. And Reynaldo Macabenta repeatedly took time to make my own young children feel welcome and comfortable in a new culture and environment, ensuring that our needs were met and we had someone we could rely on for help” Ms. Roberts elaborated. “These women and men should be lauded for their contribution to Filipino society, not condemned to languish in prison. This case is symbolic of the pattern of human rights abuses of the past decade under the Arroyo regime. It is our hope that President Aquino will chart a new path, starting with the immediate and unconditional release of these brave health care workers.”

View Original Post: President Benigno Aquino III – Free the Health Workers Now!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“Free the 43! No Justice, No Peace, Free the 43!”

Vancouver, B.C. (June 29) -- On the eve of the inauguration of the 15th Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the Alliance for People's Health, a member organization of the international League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS), organized an information picket for the 43 detained health workers, collectively known as the “Morong 43,” in front of the Philippine Consulate in Vancouver .

Supporters and friends at the picket were from the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPS-HR), a fellow ILPS member organization, the Philippine-based Ecumenical Development Forum/KASIMBAYAN, the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association (VESTA) and the Union of Fruit and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The speakers from the Alliance for People’s Health – Aiyanas Ormond, Martha Roberts and David Hendry-- talked about the health crisis in the Philippines and their medical missions and immersion in the Philippines where they met a couple of the health workers who are now detained. Martha Roberts was overpowered by her emotions as she spoke of the friendship and the commitment to render health care by the 43 health workers. Norma Dollaga, the Secretary General of the KASIMBAYAN led the crowd in the chanting for the 43 -- “Free, free, free the 43! Free, free, free the 43! No justice, no peace, Free the 43!”-- and highlighted the need for international solidarity. Erie from the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights called on the new President to order the release of the 43 health workers and all political prisoners, including putting an end to government’s counter-insurgency plan which has created the evil climate of impunity and highlighted the latest six extrajudicial killings at the tail end of the notorious Arroyo regime.

The “Morong 43” were illegally arrested last February 2010, tortured and deprived of their political and civil rights. The “Morong 43,”which includes 2 doctors, a nurse, a midwife and 39 community health workers, continue to be detained unjustly by the military and the government. There are two pregnant women in the group; one of the community health workers had seizures in detention and had to be rushed to the hospital. The picket organizers and supporters ask the new Philippine President Aquino to immediately release the detainees to their families so they can continue to render the much needed medical service to the poor and impoverished in their communities.

An Open Letter to President Aquino

Alliance for People’s Health
672 E. Broadway
Vancouver, BC, Canada
V5T 1X6


President Benigno Aquino III
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila NCR
1005 Philippines


Dear President Aquino.

As you assume the Presidency of the Philippines, we are writing as international observers to urge you to break from the gross human rights violations that characterized the Arroyo regime; the extrajudicial killings, disappearances and political imprisonments that were all too prevalent during the Arroyo decade must be stopped! Further, the legacy of these repressive political policies must be dealt with if the Philippines is to move forward into a new era of respect for human rights and social justice.

As an organization of health workers, health care professionals, and community health promoters we are particularly concerned about the plight of the Morong 43, a group of Community Health Workers, Physicians, Midwives, and allied health care professionals abducted by Philippine security forces in February. As their unjustified imprisonment reaches the sixth month, the abduction, detention, and torture of these generous and committed health care workers has become a symbol of the dismal state of human rights in the Philippines.

As members of a Canadian non-profit organization providing volunteer health care services and education to rural and urban poor communities in the Philippines in partnership with the Council for Health and Development, we have firsthand experience of the work of a number of the Morong 43. Several of those who are currently languishing in detention centres were hosts, educators, guides, translators, and friends to three members of our organization who travelled in the Philippines in 2008 as volunteers, spanning a period of over 7 months. We found our colleagues at the Council for Health and Development to be skilled, dedicated and caring health care practitioners, who in many cases have forgone more lucrative careers in the Philippines or abroad to work with poor communities who are suffer grossly inadequate access to public health care services.

Our shock and dismay at the ongoing detention of our colleagues from the Council for Health and Development cannot be overstated. We continue to be gravely concerned about their situation and the progress on their completely unjustified case. We call on you as the President of the Philippines to assure us of their situation and to demand an end to this travesty – the detention of some of the bravest,most dedicated members of Filipino society.

The case of the Morong 43 will continue to serve as an international symbol of a regime more intent on stifling dissent than improving the health of its people. Freeing these political prisoners is an important first step in moving towards a new era of respect for human rights in the Philippines.

Sincerely,

Martha Roberts
Registered Midwife
On Behalf of the Alliance for People’s Health


cc:
Ambassador Jose S. Brillantes
(Philippines Embassy, Ottawa)

Ruth Morales Prado
(Philippines Consulate, Vancouver)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Filipinos Mobilise British Union on Impunity in the Philippines

UK Filipinos mobilized inside one of Britains largest and most powerful trade unions last week, succeeding in getting its support for trade union rights in the Philippines and hosting a packed fringe meeting.

At the UNISON conference in Bournemouth held from June 14 - 18, Filipino workers for the first time addressed the more than 2,000 delegates, condemning the appalling human rights abuses suffered by workers in the Philippines and urging delegates to sign Motion 101.

Meanwhile, at the fringe meeting, Violation of Trade Union Rights in the Philippines, jointly hosted by Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP), Amnesty International UK and UNISON, speakers informed delegates of the human rights situation in the Philippines and its links with migration and economic issues, also pressing delegates to sign the later passed motion calling on the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) to seek greater linkages between UNISON and trade union movements in the Philippines, as well as working with the Filipino diaspora in combating trade and human rights violations in the country, pressuring the UK government to take a stronger line with the Philippines government and raising awareness of the situation in the Philippines.

In the main conference hall, Filipina Josefina Paez, from Wolverhampton, highlighted the case of Edward Panganiban. She told delegates that:
Filipino workers in the Philippines, like British workers, want to improve their pay and working conditions so they can provide better education, a better future and a decent standard of living for their families.

As a migrant worker, these are also my aspirations. As a union activist in the UK, I can pursue these aspirations with the support of my union, UNISON and with the help of fellow trade unionists, without fear of being killed or harm coming to my family.

Dong Dumilag, a Filipino living in Cardiff, Wales, spoke to delegates about the case of the Morong 43, pointing out to the conference that the case was taken by friends and relatives to the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva during the preceding week.



He said: We want to campaign for the new government to stop impunity in the Philippines, prosecute those responsible for the murder and disappearances of workers, and to implement a sustainable economic programme so that Filipino workers are not forced to leave their country to earn a decent living.

At the fringe meeting, a panel chaired by Amnesty International Trade Union Campaign Manager Shane Enright, joined by guest speaker Dan Borjal, Kevin OGrady of the UNISON NEC International Committee, Jam Fagta of Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines and Amnesty International Secretariat Southeast Asia Researcher Hazel Galang spoke to a packed room of delegates before engaging in a lively question and answer session.



