Sunday, October 31, 2010

No timetable set for Morong 43’s release, says Malacañang

By Aytch S. de la Cruz
http://www.tribuneonline.org/

As President Aquino went active in joining other world leaders in their campaign to release detained Burmese politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, hopes continue to stay bleak for the state of 43 health workers who were arrested in Morong, Rizal province, that they would be accorded similar attention.

It was implied yesterday by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte that while Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has already submitted her recommendations on the case of the so-called “Morong 43” to the President, he is yet to act on them.

Aquino has earlier stated his position on this matter, signifying his intention to leave their cases to the court first out of respect to its jurisdiction even as he recognized the fact that the pieces of evidence against them by the military were obtained illegally.

Valte conveyed to reporters, in an interview over the state-run dzRB, to just wait for further developments as the President pores over the recommendations presented by De Lima where he would base whatever decisions he has to make regarding the matter.

“DoJ (Department of Justice) Secretary Leila de Lima has already made recommendations on this matter and from what I remember; the last statement of the President on this matter was to leave it to the courts because there is what we call evidence that is the fruit of the poisonous tree which is ill-gotten. So let’s just wait for developments there,” Valte said.

Aquino’s inaction over the cases of the Morong 43, who are considered political prisoners, already drew widespread flak from international human rights advocates including a New Zealand-based group, Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS), which recently came out with a public statement urging their Prime Minister, John Key, to enlighten the Philippine President on this matter.

“It’s a good thing that the Philippines is adding pressure for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar, but it’s totally outrageous that scores of political prisoners including 43 community health workers remain in unjust detention under the supposedly democratic Aquino government,” APS spokesman Luke Coxon was quoted saying.

Coxon and his group also scored the Philippines’ plan to host the secretariat of the Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights since human rights abuses under Aquino’s watch have persisted.

“Before it can be a model host for the secretariat of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the Philippine government has a lot of cleaning up to do with its messy human rights record,” Coxon stressed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Philippines Peace Advocates Visit Whangarei

Two high ranking Filipino peace advocates – Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma - are to visit Whangarei, New Zealand in the next days. Luis is the Chair, and Coni a member, of the National Democratic Front’s Negotiating Panel at the peace talks with the Philippines Government, facilitated by Norway.

In New Zealand, little is known about the four-decade long war and peace process in the Philippines. At a Public Meeting in Whangarei, Luis and Coni will share first-hand knowledge about the peace negotiations they are involved with. They were both arrested under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, spent time in jail as political prisoners, and lived in The Netherlands since 1976.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) is the coalition of several underground groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People's Army, which has been waging a war of liberation throughout the Philippines for more than 40 years, making it one of the longest running armed struggles in the world. The basis of the conflict has is the huge social and economic injustices faced by the majority of people in the Philippines.

“The Philippines desperately needs peace and security. Resolving the people’s war by addressing the injustices that are at the root of this conflict is central to achieving peace,” said Tim Howard, local convenor of Luis and Coni’s hosts in Whangarei. “This is a great opportunity for us to hear first-hand about the peace negotiations.”

The speaking tour is hosted jointly by Philippines Solidarity Network Aotearoa, Auckland Philippines Solidarity, and Wellington Kiwi Pinoy.

“This Public Meeting is also a chance for us to consider what role New Zealand might play assisting the peace process,” said Tim Howard. Our previous Prime Minister sent a strong message to the Philippines President, indicating that New Zealand is concerned with the continued reports of killings, disappearances, unjust detentions and more human rights violations. There were 1100 assassinations under the previous President Arroyo. Prime Minister John Key has so far taken one side of the conflict, the Government’s, and labeled the opponents as ‘terrorists.’ Many of us look to New Zealand taking a more useful role in supporting human rights and the peace process.”

The Meeting will consider a petition in support of the peace process, and will hold a vigil as part of an international campaign in support of the ‘Morong 43,’ a large group of community health workers arrested 9 months ago this Saturday at a professional development course. 26 of the detainees are women, two having given birth since their arrest. They are still imprisoned illegally, subject to torture, in a military camp.

Whangarei people interested in justice in our country and our region are warmly welcomed to the Public Meeting at 7pm on Friday 5 November, at Manaia PHO rooms in Rust Avenue in central Whangarei.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Army Engaging in Double Talk on Morong 43

Responding to the statement of the Army perversely insisting that the Morong 43 are armed rebels, supporters of the Morong 43 hit the military for its outright lies behind the arrest of the health workers.

The group also scored the AFP for engaging in double talk. The Army can only continue to harp lies to make its bungled and illegal arrest of the 43 plausible.

Dr. Caguiat, said that it is hypocritical of the Army to speak of “professionalism” in saying that they will not object to any decision P-noy may arrive at on the case of Morong 43 while at the same time they still obstinately insist that the 43 illegally detained health workers are NPAs caught in a bomb training activity.

"It seems that the military has started to believe its own lies when the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice already pointed out the illegalities of the case."Caguiat said.

“It is simply not true that search and subsequent arrest of the 43 health workers was covered by a “proper warrant” as Army spokesperson Col. Antonio Parlade is saying.”, according to Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the group “The search warrant was patently defective. Even the President acknowledges this saying that any evidence is considered fruit of the poisonous tree.”

On Col. Parlade’s statement that some members of the army will not be pleased if the Morong 43 were to be released, Caguiat said that the President should not be threatened by this and should be only beholden to the truth.

“Decision on the Morong 43 is not about the morale of soldiers. Nothing is honorable and can build the morale of soldiers if it is based on atrocious acts and affronts against the innocent citizens. Decision on the Morong 43 should be considered solely on the primacy of justice and the abiding principles of the rule of law and the protection of human rights.”

The group also hits the Army’s malicious and rash statement that the Morong 43 should be tried in court to prove they are rebels before they should be given “amnesty”. It is again a desperate attempt to lead in to their manufactured lies and false testimonies.

Dr. Caguiat reiterated that health workers are not after amnesty but for their unconditional release because they have been wronged and they should not be released based on legal prescription implying guilt upon them.

Reference:
Dr. Julie Caguiat

Spokesperson, FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE
Mobile: 0909 113 3038 / 0919 486 1580
Tel. No. 929-8109

Friday, October 22, 2010

Letter: JALISA to President Aquino


October 16, 2010

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila, Philippines

Re: The 43 Health Workers known as the Morong 43


Dear President Benigno C. Aquino III,

I have the honor to write you on behalf of the Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association (JALISA) with regard to the case of the 43 Health Workers known as the Morong 43.

