They braved indefinable forms of human rights violations so that they may live to see the day when they will finally be reunited with their families and people they serve.? The Morong 43 are finally free!
Today, ten months of roaring cries for freedom and justice voiced in different languages from all over the world bears fruit.Judge Gina Cenit Escoto, presiding judge of the Morong Regional Trial Court Branch 78 has finally released a decision late in the afternoon today to withdraw all cases filed against all of the 43 health workers.
Thirty-eight of the health workers were detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City since May 1 while five others remained in military custody since their illegal arrest at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.
Relatives and supporters have been waiting anxiously outside the Morong RTC since Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima filed for a motion to withdraw the cases Monday this week. They peacefully 'picketed outside' the court building since Wednesday.
After the judge released the official decision, court staffs followed by the Morong 43 relatives and supporters proceeded to Camp Bagong Diwa, a civilian detention facility, to deliver the hard copy of the order which will facilitate the release of the detained health workers.
Registered nurse and alliance spokesperson Carlos Montemayor said that the health workers underwent a mandatory physical check-up by prison doctors for clearance, a requirement before a detainee is released from the prison camp's custody.
Nursing mothers Judielyn Oliveros and Mercy Castro were transported from the Philippine General Hospital to Camp Bagong Diwa with their newborns to undergo prison protocols before they too are finally released.
From Taguig, the health workers will proceed to Quezon City for a press conference to thank all the people, including the media for keeping the faith and not giving up on their case. Montemayor said that the Morong 43 took strength and refuge in the massive local and international support this campaign gained since day one adding the struggle to free the 43 is within the overall struggle to free all political prisoners.
"Definitely, this is not the end of their story. The international movement on the campaign for health and human rights welcomes the additional 43 people with burning fervor and inspiration," Montemayor added. ##
Carlos Montemayor, RN
0922 499 6237 / (+632) 929 8109
MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Six hours after their lawyers received the courts' orders to discharge them, the female members of the so-called "Morong 43," the group of health workers arrested 10 months ago in Morong, Rizal, on suspicion of being communist rebels, were the first to be released from detention late Friday night.
Delia Ocasla was greeted with cheers from relatives and supporters when she emerged from the gates of the BJMP jail at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City at 11 p.m.
She was the first detainee to be freed among the 23 women detainees after 10 months and 7 days in detention.
Shortly after Ocasla, the other women detainees stepped out of the gates with wide smiles and clenched left fists raised.
The women carried their belongings in plastic bags. One detainee carried a sign that said "Maraming salamat po sa mga sumuporta sa Morong 43 (Many thanks to all supporters of Morong 43)."
Intal salutes the newly released health workers and thanks those who helped to get them free.
It is with great joy that we learned about the release of most of the Morong 43 in the evening of December 17. It is a moment we have been looking forward to since they were arrested in Morong, Rizal province, on February 6. We were confident that they had to be released sooner or later because we knew for a fact that the charges against the 43 didn't hold water. It is a shame that it took more than ten months before 33 of them were released and that 10 of them are still in jail.
Intal has been involved in solidarity work with community based health programs in the Philippines for many years and some of us know some of the 43 personally. Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor was a doctor of the Council for Health and Development, one of our partner organizations. The arrest of the 43 health workers was nothing less than an attack against the movement for health rights. It shows that the struggle for health is a struggle for social justice.
We thank everyone who joined us in the campaign for their release, particularly our partner organizations in Palestine, the DR Congo, Latin America and the global People's Health Movement. We also thank our friends from the Stop the Killings platform in Belgium and the hundreds that joined our campaign activities including pickets, petition signing and a paid advertisement in a Philippine newspaper. We are proud that we have been able to contribute to the groundswell of protest because the release of the health workers is the fruit of the people's struggle in the Philippines and internationally.
After ten months in detention they had this to say: “We're happy to be free, and excited to help provide healthcare to communities. Excited to again be able to serve the people!” These words inspire us and give us courage. The struggle for health is far from easy but, indeed, there's nothing more rewarding than serving the people. While we're hoping that the remaining ten Philippine health workers will be released soon, we salute the newly released health workers and wish them good luck as they take up their tasks again in the people's movement.
Their relatives as well as thousands of people from the world over await in anticipation the 43 health workers as they are expected to be released from Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City today.
Seven days after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III first publicly declared the withdrawal of all cases against the health workers, relatives are still uncertain whether or not the detained health workers shall finally “be reunited with their families” and “the people they so lovingly serve” after spending more than ten months behind bars, registered nurse and Free the 43 Health Workers! Alliance spokesperson Carlos Montemayor said.
Dr. Alex Montes’ wife, Evelyn, said she could not wait to “make up for lost time” and do “some family bonding activities” but worried about groups who are “doing everything they can to block the Department of Justice’s motion to withdraw the cases and facilitate the release of the health workers.”
Other detainees’ wives, husbands, children, and relatives shared the same plight. They said the military and groups such as Rep. Louis V. Alcover’s ANAD Party list are consciously “doing rounds” to intimidate or attempt to influence legislators and independent personalities to withdraw their support to the Morong 43 campaign.