Mr Borjal, who flew in from Holland to address the fringe meeting, urged delegates to condemn the culture of impunity that surrounds extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, highlighting the job scarcity, privatization and union busting techniques including assassination that pervade the country. Delegates were also reminded of the massacre of more than 50 people in Maguindanao in November last year and given an overview of the current political and economic situation in the Philippines.

Both speeches and the fringe meeting had a strong impact on delegates, with the union unanimously adopting a resolution supporting a campaign against impunity in the Philippines - the first time it has adopted any policy on the Philippines.


Around 250,000 Filipinos work in the UK, more than half in the health sector and public services: it is now apparent that they are emerging as an organized force ready to mobilize on issues of social justice back home.

Notes:
  • The Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines was set up in July 2006 in response to the increasing number of political killings and human rights abuses taking place in the Philippines. Our objectives are: To put pressure on the Philippines Government to stop the political killings and defend human rights in the Philippines; to raise awareness in the UK about political repression in the Philippines with the aim of putting pressure on the Philippines Government to respect human rights; to spotlight British investment and trade links which benefit from human rights violations in the Philippines; to make links between the issues of poverty and political oppression in the Philippines and the situation of Filipino migrants in the UK.

  • UNISON Britain and Europe's biggest public sector union with more than 1.3 million members working in the public services, for private contractors providing public services and in the essential utilities. Members include frontline staff and managers working full or part time in local authorities, the NHS, the police service, colleges and schools, the electricity, gas and water industries, transport and the voluntary sector.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Statement of Gratitude to Our International Supporters: Morong 43

We, the illegally detained community health workers, say it again that we are not spared from Gloria Arroyo’s most vicious and cruel government. The Filipino people have already judged the most hated Arroyo regime. As her reign will end on June 30, 2010, we wish to inform our local and international supporters that as community health workers who are witnesses to the sufferings of the poor and marginalized people in our country that have worsened during the Arroyo regime, we will carry on our struggle for our rights, justice, and freedom.

We are witnesses to the poor and oppressed families who are deprived of the fruits of their labours because they did not own the parcel of the land they till. We are witnesses to the cries of the people who are hindered to bring their sick loved ones to the hospital or even to buy the necessary medicines because of their extreme poverty. We are witnesses to the children who are forced to work in the farms who are supposedly seen in the classrooms.

It is ironic however that because of our desire to help these poor and oppressed families by carrying out a health education on healthy treatment of symptomatic ailments, we are languishing in jail. While undergoing health skills training, combined military and police forces raided the training centre we had rented, and handcuffed, blindfolded, tortured, and illegally detained us in detention cells inside the military camp. Though, we were already transferred from the military camp to the jail administered by civilian authority, we declare that our human and constitutional rights were grossly violated.

Without a lawyer of our choice, we are falsely charged of having participated in “bomb making training” and “illegal possession of firearms.” If we possessed those firearms, we could have fought for our way out. But our blood pressure apparatuses and medical instruments have not much to their high-powered rifles and armoured tanks. We did not squarely face them because we are unarmed community health workers who just want to serve the poor and the marginalized in the communities in our country. At that time of our abduction, we had no choice but to submit ourselves and endure the cruelties inflicted to us by our tormentors.

To boast for the “good” results of the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo regime dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya, the state forces exhibited us in public as medical officers and staff of the New People’s Army. We vehemently deny this accusation. We are community health workers who just want to share our knowledge, skills, and talents with the poor people in the different impoverished communities in our country.

Our plight now as detained community health workers is not separated from the plight of the Filipino people. In serving the poor communities, we have seen the injustices being experienced by the poor families who could not afford to earn a living and eat full meals in a day. Our heart breaks with the poor parents who cannot send their children to school and force them to work at an early age just to augment the income of their parents. We cannot help but to be angry in witnessing people who cannot afford to buy necessary medicines for their sick loved ones or bring them to the hospital.

As of now, we stand firm with our resolve to serve the poor while demanding the jail authorities to solve the problem of the poor ventilation of our small cells. We are also coping with poorly cooked and low standard food being served to us. We share our hope to our fellow prisoners charged of common crimes that someday they will also enjoy complete freedom from their inhuman conditions. Sometimes, we cry because of our ordeal, but we are happy because our loved ones and friends are with us. With clinched fists, we are shouting for justice and call on the new regime to set free the 43 health workers and all political prisoners in our country.

In our continuous call for justice and freedom, we are elated that you work and struggle for our immediate freedom. Your continuing support in our struggle strengthens our resolve to steadfastly serve the poor communities in our country.

We are prepared to face the hardships inside the jail. We are also prepared for a long battle in the court of justice. We can do this because our families, friends, and supporters take up our struggle and the struggle of the poor and oppressed people in our country and of the people around the world. We really feel this warm and strong solidarity.

We, the 43 health workers, express our heartfelt gratitude to you, our supporters. We wish you to continue your (moral, political, material and financial) support. Again, thank you!

+++++

We have received the following request from Fr. Dionito Cabillas of SELDA (Society of Ex-Detainees for Liberation and Amnesty) and Karapatan. Fr. Dion was the head organizer of the foreigners' visit to the Morong 43 during the recent People’s International Observers Mission to the Philippines. He appeals to Canadians to help the families of the detainees with materials and money, along with continued advocacy until their Supreme Court decision.

Fr. Dion said, "They are also anxious of the sustenance of their families left at home without a breadwinner. Thus, we appeal to our friends here and abroad to continue in their gathering of financial and material support for the Morong 43."


Reposted from Centre d'appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC)

Ed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sta. Cruz farmers cry harassment vs. military

By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Members of the peasant group Patulangon Farmers Association (Patufa) cried harassment against the 39th Infantry Battalion and the 72nd Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Bernie Marciano, a Patufa member, said 15 to 30 soldiers from the 39th IB and 72nd IB are currently staying in the barangay hall of Sitio (sub-village) Patulangon of Barangay Zone 1, a violation of the provision in the International Humanitarian Law that prohibits soldiers from encamping in civilian communities.

Zone 1 is a village in Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur, where the peasant group Patufa engages peasants to be aware of their political rights.

Marciano said that on May 4, soldiers from the 39th IB and 72nd IB arrived in Patulangon and went from house to house, as if they were conducting census.He said the 72nd IB has also been recruiting Cafgus in the barangay.

“They were looking for me,” Marciano, 30, said, referring to the soldiers. “They said they just wanted me to be their friend.” Marciano has been a member of Patufa since 1998.

When he asked why the military encamped in their community, the soldiers said they were just securing the area for the elections and to enforce gun ban.


The soldiers said they will get out of the village after the elections. But Marciano said the election was already over and yet, the soldiers are still camping and roving around their sitio.