JALISA is a lawyers association established in 1957 to promote peace ang human rights in Japan and elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific. We the Japanese Association have been following the case since we knew from media and other means of communication. It is noteworthy that the total procedure of arrest and search was illegal if the warrant was obtained for an entirely different person and place than the conference center where these workers were in a week long training. If the warrant was illegal and void, then the subsequent search and arrest of these workers should be also illegal and void. The arrests thus conducted were warrantless to be inevitably illegal. We were astonished to know that these arrestees were all deprived of councel for many days. It is also astonishing that when they were rounded up at the conference center there was ample oppurtunity for the military to plant incriminating evidence. The situation is aggravated by a delay of legal remedy because the petition appealing the dismissal of the habeas corpus case from the Court of Appeals challenging the legality of the search and their arrests has been pending at the Supreme Court for almost 7 months.

On the occasion of the Fifth Conference of the Lawyers in Asia Pacific (COLAP-V) in Manila, we had a chance along with other members of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) to see the Justice Secretary De Lima who assured us that she was reviewing the case.

We were told that the Justice Scretary has completed her review and has forwarded it to you for action. While we do not know what the Justice Secretary has concluded, our meeting with her reveals that she was aware of the facts of the case and the problems noted above regarding their arrests and detention. That wouldn't betray a fact that she had good experience as the Head of the Human Rights Commission. She also acknowleged the policy of prior administrations of legal harrasment which the workers claim they have been subjected to. We, therefore, hope that she has recommended that the prosecutions against the 43 health workers be dismissed and that you will agree to this request.

We request you that you take action as soon as possible to address the issues raised in the report by the Secretary of Justice De Lima and move with dispatch to release the 43 health workers who have now been held for more than 8 months.

Very truly yours,

sgd:
Osamu Niikura
President of JALISA


CC:
Hon. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura, Manila
Philippines

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Aquino’s Recognition of Wrongful Arrest Enough Basis to Free ‘Morong 43,’ Kin Say

“He mentioned about the poison tree. He knew the arrest was wrong from the start. What else is the President waiting for? Release the Morong 43 now,” Evelyn Montes, wife of Dr. Alexis Montes, said.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
bulatlat.com

MANILA – For the first time, President Benigno S. Aquino III was forced to speak on the case of the Morong 43 and he admitted there were errors related to the arrest.

The 43 health workers were arrested during a health skills training on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal. They were labeled as members of the New People’s Army and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and detained for three months at Camp Capinpin. Thirty-eight have been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa since May while five have remained under military custody.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has submitted a review on the case of the Morong 43 to Aquino. When asked by a reporter regarding the case, Aquino said: “…[w]hen you ask for a warrant, there are certain specifics that you have to put in—what do you hope to find? When do you hope to find it? The review basically stated that there was a person that they were serving a warrant against. That person was not in the resort that was raided. The firearms in particular would fall only in a general classification. ‘Yung [The] explosives were not part of the warrant. So I emphasized to both the Chief of Staff, the Undersecretary representing the Secretary of DND and director-general Bacalzo that we, who are upholders of the law, must be different from those who are beyond the pale of the law, who are outlaws. So it is a generally accepted principle that…the concept of lawyers is called the fruit of the poison tree. The evidence that are wrongly gotten cannot be used, therefore, it cannot prosper.”

The search warrant used in the raid was against a certain Mario Condes. Condes was not among the 43 health workers arrested. During the public hearings conducted by the Commission on Human Rights, then chaired by de Lima, military and police officials admitted they had not found and have stopped looking for Condes. No one with such a name lives within the village where the raid was conducted.

Aquino added: “However, the matter is before the courts. Again, nasa jurisdiction nila [It is under their jurisdiction]. So ‘yung courses of action and we would want to rectify that situation but that will have to undergo sanction by the courts that have already taken cognizance of the case.”

“He mentioned about the poison tree. He knew the arrest was wrong from the start. What else is the President waiting for? Release the Morong 43 now,” Evelyn Montes, wife of Dr. Alexis Montes, said when asked for comment. “He has the power to call for the release of the Morong 43, why course it to the courts?” Mrs. Montes added.

“The President himself recognized there were irregularities. We are hoping for the immediate withdrawal of the case against the Morong 43,” Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor and acting secretary general of Karapatan, said.

Clamor admitted they had hoped Aquino would call for the release of the Morong 43. “Nevertheless, we hope that his statement will expedite the process for their release,” he said.

“Beyond the court, such as explicit admission by the President himself and as the Commander –in- chief of the Armed Forces, of the irregularities is paramount to the innocence of the Morong 43 and unlawfulness of their continued detention,” said Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokeswoman of the Free The 43 Health Workers Alliance.

Caguiat said the Aquino government has a direct and significant role because it has the authority to order the withdrawal of the case since the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the executive branch was the agency involved in filing of wrongful charges against the Morong 43.

Clamor said it is not enough that Aquino recognized the irregularities. “The perpetrators in the illegal arrest of the Morong 43 must be prosecuted. We want to remind everyone that the Morong 43 were also tortured,” he said.

Clamor said they are resolved to file cases against the police and military involved in the raid and that they will deal with it as soon as the Morong 43 are released.

The Free The 43 Health Workers Alliance said that by addressing the case of the Morong 43, the Aquino government could not only rectify the historic injustices of the Arroyo administration but could also show how committed it is to protect human rights.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Morong 43 could have served in communities swept by typhoon Juan

The Morong 43 could have imparted their medical skills during the onslaught of typhoon Juan. Many communities swept by the calamity could have benefitted had they not been held behind bars for unjust and trumped up charges.

Around this time last year, Morong 43 members were responding to affected families of typhoon Ondoy in various areas of Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon swept by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Immediately after the disaster, Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, Health Training and Services Director of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) led other health professionals in the relief and medical missions of the Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS), a network of groups and individuals involved in disaster response activities.

Last year during their visits to the storm-hit areas, the doctors, nurses and other volunteers led by Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor and Dr. Alexis Montes were able to serve 6,334 patients.

Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, registered midwife and Del Obera, community health worker also took part in organizing these medical and relief missions. Obera coordinated with a lot of hospital workers under the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) to participate with the medical missions along with resource generation and relief distribution. In fact, Quinawayan even helped organize health trainings and taught residents in some communities of Pasig and Quezon City about the management of common diseases like leptospirosis, diarrhea, and flu that are prevalent during the rainy season.

The rest of the detained health workers among the Morong 43 were volunteers in their respective communities rendering basic health services and simple emergency procedures in far-flung areas.

According to Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE and also the executive director of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED), one of the two NGOs that sponsored the training, the Morong 43’s training was designed to respond to medical situations in times of disasters. Among the topics intended to be taught in the First Responders Health Skills Training involved basic first-aid, diagnosis and prevention of common diseases.

“It’s a shame that the government baselessly detained decent and dedicated individuals whose only fault is to help the marginalized who can’t access health services. The arrest is a great disservice to those who could have been extended the help of the detained medical workers,” said Caguiat.

Reference:
Dr. Julie Caguiat

Spokesperson, FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE
Mobile: 0909 113 3038 / 0919 486 1580


Dr Merry Mia in Pasig during a medical mission after the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy
Dr Montes in Montalban
Ma. Teresa Quinawayan
Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, manning the Pharmacy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Morong 43 mom gives birth; detained doctor also brought to PGH

Ma. Mercedes Castro or Mercy Castro, one of the Morong 43 moms just gave birth yesterday, October 18, to a baby girl thru caesarian section at the Philippine General Hospital.

“We are happy that despite all the suffering and injustice Mercy and Morong 43 endured, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. We hope that she and her child will no longer be threatened of being separated out of an unjust and illegal detention”said Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson, FREE THE MORONG 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE.

“We maintain our call that the Mercy Castro be immediately released not just because of humanitarian reasons but the because of the prolonged injustice against her and the Morong 43 collectively” Caguiat said.

Mercy Castro had a delicate pregnancy because of her asthma and made worse because her pregnancy was spent mostly in jail considering that Morong 43 have been illegally detained for 8 months. During her pregnancy, she has been denied pre-natal check-up twice. Castro is the second detaineee to birth among the Morong 43. Earlier, Judilyn Oliveros also gave birth at the PGH where she now remains under hospital detention as she breastfeeds her child.

The group said they would take legal actions to allow Castro to be released in order to recover and take care of her newborn. “We expect that the Aquino administration and the court gives due recognition of this fact and alllow Castro to recover and take care of her child, just like Judilyn Oliveros and just like every mother should” Dr. Caguiat said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Merry-Mia Clamor, 34 yrs old, was brought to PGH today because of her scheduled medical check-up. The doctor has since been suffering from hypertension and diabetes. The Morong RTC court allowed the medical consultation thru a court order dated October 5. Clamor was also brought back today to Camp Bagong Diwa and is set to admitted again to PGH following recommendations of an endocrinologist and thru another order from the court.

Ultimately, the group urges the Aquino administration to immediately move to withdraw the case against the Morong 43.
Reference:
Dr. Julie Caguiat
Spokesperson, FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE

Mobile – 0909 113 3038 / 0919 486 1580

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three former health secretaries support call for the release of the Morong 43

In an open letter published in a major newspaper on Monday, 3 former health secretaries including Drs. Esperanza Cabral, Alberto Romualdez and Jaime Galvez- Tan joined other leaders and individuals from the health sector in calling for the immediate release of the Morong 43.

In the published letter, they recognized the value of the Morong 43’s community health work in the areas where health services are sorely missing. The letter also noted that the arrest of the Morong 43 puts to risk health professionals and volunteer community health workers who serve the poor especially in far-flung areas of the country.

It read “for health professionals who may be considering the option of public service in the countryside, the incident is terrifying. For it is not only material comfort that one will be giving up when one chooses the selfless path of service to the poor, but possibly one’s life, as well. We are one with international and local organizations coming from various sectors in the call for an end to the persecution of the Morong 43 health workers and to continue the struggle for the people’s right to health.”

They urged the President Aquino to make true to his promise of genuine change by releasing the Morong 43.

The list of signatories also included Dr. Teresita Irigo-Barcelo of the Philippine Nurses Association, Dr. Leah Paquiz of Ang Nars, Dr. Alberto Roxas, Dean of UP College of Medicine and Dr. Sanchez, Dr. Executive Director of Association of Philippine Medical Colleges, and Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca, Chair-Emeritus of the Health Alliance for Democracy and a medical consultant at the National Kidney Transplant Institute.

Dr. Julie Caguiat said that they welcome the widespread support of health professionals coming from different sections of the health sector. “This shows that the case of the Morong 43 is indeed a collective issue of the health sector, an attack to any member of the medical community is an attack to the whole sector.”Caguiat said.

On the onset of the case, different health groups have already expressed their support including the APMC, College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines, Alliance of Health Workers, national organization of public hospital workers, and health groups abroad including the Alliance of Peoples Health (Canada), National Nurses United (USA), medical professionals from Belgium coordinated by Intal and acupuncture advocates from the United States. Christine Van Rompuy, a nurse and sister of the European Union President Herman Van Rompuy also called for the release of the Morong 43. ###
Reference:
Dr. Julie Caguiat
Spokesperson, FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE

Mobile – 0909 113 3038 / 0919 486 1580

Aquino’s Credibility and Philippine Rule of Law will Crumble without Immediate Action on the Morong 43

Eight months have passed since the illegal arrest of 43 innocent health care workers now known to human rights defenders across the world as the “Morong 43”. APWLD demands that the Aquino Administration of the Philippines take immediate action to unconditionally release the health care workers. The illegal arrest, illegal detention, denial of justice and torture committed against the 43 health workers are gross violations of their 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 the credibility of the Aquino administration.

Among the 43 is Maria Mercedes Castro, due to give birth this month. Ms. Castro has twice been denied doctor checkups despite a court order. Judilyn Oliveros, also one of the Morong 43, gave birth last July and is under hospital arrest with her baby at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. Next month, just four months after the birth, Judilyn will be separated from her baby and returned to prison. As women political prisoners, their rights have been doubly violated as they are subjected to and are vulnerable to sexual abuse, humiliation and torture. As mothers, the human rights abuses compound again as conditions in detention are not suitable for pregnancy, recovery, breastfeeding and proper care for children. For humanitarian reasons, Castro, Oliveros and the rest of Morong 43 should be immediately released from incarceration.

At the time of their arrest on February 6, 2010, the health care workers were taking part in First Responders Training programme, the group formed after witnessing the slow and insufficient response of the previous government’s response to disaster in their communities. APWLD believes the illegal arrest and persecution of the Morong 43 is a direct attack on the group as active human rights defenders and critics of the Arroyo regime. Local human rights groups report that this is a common way to harass and silence anyone who is critical of the government. In June of this year, before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, the Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Eric Sottas declared that, “the Morong 43 is an example of the criminalization of social protest in the Philippines”. He went on to elaborate on how as human rights defenders, advocating for the rights of the vulnerable, are faced with violations of their own rights.