“They roam around in plainclothes,” said Jolito Orquiza, 43, married with four children.

Other soldiers wore uniforms but they “deliberately” covered their nametags with their rifles so residents won’t know their names.

“Now, they are calling for a pulong-pulong (forum),” Orquiza said. He has been a Patufa member since 1995.

Days after the May 10 elections, soldiers went house to house to invite residents to a May 30 forum in Sitio Malusing Proper. Soldiers allegedly had a list of 35 names whose names will be marked “X” and will be put in the OB (order of battle) list if they fail to attend the forum. But the military did not divulge who the 35 people were. The soldiers said the list was “confidential.”

The existence of such list alarmed the residents of sitios Patulangon and Malusing. They said that soldiers, particularly the 39th IB, had a history of abuses in their area.

In 2006, the 39th IB, under a certain 1Lt. Bruce Tucong, arrived in Barangay Zone 1 and invited residents to their detachment for investigation.

“They pressured civilians to go to their detachment. But once civilians got to the detachment, soldiers took their pictures and tagged them as NPA surrenderees,” Marciano said.
It was also the 39th IB members who were reportedly looking for Patufa members and leaders. Once, they came looking for Gina Bernardo, former chairman of Patufa, who was in Digos City. When the soldiers saw Bernardo’s three-year old son Kenneth, they took the boy and led him to the back of a neighbor’s house. There, they made the boy carry an armalite and took the boy’s picture, the boy’s aunt recalled.


According to Urban Integrated Health Services (UIHS), a community based health program and a member of the Council for Health and Development, Gina Bernaldo, Marietta Bao, and Josie Padayag are also Community Health Workers in their villages and have served at the forefront of their communities' health needs.

Ed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ecumenical Voice reports back on their engagement at the UN Human Rights Council, issues challenge to president-elect Noynoy Aquino on the continuing

Quezon City, Philippines -- At a press conference following a successful attendance to and participation in the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland from June 1-10, the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (Ecumenical Voice for brevity) vows to monitor the human rights situation in the Philippines under the new government. They also issued a challenge to President-elect Noynoy Aquino to fulfill his promise to prosecute President Macapagal-Arroyo and other human rights violators, accord justice to the victims of human rights violations, discontinue Oplan Bantay Laya and never embark on any similar policy.

The Ecumenical Voice delegation to the 14th Session of the UNHRC was composed of: Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr. (General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines), Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez (Chairperson, Karapatan), Atty. Edre Olalia (acting Secretary General, National Union of People's Lawyers and President, International Association of People's Lawyers), Mr. Jigs Clamor (Deputy Secretary General, Karapatan and husband of Dr. Merry Clamor of the Morong 43), Atty. Carlos Zarate (Secretary General, Union of Peoples' Lawyers in Mindanao); and Dr. Angie Gonzales International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines).

At the UNHRC, the Ecumenical Voice was able to deliver two oral interventions. One intervention delivered by Mr. Jigs Clamor highlighted the plight of the 43 health workers, also known as the Morong 43, and he urged the Council to look into the incident. Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr. who delivered the other intervention, referred to the repressive effects of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) as an anti-insurgency policy of the Arroyo government. He expressed the hope that the Human Rights Council will urge the government of President-elect Benigno Aquino, III to fulfill his campaign promise of prosecuting the perpetuators of human rights violations in the Philippines and abide by the governments commitments and pledges to international human rights instruments. These oral interventions are available on the UNHRC's webcast.


The Ecumenical Voice also held two side events and participated actively in one.

The first side event on June 2, had Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, among the panel of speakers. Even as his term as Special Rapporteur ends in July this year, he expressed continuing interest on human rights developments in the Philippines. He also praised human rights advocates and defenders in the Philippines, for comprehensive and well-documented presentations both to the international community and during those times he was preparing his reports. Alston shared his thoughts on what a new administration might encounter in the midst of the impunity reigning in the country. Prof. Alston warned that the newly elected president is most likely to be advised by some other state actors to go slow on his campaign promise to prosecute the perpetrators of the killings and other human rights violations in the Philippines. The President-elect will likely be reminded that he is heavily dependent on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, not to cause problems and that any prosecution will alienate the military, Alston said. This activity was co-sponsored by the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA/ WCC), the United Methodist Church General Board on Church and Society (UMC-GBCS), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and endorsed by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).

Lawyers Edre Olalia and Carlos Zarate participated in the June 3 side event organized by the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation, Judges for Judges and the International Commission of Jurists, which highlighted the plight of human rights lawyers and judges all over the world. During the side event, Brazilian Judge Gabriela C. Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, committed to look into the situation of attacks on Filipino lawyers and judges and expressed that she was open to a possible country visit.

The last side event held on June 4, organized by the delegation and co-sponsored by the Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT), drew attention to the plight of the 43 health workers, popularly known as the Morong 43. Among the panelists were Mr. Jigs Clamor and Ms. Marie Enriquez of KARAPATAN, Atty Edre Olalia of NUPL and Ms. Coco Quisumbing, of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Clamor and Enriquez discussed the circumstances of the arrest and detention of the health workers in relation to the human rights situation in the Philippines while Olalia, as counsel to the health workers, discussed the ramifications on the legal as well as on other institutions in the country of this case described by the delegation as emblematic of human rights violations in the Philippines.

The World Council of Churches (WCC), thru Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, Director for International Affairs and Ms. Christina Papazoglou, CCIA-WCC Executive Director for Human Rights, also invited the delegation to share the status of human rights in the Philippines to an audience at the WCC headquarters. The WCC is a consistent partner of the Philippine churches and other non-government organizations in human rights advocacy. A highlight of the delegations visit to the WCC was a call to Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC, who assured the delegation of WCCs continuing support.

Towards the end of their trip, the Ecumenical Voice accompanied KARAPATAN to formally bring the Morong 43 incident before the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The same communications were submitted to the offices of the Mr. Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and Ms.Shaheen Sardar Ali, Vice-Chair Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council.

As an act of solidarity, Atty. Olalia, as duly authorized by the IADL Bureau, together with representatives of IADL and the American Association of Jurists, submitted communications to the offices of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on Arbitary Detention. The communication was about the arrest in Rwanda of Peter Erlinder, the former US National Lawyers Guild president.

Finally, the Ecumenical Voice thanks the following partners for supporting the delegation at the Council session: The World Council of Churches, The Lutheran World Federation, the United Church of Christ in Canada, the General Board on Church and Society of the United Methodist Church in the USA, the Action Network Human Rights-Philippines based in Germany, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Migrante Geneva and Migrante Bern, Franciscans International, CIVICUS, the World Organization against Torture (OMCT), Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, the American Association of Jurists, the Pilipino community in Geneva and the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO).