APWLD asserts that under both Philippine and international law the arrest and continued detention of the Morong 43 is illegal and reprehensible.

For over half of their incarceration the health care workers were held without any official charges filed against them. Their names were not even present on the warrant used to arrest them though they were arrested for being accused of membership with the New People’s Army. On order of the Supreme Court the military was forced to bring the prisoners to a hearing of the petition of habeas corpus. The military refused and proceeded to hastily charge the health care workers with fabricated weapon possession charges, despite no concrete evidence being presented to date.

The petition of habeas corpus was finally denied by the Court of Appeals in an exceptional way on 10 March 2010. Originally, two Justices in the three-member panel responsible for the ruling of the petition had voted for the petition of habeas corpus. However, on the same day, two extra justices were assigned to the panel; with the additional votes, the petition was overturned and dismissed. The justices who vetoed the petition of habeas corpus based it on the Ilagan vs. Enrile, a doctrine promulgated by a divided Supreme Court during the oppressive Marcos dictatorship when thousands of political dissidents were detained.

Under strong pressure from international human rights groups, President Aquino has now ordered Justice Secretary and former Human Rights Commissioner, Leila de Lima to review the case to determine if the detention and indictment of the arrested health workers had a legal basis. We have however already witnessed how the judicial system has gravely failed the Morong 43.

In order for President Aquino to retain the rule of law and the credibility of his government he must prove that he is not being controlled by military generals who are responsible for the illegal arrest and killing of human rights defenders, he must immediately and unconditionally release the Morong 43.

This is an opportunity to prove that the culture of impunity towards corruption and human rights abuses that ruled during the Arroyo regime is not acceptable under his administration. Aquino must respect the rule of law, he must respect human rights and he must unconditionally release the Morong 43.


Tanggol Bayi is the women human rights defenders programme of Karapatan, the national alliance for the advancement of human rights in the Philippines.Tanggol Bai is formed to further develop the capability of women human rights defenders to protect and advance women’s, human and peoples’ rights while giving special attention to the rights of WHRDs; to provide a venue by which WHRDs can give mutual assistance to one another especially to those who are facing immediate threats; provide information and facilitate HR education to WHRDs to even better sensitize them to violations of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights; through common effort, enable WHRDs to effectively forward policies and legislations, fight for their rights and generate resources for the needs of their human rights advocacy; and network with other human rights organizations in the country and abroad.



Cristina "Tinay" Ellazar Palabay
Deputy Secretary General,
Makabayan (People's Democratic Coalition)
Coordinator, Tanggol Bayi-Karapatan
Focal Person, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
E-mail: noztalzia@gmail.com

Letter to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III


HE Benigno C Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila
Philippines

By email

17 October 2010

Dear President Aquino

The 43 health workers known as the ‘Morong 43’

I am writing to you as chair of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers regarding the case of the Morong 43.

The Haldane Society has been following this case along with its colleagues at the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) from the time we heard of the arrest of the workers. We are aware of the illegality of the search given that the warrant was obtained for an entirely different person and premises than the conference centre where these workers were in a week-long training session. The illegal search makes the subsequent arrest of these workers illegal, as there were no arrest warrants. We are also aware that they were deprived of counsel for many days, and when they were rounded up at the conference centre there was ample opportunity for the military to plant incriminating evidence. We are also disturbed that the petition appealing the dismissal of the habeas corpus case from the Court of Appeals challenging the legality of the search and their arrest has been pending at the Supreme Court for almost seven months.

Members of the Haldane Society’s executive committee attended the Fifth Conference of Lawyers of the Asia Pacific (COLAP V) in Manila a few weeks ago. On 15 September, they were part of a delegation which met with Justice Secretary de Lima who assured them that she was reviewing the case. They met the prisoners on Monday 20 September, and observed their conditions of confinement. They also heard from the women prisoners that, based on their qualifications as health workers, they have been assisting the prison authorities in teaching health related subjects to the administration and the other prisoners.

I understand that the justice secretary has completed her review and has forwarded it to you for action. While I do not know what the justice secretary has concluded, I know from the meeting which my colleagues attended, that based on her work as head of the Human Rights Commission, she was aware of the facts of the case and the problems noted above regarding their arrest and detention. She also acknowledged the policy of previous administrations of legal harassment to which the workers claim they have been subjected. The Haldane Society, therefore hopes that she has recommended that the prosecutions be abandoned and that you will agree to this request. I understand that the delegation who visited Camp Bagong were convinced of the sincerity and dedication of the health workers who want to provide medical support to the people of the Philippines who do not have access to medical care.

The Haldane Society requests that you take action as soon as possible to address the issues raised in the report by Secretary de Lima and move with dispatch to release the 43 who have now been held for more than eight months.

Yours sincerely,

Liz Davies
Barrister and Chair

An open letter to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III

Dear President Aquino,

We, health professionals, hospital workers, friends and relatives of the forty three health workers who were illegally arrested on February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal and are currently detained in Camp Bagong Diwa appeal to you to immediately release our colleagues and relatives. Two doctors, a nurse and two midwives together with 38 community health workers were undergoing a First Responders’ Health training when they were arrested by the military through the use of a defective search warrant. They were held incommunicado for several days, tortured and deprived of their right to counsel. They were falsely accused of undergoing a “bomb-making” training.

The “Morong 43” are dedicated health volunteers who were always at the forefront of community-based health care. They provided much-needed health services in barangays where government services were noticeably lacking. They were in the frontline of community services including that of last years’ typhoon Ondoy. They were armed not with rifles and ammunitions but with stethoscopes, first-aid kits, and a burning desire to serve the poor.

The arrest of the 43 puts to risks health professionals and volunteer community health workers who serve the poor especially in far-flung areas of the country. For health professionals who may be considering the option of public service in the countryside, the incident is terrifying. For it is not only material comfort that one will be giving up when one chooses the selfless path of service to the poor, but possibly one’s life, as well.

We are one with international and local organizations coming from various sectors in the call for an end to the persecution of the 43 health workers and to continue the struggle for the people’s right to health.

Mr. President, we urge you to make true of your promise of genuine change.