After the UN Geneva activities, delegation members also met with the EU Parliament Human Rights Unit Administrator Mr. Dionyz Hochel. The delegation briefed and gave him documents of the Morong 43 situation and he told the group that he will convey the delegations concern to the members of the EU Parliament Human Rights Committee. Through the lobbying efforts of the ICCHRP, Intal and other solidarity groups in Belgium, the delegation was also met by Mr. Florimond Van de Velde, Principal Administrator for South-East Asia of the European Commission, as well as Dr. Malgorzata Gorska, Policy Desk Officer of the Human Rights Unit of the EC, both of whom assured the group that the EU remains committed to ensuring the observance of human rights promotion and protection in their dealings with the governments, including the new administration in the Philippines. They expressed hope that cases of human rights violations will be prosecuted under the new administration.###



References:

Rev.Fr. Rex Reyes
General Secretary
National Council of Churches of the Philippines
(mobile no.+639267048249

Marie Hilao-Enriquez
Chairperson
Karapatan
(Telefax: 435-4146, Mobile:0918979-0580)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

‘Daang matuwid’ points to freeing Morong 43

IT HAS BEEN FOUR MONTHS SINCE STATE security forces detained 43 health workers attending a health skills training seminar in Morong, Rizal. Until now, for these colleagues of ours from the health sector, justice has been elusive.

As a nurse in a government-run hospital, I have personally seen the horrors of a failed health care system and I am angered by the fact that in this country—where seven out 10 ill citizens die without the benefit of being checked by a health care provider—health workers who labored to ameliorate the health conditions of people especially in far-flung areas have been abducted, tortured and put to jail.

As the eagerly awaited sunset of the Arroyo regime approaches, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can never boast of a legacy that promotes health care reforms, human rights protection or health workers’ empowerment.

I am hopeful and optimistic that President-elect Noynoy Aquino will be true to his promise to take the “daang matuwid” (righteous path). One thing he can do to show he is fulfilling this promise is by releasing the Morong 43 and all political detainees and by giving justice to all victims of human rights violations during the Arroyo regime.

By releasing the Morong 43, Aquino will be showing concrete proof that he is completely different from his much-hated predecessor. And that like these 43 jailed heroes, he is committed to uphold human rights and safeguard the people’s health.

—SEAN HERBERT VELCHEZ, RN,
Philippine Orthopedic Center,
Maria Clara St., Quezon City

Friday, June 18, 2010

Morong 43 relatives pay visit to Aquino home to plea for the release of detained health workers

In a silent gathering, relatives of the Morong 43 paid a visit to the home of President-elect Noynoy Aquino today at Times in Quezon City.

The group delivered a letter of appeal to free the Morong 43 signed by Christian Montes, youngest son of Dr. Alexis Montes in behalf of the other kin of the detained health workers. “We are here to request to the incoming administration of President Aquino to finally address the case of the Morong 43 and the human rights violations inflicted upon them,” says the young Montes. “Ultimately, we seek that President Aquino urgently free our relatives languishing in jail for more than four months upon his assumption of office.”



The group of relatives also called on President Aquino to resolve the gross human rights violations of the outgoing administration. There have been hundreds of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and political disappearances which have been in a tragically historic peak since the days of the Martial Law.

“We hope that President Aquino’s tenure would reflect a clear stand on human rights” Montes said.

Though the president was not there to personally meet the relatives, the letter was received by Mar Rodriguez, one of the media staff of President Aquino assigned to accommodate visitors at the Aquino residence.

Also present during the visit was, Ofelia Beltran, whose daughter, Jane Balleta is among the Morong 43. Beltran is the daughter of the late labor leader and then congressman, Ka Crispin Beltran or Ka Bel.

Ofelia Beltran lamented how unfortunate that two of her immediate family members have been victimized by the cruelty of the Arroyo government, then his father, this time her daughter. Ka Bel was among the famed Batasan 5 and was put in hospital arrest at the Philippine Heart Center for more than a year.

Meanwhile, Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE, said while they are calling for the unconditional release of all 43 health workers, at this point, they also call for the immediate release of some of the detainees with urgent medical concerns. They include 2 pregnant detainees, Judielyn Carina Oliveros and Mercy Castro, and Jane Balleta who is suffering from epilepsy. Balleta was recently hospitalized at the Philippine General Hospital.

Recently, Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippine or Ecuvoice , a delegation of human rights defenders, presented the case of the Morong 43 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland.


References:

Dr. Julie Caguiat
0909-1133038
Spokesperson
FREE THE 43 HEALTHWORKERS! ALLIANCE

Philip Paraan
Media Officer
0919-4861580

Christian Montes
0922-8904526

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Roneo Clamor delivers oral intervention on the Morong 43 to UNHRC

Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general and husband of Morong 43 detainee Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, delivers an oral intervention to the UN Human Rights Council at it's 14th Session in Geneva.

AFP’s commitment to human rights, a big lie

The FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS! ALLIANCE hits the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on its latest pronouncement that it is committed to protect human rights and it welcomes the move to bring the Morong 43 case before an international forum.

“What respect for human rights is the AFP talking about?” asks Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the Free the 43 Alliance. The AFP blatantly violated the basic human rights of the 43 health workers when on February 6, 2010, they illegally arrested, detained and tortured the doctors, nurse, midwives and community health workers. The AFP planted guns and explosives at the health training site. The military denied the right of the health workers to counsel and doctors of their choice for the first three days.

Though the military has continued to deny the allegations of illegal arrests and torture, a medical report by an independent group of physicians last February revealed that there were indeed signs of physical and mental torture. For 36 hours under detention, they were continuously blindfolded, handcuffed and interrogated. The military had to put down and bring up their under wears every time they had to go to the toilet. Dr. Alexis Montes, the detained surgeon himself testified before the Court of Appeals that he was electrocuted and was exposed to a certain chemical.

In a recent media report, the AFP claims to be open to any “legitimate investigation of the incident”. But the military defied orders of the Court of Appeals and the Commission on Human Rights to bring the 43 health workers to Court and the Commission hearing. They, likewise, defied the order of the Morong Regional Trial Court to immediately transfer the 43 health workers to Camp Crame, a civilian custodial facility.

“All the enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests went unpunished, giving rise to a culture of impunity that characterized Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government. The AFP has absolutely lost its credibility through its distortion of truth, its track record of lies, atrocities and barbaric acts; such is the commitment of the AFP to human rights”, said Dr. Caguiat.


References:

Dr. Julie Caguiat
Spokesperson, FREE THE 43 HEALTHWORKERS! ALLIANCE

Philip Paraan
Media Officer
0919-4861580

Monday, June 14, 2010

V&VN: laat Morong 43 vrij


De V&VN (Verpleegkundigen en Verzorgenden Nederland) steunt de actie van Amnesty International voor vrijlating van 43 gezondheidswerkers uit Morong op de Filippijnen. Ook de Johannes Wierstichting, de organisatie voor mensenrechten in de gezondheidszorg, zet zich in voor deze vrijlating.
(The V & UN (Nurses and Carers Netherlands) supports the action of Amnesty International for the release of 43 health workers (Morong 43). The Johannes Wier Foundation, the organization for human rights in healthcare, is committed to their release.)

Op 6 februari 2010 zijn in Morong op de Filippijnen 43 gezondheidswerkers gearresteerd door een groep van 300 militairen en politieagenten. De arrestatie vond plaats tijdens een vorming van de Council for Health and Development (CHD), een organisatie die opkomt voor het recht op gezondheid van de Filippino’s. De gearresteerden werden overgebracht naar het legerkamp Capinpin. Familieleden noch advocaten kregen tot op dit moment toegang tot het militaire kamp waar de slachtoffers zich bevinden.(On February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal, Philippines 43 health workers were arrested by a group of 300 soldiers and policemen. The arrest took place during seminar sponsored by the Council for Health and Development (CHD), an organization that defends the right to health of Filipinos. Those arrested were taken to the army camp Capinpin. Family members nor lawyers were not given access to the military camp where victims are located.)

Rebellenleiders(Rebel Leaders)

Het arresteren van gezondheidswerkers is geen ongewone zaak in de Filippijnen. Mensenrechtenorganisaties en andere organisaties die kritisch staan tegenover het beleid van de Filippijnse regering, vormen vaak het doelwit van intimidatie en repressie. Onder de valse beschuldiging lid te zijn van gewapende verzetsgroepen worden ze gearresteerd, ontvoerd of vermoord.(The arrest of health workers is not an uncommon thing in the Philippines. Human rights groups and other organizations who are critical of the policies of the Philippine government, are often the target of intimidation and repression. Under the false accusation to be members of armed opposition groups, they are arrested, kidnapped or murdered.)

Ook in het geval van de gearresteerde gezondheidswerkers verklaarde het Filippijnse leger via de pers dat het ging om ‘43 vooraanstaande rebellenleiders die een vorming bijwoonden in het maken van explosieven’. Het leger beweert, dat het verschillende wapens, landmijnen en handgranaten in het gebouw gevonden heeft.(In the case of the arrested the Philippine military said through the press were 43 prominent rebel leaders who attending a training in making explosives. The army claims that different weapons, landmines and hand grenades were found in the building.)


MEER MORONG 43 NIEUWS(MORE NEWS Morong 43)

MORONG 43 onder DE aandacht van de vn-mensenRECHTENraad(Morong 43 to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council)

Een delegatie van 5 personen van Filippijnse ngo’s is momenteel aanwezig bij de 14e zitting van de VN-mensenrechtenraad die van 31 mei tot 18 juni 2010 duurt in Genève. De delegatie doet een oproep aan de internationale gemeenschap om druk uit te oefenen op de nieuwe Filippijnse regering om definitief een eind te maken aan de straffeloosheid en een VN-monitoringsorgaan in te stellen dat mensenrechtenschendingen in de toekomst moet voorkomen.(A delegation of five members of Philippine NGOs is currently present at the 14th session of the UN Human Rights Council from May 31 to June 18, 2010 in Geneva. The delegation calls on the international community to exert pressure on the new Philippine government to a definitive end to impunity and a UN monitoring body to monitor the human rights violations that might occur in the future.)

Hoewel de Filippijnen momenteel lid zijn van de VN-mensenrechtenraad, hebben ze weinig reden om trots te zijn op de situatie in hun land. Sinds Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001 aantrad als presidente, registreerde de Filippijnse mensenrechtenorganisatie Karapatan bijna 1.200 politieke moorden, 205 gevallen van gedwongen verdwijningen, meer dan 1000 zaken van foltering en meer dan 300 politiek gevangenen. Honderden families van slachtoffers wachten nog steeds op gerechtigheid.(While the Philippines is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council, they have little reason to be proud of the situation in their country. Since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office as president in 2001, according to the Philippine human rights organization KARAPATAN nearly 1,200 political killings, 205 cases of enforced disappearance, more than 1000 cases of torture and more than 300 political prisoners. Hundreds of families of victims are still waiting for justice.)

In Genève vraagt de Filippijnse delegatie aandacht voor twee concrete zaken: de Ampatuan slachtpartij van november 2009, waarbij 57 mensen in koelen bloede vermoord werden (de twee hoofdverdachten in de zaak zijn inmiddels alweer op vrije voeten), en de zaak van de 43 gezondheidswerkers die in februari dit jaar illegaal werden opgepakt tijdens een medische vorming en nog altijd vastzitten, intussen beter bekend als de Morong 43.(In Geneva, calls on the Philippine delegation to focus on two specific issues: the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao of November 2009, with 57 people were murdered in cold blood (the two main suspects in the case are freed), and the case of the 43 health workers who in February this year were illegally arrested during a medical training and are still in prison, now known as the Morong 43.)

Rex Reyes, het hoofd van de delegatie, hoopt dat de VN-mensenrechtenraad er bij de nieuwe president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino op aan zal dringen om (Rex Reyes, head of the delegation hopes that the UN Human Rights Council on the new president Benigno "NoyNoy" Aquino would insist on to):
  • Arroyo te vervolgen en gerechtigheid te brengen voor de talloze slachtoffers en hun familie(to prosecute Arroyo and bring justice for the countless victims and their families)
  • een einde te maken aan de politieke repressie(end political repression)
  • het anti-terreurprogramma 'Oplan Bantay Layan' dat als dekmantel diende voor vele schendingen, op te heffen(the anti-terror programs OPLAN Bantay Layan 'as front for numerous violations, to eliminate)
  • en de oorzaak van de weerstand aan te pakken, namelijk armoede en onrechtvaardigheid(and the cause of resistance to tackle, namely poverty and injustice)
De delegatie bestaat uit Rex Reyes, het hoofd van de delegatie, Marie Hilao Enriquez, voorzitster van Karapatan, Edre Olalia, een van de advocaten van de ‘Morong 43’, Roneo ‘Jigs’ Clamor, de echtgenoot van dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, een van de Morong 43, en Carlos Zarate, advocaat van een van de slachtoffers van de Ampatuan-slachtpartij(The delegation consists of Rex Reyes, head of the delegation, Marie Hilao Enriquez, president of KARAPATAN, Edre Olalia, one of the lawyers' Morong 43 "Roneo" Jigs "Clamor, the husband of Dr. Merry Mia Clamor , one of the 43 Morong, and Carlos Zarate, a lawyer representing the victims of the massacre-Ampatuan, Maguindanao).