Signed:

Esperanza I. Cabral, M.D., * Alberto Romualdez M.D. (Former DOH Secretary)*Antonio S.Lopez, M.D. M.P.H., (Former Undersecretary, DOH) *Jaime Z. Galvez-Tan, M.D. M.P.H., (Professor UP College of Medicine) * Reynaldo Lesaca, Jr., M.D.( Medical Consultant, NKTI/Chairperson Emeritus of HEAD) * Frank Arcellana, M.D. (Surgeon , Founding Chairperson, Health Alliance for Democracy) * Teresita Irigo-Barcelo, RN, Ph.D. [National Pres, Philippine Nurses’ Association] * Leah Primitiva S. Paquiz, R.N. (Pres’ Ang Nars) * Jose C. Gonzales, M.D.( Director, PGH) * Orlino O. Talens, M.D.( Vice Chancellor for Administration, UP-Manila) * Dean Alberto Roxas, M.D. (College of Medicine, UP-Mla) * Dean Fernando Sanchez Sr. M.D. (Executive Director, APMC) * Jennifer Nailes, M.D. (Dept. Head, Family and Community Medicine, UERMMMC) * Dean Vicente O. Medina III, D.D.M. (College of Dentistry, UP-Mla) * Dean Nilo Capangpangan (College of Nursing, PLM) * Dean Gisella D. Luna, R.N. (Trinity University of Asia, St. Lukes College of Nursing) * John Arnel Amata, M.D. (Pres, Pamantasan Medical Graduates Association, Inc.) * Ramon Pedro Paterno, M.D. (UP Manila National Institutes of Health) * Armando C. Crisostomo, M.D. (Consultant, Department of Surgery, PGH) * Edelina P. dela Paz, M.D. (Executive Director, Health Action Information Network) * Romeo Quijano, M.D.( Chairperson, Health Action for Human Rights, Faculty, UP-PGH) * Eleanor M. Nolasco, R.N. (NARS ng Bayan) * Joseph Carabeo, M.D. (Pres., Community Medicine Practitioners’ & Advocates Association) * Ruth A. Castro (Pres, Association of Philippine School of Midwifery) * Emma S. Manuel, R.R.T.( National Pres, Alliance of Health Workers) * Eleanor A.Jara, M.D. (Executive Director, Council for Health & Development) * Julie Caguiat, M.D. (Community Medicine Development Foundation, Inc.) * Darby Santiago, M.D. (Chairperson, HEAD) * Benjamin Santos [Pres., All U.P. Workers’ Union Manila )] * Ezra M. Valido (Chairperson, Pangkalusugang Lingkod Bayan, UP Manila) * Jamie Lee J. Legaspi (PhiloMedicaScientia, PLM College of Medicine) * Gerard Tristan dela Cuesta (Chairperson, Health Students’ Action) * Maricris Tria (President, Central Student Council, Trinity Univiversity of Asia) * Antonio Catembong, M.D. (AHW - Isabela ) * Reynald F. Narbarte, M.D. (AHW - Quirino Province) * Sylvia C. dela Paz, M.D.,* Christine G. Pastoral, M.D. (MHO, Gregoria del Pilar, Ilocos Sur) * Joey V. Sabularce, M.D. (MHO, Patnanungan, Quezon) * Jay Pee Z. Cruz, M.D.( MHO, San Jose Romblon) * Pinky A. De Leon, M.D.( MHO, Magsaysay, Palawan) * Mary Ruth S. Politico, M.D.( MHO, Santa Maria, Romblon) * Venjune Tansiongco, M.D. (MHO, Alcantara, Romblon) * Frances Michelle G. Obias, M.D. (MHO, San Pascual, Masbate ) * Jeffrey James B. Motos, M.D.( MHO, Batuan, Masbate) * Cesarey B. Mestidio, M.D. (MHO, Bingawan, Ilo-ilo) * Liza Marie P. Bejemino, M.D. (San Jose, Negros Oriental) * Deborrah G. Liao (MHO, Gamay, Northern Samar) * Marcos M. Genebago, M.D. (MHO, Biri, Northern Samar) * Zaida K. Aminulla, M.D. (Sergio Osmena, Zamboanga del Norte) * Ceferino A. Lustre, M.D. (MHO, La Libertad, Zamboanga del Norte) * Rommel Bernabe Jr. M.D. (MHO, Binuangan, Misamis Oriental) * Angelo C. De Guzman, M.D. (MHO, San Jose, Dinagat Island) * Annie Lorraine C. Estrope, M.D. (MHO, Madrid, Surigao del Sur) * Quennie Dyan C. Raagas,M.D. (MHO, Claver, Surigao del Norte) * James A. Salisi, M.D. (MHO, Loreto , Dinagat Island) * Nickson E. Austria, M.D. (MHO, Dolores, Abra) * Criston Van C. Manasan, M.D. (MHO, Malibcong, Abra) * Sittie Aneza Camille A. Maglangit, M.D. (MHO, Montawal, Maguindanao) * Rae Roche Buna, M.D. (MHO, Villareal, Samar) * Mae L. Rollan, M.D. (MHO, Concepcion, Misamis Occidental) * Jinky G. Abarca, M.D. (MHO, Sison, Surigao del Norte) * Chriselle Icaringal, M.D. (MHO,General Luna, Surigao del Norte) * Maria Pura Rodriguez, M.D. (MHO, San Isidro, Surigao del Norte) * Jessie John Segundera, M.D. (MHO, San Benito, Surigao del Norte) * Paolo Medina, M.D. (MHO, Quezon, Quezon) * Juan Antonio Perez III, M.D. (MPH, Klinika sa Bantayog) * Charles Rainer Marquez, M.D. (EAMC) * Rizalito C. Ocampo, M.D. (De Los Santos-STI Medical Center) * Conor Jan R. Montes, M.D. (UERM) * Geneve Rivera, M.D. (HEAD Sec-Gen) * Gene Nisperos, M.D. (VC, HEAD) * Ronaldo A. Paraan. M.D., * Ulysses Dorotheo, M.D. (FPAO) * Ma. Concepcion C. Sison, M.D., * Elizabeth Paterno M.D., * Anthony Cordero, M.D., * Romeo O. Abiog, M.D. (FPARM, FPSA) * Andrew Bautista, M.D. (D.P.B., R.M.) * Ma. Therese Tolentino, M.D. (Pedia) * Robert Toentino, M.D. (Executive, Director Medical Mission) * Vencer R. Montes, D.M.D., * Gabriely Corpuz, D.M.D., * Gay B. Manodon, D.M.D. (St. Luke’s Medical Center) * Lindsay Dei R. Medina, D.M.D., * Christian Alexis R. Montes, P.T.R.P., * Jossel I. Ebesate, R.N. (Chief Nurse, PGH) * Virginia C. Ducusin, R.N. (Chief Nurse,, PGH) * Eden Bayrante, R.N. (Chief Nurse, Department of Out Patient Service, PGH) * Rita B. Sevilla, R.N. (Chief Nurse, Central Intensive Care Unit, PGH) * Ma. Cecilia E. Palomeno, R.N. (Head Nurse, Ward 7, PGH) * Nilo Encarnacion, Jr., R.N.* Yolanda Trapani, R.N. (Head Nurse, PGH) * Mary Grace Garcia, M.S., R.N. * Nilda Inciong, R.N. * Crystal J. Leynes, R.N. * Sean Herbert Velchez, R.N. (Philippine Orthopedic Center) * Gerardo P. Andamo, R.N.,* Ulysses P. Arcilla, R.N. (San Lazaro Hospital) * Juliet T. Sayo, R.N. (San Lazaro Hospital) * Eric Salenga (Faculty, College of Pharmacy, UP-Manila) * Angelita Galban (Faculty, College of Dentistry, UP-Manila) * Elenita L. Jamison, R.M. (Pres., Nursing Attendant Association, PGH) * Fredirick Ladera [Pres., Utility Workers’ Association (UWA) * PGH] * Guillermina Panizales (Chief Librarian, UP-Manila) * Mikhail Lew Ver (Superior Exemplar, Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity, College of Medicine, UP) * Ada Yao (Sister Superior Exemplar, Phi Lambda Delta Sorority, College of Medicine UP) * Robert Mendoza (P.R.O, AlHW) * Remedios Maltu (Pres. San Lazaro Hospital EA-AHW) * Remedios Ysmael (Pres., Tondo Medical Center EA-AHW) * Wilfred Mallari (Pres., National Orthopedic Hospital Workers Union) *

Friday, October 15, 2010

HEAD to PNoy: Exercise Political Will, Release the Morong 43!

Political will. All it takes is political will to release the Morong 43.

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) joined the families and supporters of the 43 detained community health workers known as the Morong 43 in calling on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to act for their immediate and unconditional release.

“This is the time for PNoy to act with firm resolve and show what ‘daang matuwid’ (righteous path) really should mean: the rectification of injustices committed by the past regime,” said Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary-general.

“Due process does not begin with the courts and the legal battles,” added Dr. Rivera, reacting to statements made by President Aquino yesterday. “Due process begins with the presumption of innocence and the protection of human rights, all of which have been blatantly violated in the Morong 43.”

“Even the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Human Rights before that, as well as various national and international human rights and legal organizations, is aware of the grossly violative process that has led to the arrest, detention, and torture of the 43 community health workers.”

After more than eight months in detention, the victims have suffered long enough. President Aquino should not look elsewhere but himself in order to act judiciously.

Dr. Rivera believes that there is enough bases for the release. “PNoy should act now.” ###

References:
Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General, Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)

0920 460 3712

Dr. Darby E. Santiago
Chair, Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
0927 473 7700

‘Rectifying errors’ in Morong 43 arrest should end in the withdrawal of the case and the unconditional release of health workers

“‘Rectifying errors’ in Morong 43 arrest should end in the withdrawal of the case and the unconditional release of 43 illegally detained healthworkers”, this was the statement made by Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE.

The group consisted of kin and supporters of the Morong 43 reacted to the statement given the President Noynoy Aquino himself during his press briefing last Thursday,Oct. 14. Where Aquino personally declared that there were “irregularities “ related to the arrest.

According to the President referred to the Morong 43 case as a‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ using the legal jargon which simply described the case being fraught with legal infirmities, and thus should end the injustice wrought upon the health workers.

“Beyond the court, such as explicit admission by the President himself and as the Commander –in- chief of the armed forces, of the irregularities is paramount to the innocence of the Morong 43 and unlawfulness of their continued detention”Caguiat said.

“What is keeping the President from recommending withdrawal of case?” asked the group. This is said in light of the amnesty given to the Magdalo soldiers.

According to the alliance, the Aquino government has a direct and significant command with its capacity to withdraw the case since the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the executive branch was the agency involved in filing wrongful charges against the Morong 43.

The group called on Malacanang that by addressing the case of the Morong 43, they not only rectify the historic injustices of the Arroyo administration but can also show how committted the Aquino government is to protect human rights. ###
Reference :
Dr. Julie Caguiat, Spokesperson
FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE

Mobile: 0909 113 3038 / 0919 486 1580

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Relatives appeal to PNoy to free the Morong 43

United in their pursuit for freedom and justice for the illegally detained health workers, relatives and supporters trooped to Malacañang to appeal to President Benigno Aquino III. They hoped to seek an audience with the President to explain the nobility of the health workers’ cause and the how their human rights were violated beginning with their illegal arrest and continued detention.

“Eight months of detention is eight months of entwined grief and rage for us. Up to now, we are bewildered at how a government chose to repay the sacrifices and services our loved ones gave to this country,” said Mrs. Evelyn Montes, a nurse by profession and wife of Dr. Alexis Montes, one of the Morong 43.

She lamented that the health workers, which included 2 doctors, a nurse, and 2 midwives shunned greener opportunities offered by their professions and instead chose to practice in communities where government services are noticeably lacking adding these health professionals and Community Health Workers were armed not with rifles and ammunitions but with stethoscope s, first-aid kits, and a burning desire to serve the poor.

“What my husband lacked as a provider, he compensated by showing the values of humility, service, and love for God and people to our children. He taught by example,” Montes recalled.

Earlier, Montes and other relatives of the Morong 43 went to the President’s home in Times Street, Quezon City to personally deliver her youngest son Christian Alexis Montes’ letter of appeal for the release of the health workers. They also made repeated attempts to schedule an appointment with the President since June but were told by Malacañang staff to wait or that their concern would be referred to corresponding government agencies.
“The 43 health workers stood up for what they believed was right: in order to effect change, we must ourselves be willing to be catalysts of change. Now, it is our turn to take on their cause. We will bring their story and demand for justice and freedom to President Aquino and all government officials who are willing to act on their case,” she concluded.##


Reference:
Carlos Montemayor, R.N.