Verslagen en persberichten van de 14e zitting van de VN – mensenrechtenraad over de aandacht voor de mensenrechtensituatie op de Filippijnen staan op de website van de Ecumenical Voice(Reports and press releases of the 14th session of the UN - Human Rights Council to focus on the human rights situation in the Philippines are on the website of the Ecumenical Voice): http://ecuvoicephils.wordpress.com/

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pregnancy in Prison, Two Women Contemplate The Fate of Their Babies and Petition for Freedom

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

Camp Bagong Diwa, BICUTAN – Carina Oliveros, 26, will give birth to her first child next month. Mercy Castro, 27, is scheduled to give birth to her second child in October. This may seem normal in the cycle of life. However, the lives of the families of Carina and Mercy are far from being normal. The two, together with 41 other health workers, are in prison after being arrested while conducting a health training last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, the two went out of their cells to meet visitors. Both were wearing yellow shirts, with Carina’s bearing the message “Free the Morong 43.”

Carina was three months pregnant when arrested. Mercy only leaned about her pregnancy at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal where they were detained for almost three months before they were transferred to camp Bagong Diwa. She thought her urinary tract infection (UTI) was acting up. She took a urine test and the military doctor told her that she is pregnant.

Carina hails from Zambales while Mercy is from Pampanga. Both volunteered for disaster relief operations organized by the Council for Health and Development during the typhoon Ondoy. They attended the First Responders Training in February in Morong, Rizal.

Like the rest of the health workers now dubbed as “Morong 43,” the two were blindfolded and handcuffed for 36 hours upon their arrest. “They manhandled us like they did with the others even though I told them I am pregnant,” Carina said in Filipino.

The would-be mothers face many uncertainties now that they are detained at the Metro Manila District Jail.

Supporters of the Morong 43 march to Mendiola bridge on their first month of detention. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)

















In the affidavit Carina submitted to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), she narrated the days following their arrest. “The interrogation was relentless, particularly on the night of February 9, Tuesday. The soldiers woke me up and blindfolded me. They forcibly took me out of my cell. They repeatedly asked me about my husband and was forcing me to confess. I told them I have nothing to admit and that I was at the training because I know acupuncture and herbal medicines. hey took me again for interrogation on February 15, 2010 at around 8:00 p.m. They confiscated all our medical equipment,” she said.

Mercy experienced the same interrogation methods. The interrogators persistently accused her of being a high-ranking member of the New People’s Army (NPA).Her interrogators told her that she is in the military’s Order of Battle (OB). She was being forced to admit and talk about her supposed involvement with the NPA in Bataan and to reveal her supposed aliases. They, Mercy said, even threatened to bury her alive if she did not cooperate with the military.

“We had many sleepless nights at Camp Capinpin,” Carina said. Mercy added that they could not afford to sleep for fear that the soldiers would seize their colleagues.

Carina recalled the midnight of March 6 when she thought she would miscarry. “The soldiers were trying to take out one of us, Miann Ose. In protest, we held a noise barrage. I slammed the dipper repeatedly into the steel bars and banged the door of the comfort room inside my cell. I was so angry I felt contractions in my womb,” Carina said.

Carina said Miann Oseo literally wrapped her arms and legs around the steel bars so the soldiers could not take her out of her cell. Five of the Morong 43 had been taken out by the military and were eventually forced to admit they are NPA rebels.

While they were protesting Major Manuel Tabion shouted out at the detainees. “He ordered me to stop making a noise or he would electrocute me,” Carina said. Mercy added that Tabion told them he is a butcher—he said the prisoners should not test his patience.

While detained at Capinpin the two pregnant women resisted the military’s attempts to make them confess. “They played good cop and bad cop,” Mercy said, referring to a strategy where some of the interrogators would “kindly” offer them rewards for cooperating while “bad” or overly strict interrogators dish out threats. “I just ignored what they said and refused to answer their questions,” she said.

“When an interrogator asked me what I wanted, I told him we want to be freed. One time, I removed my blindfolds and look at my interrogator straight in the eye. I told him to continue asking questions, he stopped and left. It seemed he was afraid I would recognize his face,” Mercy said.

While the two said their prison conditions got slightly better when they moved to Camp Bagong Diwa, Carina and Mercy Carina and Mercy do not want to give birth nor nurse their baby in prison.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Letter of condolence to the family, friends, and colleagues of Mr. John Delloro

Free the 43 Health Workers Now Alliance joins the world in mourning the loss of its young and dedicated labor leader, Mr. John Delloro. Our opportunity to know John came at a most difficult time for the health sector and the people’s movement – during the illegal arrest, detention, and torture of 43 Filipino health workers.

The Asian Pacific Labor American Alliance (AFL-CIO) under the leadership of Mr. Delloro was one of the first international organizations to express their condemnation to the Philippine government for unjustly targeting and arresting 43 health workers in Morong, Rizal, Philippines on February 6. These health workers, comprised of 2 medical doctors, a nurse, 2 midwives, and 38 community health workers serve the poor and the underserved. He was among the first Filipino-Americans to express solidarity for the struggle of these health workers, their families, and the entire population they serve.

John will be greatly missed by people whose lives he touched by living his own in the best way he knew how: to serve the people.

May the legacy of John Delloro be emulated a thousand-fold!

Long live the memory of John Delloro!

Long live the people’s struggle for health and human rights!

APALA Mourns Loss of National President John Delloro




Monday, June 7, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Malcolm Amado Uno
Phone: 202-508-3733
Email: muno@apalanet.org

Washington D.C. - The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO mourns the unexpected loss of its National President, John Delloro, who passed away from a heart attack. Elected in 2009 as one of the youngest leaders to this position, Delloro also served as Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, where he was a member of the American Federation of Teachers.

"We are all saddened by the sudden passing of John Delloro, a brilliant young labor leader, who made incredible contributions to APALA and to the U.S. labor movement," said Luisa Blue, APALA First Vice President.

Although Delloro was recently elected as the APALA National President, his dedication and commitment to serving working people dates back almost two decades. He was a student leader and activist at UCLA, where he received his B.A. in Psychology in 1994, and his M.A. in Asian American Studies in 1996. Soon after, Delloro was introduced to APALA as a participant in the APALA Organizing Institute, a program that has trained the next generation of Asian Pacific American union organizers and community activists.

Delloro's first position in the labor movement was organizing hotel workers in Las Vegas, Nevada with the Culinary Workers Union 226. He went on to organize clerical workers with AFSCME, and health care workers with SEIU 399 in Los Angeles, California. While at SEIU 399, he created a member organizing program that trained hundreds of rank and file members that actively participated in external organizing campaigns. In 2003, he was promoted to the Southwest Area Manager of SEIU 1000, the largest state workers union in the country at the time, with close to 100,000 members.

In 2006, he was hired as the first Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, an organization that is expanding labor studies curriculum within the Los Angeles Community College District, which has over 130,000 students. Under his leadership, the program has strengthened labor studies on all nine campuses, and has exposed thousands of community college students to unions. Since 2007, he has also taught Asian American Studies at UCLA, and has inspired and mentored hundreds of students.

Delloro also served as President of the APALA Los Angeles chapter where he played a leadership role in expanding labor, community and student partnerships. Under his leadership as National President, APALA and the AFL-CIO convened the first National Asian Pacific American Workers' Rights Hearing in Washington D.C. in November 2009. Following the hearing, Delloro was a principal author in Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence: a report from the first National Asian Pacific American Workers' Rights Hearing. In 2009, Delloro received the Unsung Hero Award by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.

"As a nationally recognized union leader, labor educator, organizer, teacher and mentor, John Delloro touched the lives of many and will be remembered for his compassion, his generosity of spirit, and for his visionary leadership," said Kent Wong, APALA Founding President.

John Delloro is survived by his wife Dr. Susan Suh, a sociologist and community activist, and their two young children, Mina and Malcolm.
###

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO was founded in 1992 as the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights.


Community Celebration of John Delloro
The Pilipino Worker Center is hosting a community celebration to celebrate John Delloro's life this Wednesday, 6/9/2010 at 7:00pm at 153 Glendale Blvd. Please join us to celebrate his life and legacy.

Free the 43 Health Workers and all Political Prisoners , Aquino told

On their fourth month of detention, kin and supporters of the Morong 43 gather at Camp Bagong Diwa to reiterate their demand for justice for the 43 illegally detained health workers and call on incoming president Aquino to release them.

Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the FREE THE 43 HEALTHWORKERS ALLIANCE said” releasing the Morong 43 and all political prisoners is the perfect opportunity to show president-elect Aquino to show his commitment on human rights. This is a chance to depart from the Arroyos atrocious and brutal regime.”
“On how Aquino will act on the Morong 43 will surely be a litmus test on his administration’s policy on human rights”, said Caguiat.
We hope that president-elect Aquino will be true to his pledge before the EU diplomatic community that he will seek justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings and we expect more of him to uphold and protect the rights of every citizen of this country to whom he owes his mandate.

At present, the group is awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court on matters concerning the appeal on the petition for writ of habeas corpus. The group also is looking forward to the next investigation/hearing to be called by the Commission on Human Rights on the case filed by the detainees and their relatives on human rights violations by the AFP and PNP.

The issue of the Morong 43 has attracted a massive local and international support. As of the moment a delegation of human rights advocates have presented the case before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Apart from the this plea, Caguiat said that the release of Morong 43 can only be meaningful if human rights violations of the Arroyo administration and its cohorts are made accountable.

“We fervently hope that the Aquino administration takes as an urgent matter the case of the Morong 43 in its assumption of office,” Dr. Caguiat concluded.
References:

Dr. Julie Caguiat

Monday, June 7, 2010

World Council of Churches expresses deep concern and solidarity with Morong 43 Health Workers

GENEVA, JUNE 7 – In a clear signal of continuing solidarity with the churches and human rights defenders in the Philippines, the World Council of Churches through its Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA-WCC) invited the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (EVPHRP) to speak before an audience at the WCC headquarters here.

In welcoming the delegation, Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, Director of CCIA-WCC said the WCC has supported the human rights work in the Philippines “for as long as I can remember” and will continue to do so for as long as human rights violations go on. He said the WCC, through its General Secretary, is one of the international organizations that issued statements in support of the call for the release of forty three health workers who were arrested on February 6. He noted the strong partnership between the churches in the Philippines and non-government organizations that take a principled stand on human rights protection. Also, lending support was Ms. Christina Papazoglou, WCC’s Programe Executive for Human Rights.

A highlight of the presentation of the EVPHRP was the case of the illegal arrest, torture and continuing detention of the 43 health workers, more popularly known as the Morong 43. Mr. Jigs Clamor, a member of the delegation and husband of one of the medical doctors of the Morong 43, narrated how his family suffered and continues to suffer while his wife is under detention. He said his wife was told by the military officers of reprisals to her family unless she admits that she and the others are members of the New People’s Army. “This is the same story with the families of the other detainees,” Clamor said. For six days following their arrest, the Philippine Army denied them visitorial rights by their families and legal counsel. He thanked the WCC for calling for the release of the health workers.

Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of the Philippine human rights watchdog, KARAPATAN, and a victim of torture during the Martial Law years, said that international pressure is important for human rights work in the Philippines. The number of victims shoots up, each time nobody is watching, she said. Atty. Edre Olalia, acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a legal counsel of the Morong 43 discussed briefly the legal twist and turns they are confronted with amidst the impunity. All kinds of human rights violations at every juncture were heaped on the Morong 43 , he said as he enumerated the extensive grounds for citing the arrest and detention as illegal.

For his part, Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, underscored the necessity of living out the words of Jesus Christ who said “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly”. He said the defense of human rights goes beyond political boundaries as, in the process, one speaks and declares hope where it seems not to exist. He underscored the need to affirm the church’s self-understanding as being for and with people. “We do our best to preserve human dignity in that part of the world, conscious of the fact that we are your representatives there. It is an ecumenical task”, Reyes said as he reiterated the WCC’s definition of ecumenism. He thanked the WCC for its unwavering accompaniment to the churches in the Philippines.

Following the session, the delegation paid a call on WCC General Secretary Dr. Olav Fykes Tveit. In welcoming the delegation, Dr. Tveit expressed the WCC’s support to the work of the churches for the defense of human dignity and assured the delegation of his continuing interest on the case of the Morong 43. The delegation is in Geneva to attend the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. ###


I L P S
Philippine Chapter
GENEVA, JUNE 7 – In a clear signal of continuing solidarity with the churches and human rights defenders in the Philippines, the World Council of Churches through its Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA-WCC) invited the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (EVPHRP) to speak before an audience at the WCC headquarters here.

In welcoming the delegation, Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, Director of CCIA-WCC said the WCC has supported the human rights work in the Philippines “for as long as I can remember” and will continue to do so for as long as human rights violations go on. He said the WCC, through its General Secretary, is one of the international organizations that issued statements in support of the call for the release of forty three health workers who were arrested on February 6. He noted the strong partnership between the churches in the Philippines and non-government organizations that take a principled stand on human rights protection. Also, lending support was Ms. Christina Papazoglou, WCC’s Programe Executive for Human Rights.

A highlight of the presentation of the EVPHRP was the case of the illegal arrest, torture and continuing detention of the 43 health workers, more popularly known as the Morong 43. Mr. Jigs Clamor, a member of the delegation and husband of one of the medical doctors of the Morong 43, narrated how his family suffered and continues to suffer while his wife is under detention. He said his wife was told by the military officers of reprisals to her family unless she admits that she and the others are members of the New People’s Army. “This is the same story with the families of the other detainees,” Clamor said. For six days following their arrest, the Philippine Army denied them visitorial rights by their families and legal counsel. He thanked the WCC for calling for the release of the health workers.

Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of the Philippine human rights watchdog, KARAPATAN, and a victim of torture during the Martial Law years, said that international pressure is important for human rights work in the Philippines. The number of victims shoots up, each time nobody is watching, she said. Atty. Edre Olalia, acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a legal counsel of the Morong 43 discussed briefly the legal twist and turns they are confronted with amidst the impunity. All kinds of human rights violations at every juncture were heaped on the Morong 43 , he said as he enumerated the extensive grounds for citing the arrest and detention as illegal.

For his part, Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, underscored the necessity of living out the words of Jesus Christ who said “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly”. He said the defense of human rights goes beyond political boundaries as, in the process, one speaks and declares hope where it seems not to exist. He underscored the need to affirm the church’s self-understanding as being for and with people. “We do our best to preserve human dignity in that part of the world, conscious of the fact that we are your representatives there. It is an ecumenical task”, Reyes said as he reiterated the WCC’s definition of ecumenism. He thanked the WCC for its unwavering accompaniment to the churches in the Philippines.

Following the session, the delegation paid a call on WCC General Secretary Dr. Olav Fykes Tveit. In welcoming the delegation, Dr. Tveit expressed the WCC’s support to the work of the churches for the defense of human dignity and assured the delegation of his continuing interest on the case of the Morong 43. The delegation is in Geneva to attend the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. ###

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Case of the Morong 43: emblematic of systemic and systematic human rights violations in the Philippines which are bred by social conditions

Geneva, June 4 – The Morong 43 case is emblematic of the human rights violations occurring in the Philippines. The plethora of violations at every step of the way, the various legal shortcuts, the brazen abuse or total disregard of the law and the deliberate attempts to escape accountability are conclusive evidences of so much impunity in the Philippines. Atty. Edre Olalia, one of the counsels to the Morong 43 and acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), made these remarks at the side event highlighting the case of the 43 healthworkers, during the 14th session of the Human Rights Council held at the Palais des Nations at the United Nations.


Also testifying at the side event was Mr. Roneo ‘Jigs’ Clamor, husband of one of the detainees and Deputy Secretary General of KARAPATAN. He narrated the circumstances during and following the arrest of the 43 health workers Clamor described how his wife was threatened and that her family would be harmed if she refuses to own up being a member of the New People’s Army. The other detainees experienced similar threats and other forms of torture, he said. He added that relatives who visited were subject to harassment by elements of the military . Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary General of KARAPATAN went on to detail how the Morong 43 were deprived of their rights.


Speaking at the same event, Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing also rued the failure of the military to respect the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights Quisumbing said the military does not respect human rights and does not see the difference between the mandate of the CHR and the investigative powers of the police. This is one reason, she said the military defies the Commission. Quisumbing also scored the “apparent impropriety of the warrant of arrest”.


In his response to the testimonies of the members of the Philippine Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights, Mr. Eric Sottas, Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture, noted that the Morong 43 is an example of the criminalization of social protest where the health workers are portrayed as criminals. Sottas said the social conditions in the Philippines, the vulnerabilities of the people and the great gap between the rich and poor and the fact that human rights defenders are advocating for these rights which are being denied, bear on human rights violations. Sottas said the Philippine government readily admits recommendations from the international community like the UN. But, it remains to be seen whether it has the political will to adopt and implement those recommendations.


Ms. Renate Bloem, representative of of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (Civicus) in the UN, reiterated that the international community of NGOs has been doing its share of supporting the case of the Morong 43 and will continue to link up and work for their release.

The side event entitled, The Morong 43 Case in the Philippines, was sponsored by the Ecumenical Voice for Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines and co-sponsored by the Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT).

Reference:

Fr. Rex Reyes +639267048249

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Philippine NGO delegation conducts side event during 14th UNHRC Session

PRESS RELEASE – June 3, 2010

Geneva, Switzerland

“Impunity a serious issue that characterized extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines” – Prof. Alston

Geneva, Switzerland - "It is very important, in my experience, to try to think strategically and to have a vision of how one really wants to look forward and I wouldn't for the moment, downplay the importance of prosecution, which I have emphasized consistently and I wouldn't de-emphasize the extent of the problem of impunity which sends a continuing signal to the military that they can do what they want." Thus did Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, state emphatically during yesterday’s side event entitled, "THE POLITICAL KILLINGS AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES: IMPUNITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY AT A CROSSROADS BETWEEN TWO ADMINISTRATIONS?" at the ongoing 14th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Professor Alston was reacting to the call echoed by the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines for the prosecution of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo for the extrajudicial killings that claimed the lives of 1,191 victims and all other violations of human rights during her nine years watch. Alston also said that impunity was the most serious issue that characterized the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines.

It will be recalled that Professor Alston visited the Philippines in 2007. A year later, he submitted his formal report to the UN Human Rights Council. The Alston Report as it is known in the Philippines is a detailed narrative on the extradjudicial killings that peaked in 2005-2006 in the country. The Alston report cited the counter-insurgency program of the government and the failure to prosecute perpetrators as the main reasons behind the killings. The report also proposed some recommendations for the government to undertake. The government, however, maligned Professor Alston and ignored the report.

Prof. Alston also warned that the newly elected president is most likely to be advised by some other state actors to go slow on his campaign promise to prosecute the perpetrators of these killings and other human rights violations in the Philippines. "The President-elect will likely be reminded that he is heavily dependent on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, not to cause problems and that any prosecution will alienate the military," Alston said. Turning to human rights defenders in the Philippines, Alston suggested that focus be given on the role of the judiciary and the human rights commission. He lauded the strong leadership of NGOs saying that among the countries he visited, the civil society in the Philippines was by far the most active in terms of providing him the data he needed.

During the side event, Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of KARAPATAN, said that the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program being implemented by the Arroyo administration is the most vicious and brutal program unleashed by any Philippine president against the Filipino people as this is targeting civilians and civil society organization leaders and members rather than the armed rebels. In the same vein, Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr. General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and President of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) thanked Prof. Alston for the report which is constantly referred to in putting the government to task for its continuing violations of human rights. He also thanked the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the churches in North America for accompanying the Philippines in "bringing before the international community the brazen assault on human dignity in the Philippines". Reyes reported that in view of the brazenness and impunity, some churches are seriously considering a class suit against the President when she steps down from office on June 30, 2010.

Prof. Alston, whose term as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions ends in July 2010, presented his final report to the UN HRC. In his remarks at the side event, he said he had "always retained great interest in the Philippines and will continue to be interested".

CHR Commissioner Cecilia "Coco" Quisumbing, who also attended the side event, bewailed the military's and police's non-cooperation with the Commission during hearings or inquiries called by the latter. She also shared with the audience the promises that the presumptive president Noynoy Aquino declared when the Commission interviewed him on his plans as incoming president.

The side event was co-sponsored by the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA/ WCC), the United Methodist Church – General Board on Church and Society (UMC-GBCS), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and endorsed by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).###
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