0922 499 6237 / (+632) 929 8109

Evelyn Montes, R.N.
0919 486 1580

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MEDIA ADVISORY

Groups of doctors, nurses and health workers and relatives of the Morong 43 under the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE to stage a program on October 14 at the Chino Roces Bridge at Mendiola to appeal for the immediate review and withdrawal of the trumped-up charges against the Morong 43. Some leaders of the health groups and relatives of the detained will also seek dialogue with President Noynoy Aquino on the same day.

Last October 6, DOJ secretary Leila de Lima already submitted the review of the Morong 43 case to President.

Morong 43 relatives and other leaders of health groups will be at the Gate 7 of Malacanang at 9:am while the assembly of the other participants will be at the United Methodist Church, Loyola corner Recto Sts. Manila at 10:00am. Please cover.

For more information, please contact Philip Paraan at 0919 486 1580

Monday, October 11, 2010

TWO–DAY FASTING FOR MORONG 43 HEALTH WORKERS STARTS TODAY

On this 100th day of the P-Noy Presidency, we political prisoners in Cebu and Bohol demand that the government finally release the Morong 43 health workers immediately and unconditionally.

We are aware that the more fascist sections of his official family – most particularly the Defense Department which implemented the illegal arrest and torture of the Morong 43 in line with the Arroyo regime's Oplan Bantay Laya campaign – oppose any and all moves to free the 43 health workers. Just the same, we strongly urge president NoyNoy Aquino to walk his “daang matuwid” talk and make right this grave injustice upon our fellow political prisoners.

Through this two- day fasting (October 8 – 9, 2010) - our fifth since P-Noy came to power – we also demand that the Aquino administration finally begin the process of releasing political prisoners based on humanitarian considerations and as a matter of obligation consequent to its agreements in 2001, 2004 and 2009 with National Democratic Front (NDF).

Beyond its first 100 days, we also call on the Aquino administration to abandon the Arroyo Regime's Oplan Bantay Laya counter-revolutionary program, resume in earnest its formal peace negotiations with the NDF, and put a decisive stop to the extra-judicial killings, involuntary disappearances and other human rights violations against journalists, social activists and its other perceived political enemies.


Signed:

Alberto M. Acerdin
Ramon M. Patriarca
DANAO CITY JAIL

Ruben Busalanan
Edwin Lofranco
Rodrigo Mejias
Florencio Quinio
Antonio Sanchez
Elpidio Tagsip
TAGBILARAN DISTRICT JAIL

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eight months and one hundred days

Health groups today trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to cry justice and freedom for their illegally detained colleagues and relatives. They pressed DOJ and Malacañang to hold true to their promise of immediate review of the case of the Morong 43.

“Eight months ago today, 43 health workers were illegally arrested and detained on trumped-up charges they continuously pay for with their liberty and human rights. They do not deserve another day in jail,” Carlos Montemayor, spokesperson of the Free the 43 Health Workers! Alliance said.

Montemayor expressed that the Aquino government’s performance will ultimately be measured with what it has done to curb cases of human rights violations. “Two days to go until President Aquino’s 100th day in power and still justice for the 43 remains to be had,” he added.

The group strongly urged President Aquino to “hasten the review of the case and take a definite stand for human rights and people’s health.”

“If indeed the president is to prove the people that his administration is the bastion of democracy and change, now is the time to prove it,” Montemayor said adding the government should free the 43 health workers now because they are innocent of the charges hurled against them.


Reference:
Carlos Montemayor, RN

0922 499 6237 / (+632) 929 8109


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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Urgent Call to release immediately the 43 health workers!

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
http://www.president.gov.ph/contact/default.aspx
corres@op.gov.ph

Amsterdam, October 5 2010

Concerning: urgent call to release immediately the 43 health workers!

Honorable President Benigno Simeon Aquino III,

We join Philippine and international human rights organizations in demanding the immediate release of 43 Filipino health workers who were illegally arrested on 6 February 2010, physically and psychologically tortured, and up to now detained by the military.

The 43 health workers were holding a training seminar when the military arrested them, falsely accusing them of being members of the New People's Army. Subjected to physical and psychological torture, they were charged with rebellion. The military used an old law enacted by the Marcos dictatorship to continue detaining them despite the illegal actions committed by the military.

National human rights organizations like Karapatan, Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, and international organizations like Amnesty International and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, have strongly demanded the release of the 43 health workers. Because they were arrested in the town of Morong, Rizal near Manila, they have also been called the Morong 43.

Now, almost eight months since their illegal arrest, the Morong 43 still languish in prisons under inhuman conditions, continuously harassed by the military.

One of them, Carina “Judilyn” Oliveros gave birth to a child in late July. The military wanted to detain her and the baby. It took action by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to compel the military to allow her to nurse her baby outside prison. She is now at the Philippine General Hospital, but the court only allowed her until next month to stay in the hospital. She is obliged to go back to prison.

Another health worker under detention is 27-year-0ld Mercy Castro who is about to give birth in October.

It is thus becoming ever more urgent that the Aquino government be effectively pressured to grant justice to the 43 health workers and order their immediate and unconditional release. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has declared that the 43 health workers ought to be released.

We issue therefore this strong and urgent call to you as Honorable President of the Philippines to release immediately the 43 health workers!

  • Mr. Jan Vosters in behalf of the Johannes Wier Stichting (JWS): The Johannes Wier Foundation is a Dutch human rights organization for health professionals: doctors, dentists, nurses and paramedics. The focus of the organization is on the specific responsibility of all health care workers regarding human rights.
  • Ms. Monique Verkerk in behalf of the Verpleegkundigen & Verzorgenden Nederland (V&VN): Association for Nurses & Caregivers Netherlands. The V&VN is the professional association by and for nurses and caregivers in the Netherlands. The focus of the association is on professional implementation of their profession and upholding the spirit of pleasure in their work.
  • Besides these two large organizations in the health sector and our hundreds of Netherlands Philippine Solidarity Association (NFS) supporters we got individualswho are calling for the immediate release of the Morong 43. These are:
    1. Jos van Dijk, Van der Voort van Zijplaan 67, 3571 VV Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Edgar Koning, Rembrandtlaan 25, 7606 GH Almelo, The Netherlands
    3. Dr. Remco van de Pas, Board member of Dokters of the World, The Netherlands
    4. Elly Hessel, Old Catholic Church, The Netherlands
    5. Bernadette Thirion, The Netherlands
    6. Mr. M.J.F. Stelling, Lawyer, Chair of Association Lawyers for Peace, Couwenhoven 52-05, 3703 ER Zeist, The Netherlands
    7. Rev. Fr Wim de Boer, Old Catholic Church, Velserbroek, The Netherlands
    8. Mr. Wilbrord Braakman, Natural grower of Tulips, De Verbinding 5, 1741 DB Schagen
    9. Mrs. Cathrien de Wit, De Verbinding 5, 1741 DB Schagen, The Netherlands
    10. Jeroen van de Loo, Mission Development Peace (MOV), Murillohof 13, 1816XT Alkmaar, The Netherlands
    11. J. W. van Leenhoff, Environmentalist, Leiden, The Netherlands
    12. Harry Bos, Alkmaar, The Netherlands
    13. Marjolein Eshuis, Mensen met een Missie, Programme Officer Asia, The Haque, The Netherlands
    14. Ties Prakken, Lawyer, Professor in Criminal Law at Maastricht University, Jury member of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) Second Session on human rights violations in the Philippines, that took place in The Hague on March 21-25, 2007, The Netherlands
    15. Tina Stil, Church Social Worker, Alkmaar, The Netherlands
    16. Mr. Theo Droog in behalf of the Nederlands-Filippijnse Solidariteitsbeweging (NFS): The Netherlands Philippine Solidarity Association (NFS) responds to serious and pressing issues in the Philippines, which adversely affect the people’s welfare. The focus is on providing opportunity’s for linking and partnership of organizations.

Signed in behalf of all individuals and the members of the mentioned organizations calling for the urgent immediate release of the 43 health workers.

With kindest regards,

Mr. Theo Droog
Chair, Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Association

MEDIA ADVISORY

FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE

Kin and supporters of the Morong 43 to hold a program in front of the Department of Justice(DOJ) to urge the Aquino administration to expedite its review of the Morong 43 case.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 1O AM, October 6, 2010

Photo-opportunity will be available. For more information, please get in touch with PHILIP PARAAN, MEDIA OFFICER, HEALTH ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY at 0919-4861580 or call 929-8109.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Foreign human rights lawyers back NUPL

International human rights lawyers pledged support to progressive local group National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), and especially its defense of 43 health workers considered political prisoners in the Philippines.

The lawyers, who attended the NUPL's second national congress on September 20, 2010 in Pasay, also visited the health workers, more commonly known as the Morong 43 at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. The lawyers said they will report back to their respective home affiliations, noting in general poor hygiene in the detention center. Costa Rican lawyer Luis Roberto Zamora Bolanos wrote: "Latrine and tap water is present, yet the latrine had no flow of water, creating a health hazard...Rain would come in the cells through uncovered windows, wetting the entire floor, which represents a health hazard."

Still, the inmates have said conditions are better than in Camp Capinpin, where they suffered torture. The Morong 43 were transferred to police-run Camp Bagong Diwa from the military's Camp Capinpin, after the NUPL questioned jurisdiction of the military over the health workers. The Morong 43 were charged with common crimes, but alleged by the military to be members of a rebel group.

Roland Weyl, dean of the Paris Bar Association and first vice president of the IADL, said their support for the Morong 43 is not only because of humanitarian reasons. “We know that by fighting for you, you are fighting for us.”

The foreign delegation was composed of IADL President Emeritus Jitendra Sharma (India), IADL President Jeanne Mirer (USA), IADL Secretary General Osamu Niikura (Japan), IADL First Vice President Roland Weyl (France), anti-Iraq war advocate Luis Roberto Zamora Bolanos (Costa Rica), human rights lawyer Gail Davidson (Canada), IADL Deputy Secretary General Jan Fermon (Belgium), IADL Bureau members Akhtar Hussain (Pakistan) and Fabio Marcelli (Italy), women’s rights advocate Nimalka Fernando (Sri Lanka), former Punjab chief justice Vijender Jain (India), and Haldane Society members Michael Goold and Russel Fraser (UK), among others.

The NUPL and its foreign guests also feted NUPL pillars Romeo Capulong and Frederico Gapuz. Capulong, who is also an ad litem judge at the United Nations, was the NUPL's founding chairman. Gapuz, president of the Union of People's Lawyers in Mindanao, was the founding president. They were awarded the group's highest recognition, the Peoples' Lawyer award and were bestowed Chairperson and President Emeriti, respectively.

The NUPL will be led in the next three years by its national executive board: Neri Javier Colmenares, president; Joven Laura, vice president for Luzon; Alfonso Cinco IV, vice president for Visayas; Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice president for Mindanao; Edre U. Olalia, secretary-general; Alnie Foja, treasurer; and Kathrina Castillo, auditor. NUPL associate members also selected Maria Kristina Conti of the UP College of Law as law student representative, and Ma. Agnes Pacres of Karapatan-Bicol as paralegal representative.

The NUPL is the Philippines' largest network of human rights lawyers, and represents besides the Morong 43, the farmers in the Hacienda Luisita case, drivers in the RFID petition, and political detainees all over the country. It also handles about 90% of the writ of amparo cases so far filed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

“The AFP can manufacture evidence but they cannot hide the truth”- Morong 43 supporters

“The AFP can manufacture evidence but they cannot hide the truth” according to Carlos Montemayor, spokesperson of the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS! ALLIANCE.

The group was reacting to the renewed statement of the military thru its spokesman, Brigadier General Jose Mabanta Jr. who recently said that the AFP is willing to cooperate in any re-investigation of the Department of Justice and present evidences if necessary, concerning the Morong 43 health workers.

The group also noted that it was the military who tried to stonewall the investigations of the human rights violations and the illegality of the arrest of the 43 health workers.

According to Montemayor, “in the first place, the search was illegal. Contrary to the statement of Gen. Mabanta, the search warrant was, on its face, invalid as it was addressed to a certain Mario Condes who was never found and it did not specify the particular place to be searched. During the arrest, firearms and bomb-making paraphernalia were planted to incriminate the health workers. Also, the Morong 43 were held incommunicado, they were denied the right to counsel and they were repeatedly tortured physically and psychologically during their detention in Camp Capinpin.”

The alliance insists that all these violations are usually done by the AFP to extract information and obtain testimonies under duress. “The arrest and detention were illegal; all subsequent evidences and testimonies the AFP will produce will certainly be illegal as well,” Montemayor said.

“The AFP’s willingness to ‘cooperate’ is just another scheme to cover up and justify all the illegalities that they committed against the Morong 43 ,” said Montemayor.

Reference:
Carlos Montemayor,RN,
Spokesperson, FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE
Mobile : 0922 499 6237
Telephone: 929 8109, 725 4760

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