Alcover submitted an opposition to withdraw the cases filed against the Morong 43 Wednesday this week but Judge Gina Cenit-Escoto, presiding judge of the Morong Regional Trial Court Branch 78 dismissed his motion saying there is no basis since he is not a party to the case.
The judge declared she will not entertain any more opposition and will be arriving with a decision until today.
Montemayor said that while it is very obvious that the military is the perfect example of not doing what it preaches, such as claiming it respects the commander-in-chief’s order to withdraw all cases but doing everything it can to covertly and overtly block the release of the health workers, their group is reassured of the massive support that local and international groups express adding that “fear and anxiety is replaced by fervor and conviction to pursue what is just for the 43 and the rest of political prisoners nationwide.”
“We are confident that Judge Gina Cenit-Escoto will not allow herself to be influenced by anybody, regardless of their power and position, in immediately executing the orders of the President,” he added.
Carlos Montemayor, R.N.
0922 499 6237 / (+632) 929 8109
MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) Both the Morong Regional Trial Court and the Municipal Trial Court ordered the release on Friday afternoon of 43 health workers arrested by the military last February on suspicion they were communist rebels learning how to make bombs.
Judge Gina Cenit-Escoto of the Morong RTC" Branch 78 dismissed the charges of illegal possession of explosives against 40 of the 43 detainees collectively referred to as the "Morong 43."
Municipal Trial Court Judge Rodrigo Posadas also threw out the case against three others charged with violations of the election gun ban.
The rulings came after the Department of Justice dropped the charges against all 43 on President Aquino's order last Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
The court orders were to be taken to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which would process the release papers.
"The jail wardens of Camp Bagong Diwa and Camp Capinpin are directed to release the accused from their custody immediately upon receipt of this order," Cyrus Jurado, lawyer of five of the detained health workers, quoted Escoto in her order.
Other lawyers were still awaiting their copies of the court decision.
Relatives and supporters cried and shrieked with joy upon learning of the decision.
"Ang iyak ko ay kasihayan na malaman ng mundo na walang kasalanan si Dr. Montes (I cry for joy that the world will know Dr. Montes is innocent)," Evelyn Montes, wife of detained surgeon Alexis Montes, told the Inquirer.
"Siya ang pinakamagandang regalo sa aming pasko (His release is our best Christmas present)," Montes said.
The military and police have insisted that the 43, arrested in Morong, allegedly in possession of firearms and explosives, were rebels undergoing a training session.
However, the detainees insisted they were just health workers undergoing medical training.
Aquino's Non-Resolution of Philippines' Human Rights Crisis Serves US Foreign Policy
In commemoration of the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN USA would like to call international attention to their disappointment in Philippine President Benigno "P-Noy" Simeon Aquino III for his failure to act decisively towards resolving the ongoing human rights crisis in the Philippines. Rather than working to fulfill his campaign promises to the Filipino people, Aquino has spent the past 5 months prioritizing the fulfillment of his promises made to the US government and to multi-national corporate investors to further liberalize the Philippine national economy and territory to accommodate their interests.
If the first 160 days of the Aquino administration are any indicator, the Filipino people can be certain the campaign of unabated extra-judicial killings, abductions, illegal detentions, and torture of civilians throughout the country by its security forces unleashed by the previous Arroyo administration will continue under the current presidency.
Like Barack Obama, the romanticized hype over Aquino's candidacy and electoral win are slowly being replaced by a steady flow of political doublespeak on critical issues. One of the vilest examples of this can be seen with the case of the Morong 43 healthworkers, who are now in their 10th month of illegal detention under the Philippine military's custody. After publicly acknowledging irregularities with the raid, arrest warrant, and even so-called "evidence" gathered against the 43 last February by the Philippine National Police and Philippine military, Aquino not only essentially washed his hands of the case by leaving it to the courts to decide on their fate, he beefed up the country's military budget by an unprecedented 81%.
Unprecedented Military Spending for Counter-Insurgency Operations
The P1.64 trillion military budget proposal of the Aquino government for 2011 is a staggeringly massive amount inclusive of $434 million granted by the US State Department via the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Per the US military's new Counter-Insurgency (COIN) guide, this amount will be dedicated to strengthening the very structural framework responsible for country's continuing human right crisis-- the national counter-insurgency plan known as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).
Though touted as a campaign to end the armed rebellion in the countryside, OBL has earned the scrutiny of international human rights monitoring groups for its baseless directive of targeting progressive and outspoken people's organizations, party-lists, advocates, institutions and even social service providers such as the Morong 43 for being so-called "communist fronts."
Under Aquino, 22 assassinations of civilians have been added to the piling list of extra-judicial killings and there remains 393 political prisoners throughout the country. Over 300 days have passed since Aquino promised to redistribute his family's Hacienda Luisita to its tillers. Not a single arrest has been made to answer for the thousands of documented cases of killings and abductions under the Arroyo government, including Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre, as well as the abduction and torture of Filipina-American human rights advocate Melissa Roxas by military elements.
Aquino's decision to extend and enforce OBL, despite its many critics, aims to choke off the strong nationalist movement in the Philippines that frustrates US foreign policy interests in the region. With Aquino's help, the US government is working towards an official re-establishment of a permanent US military presence in the country. Like Arroyo, Aquino is committed to ensuring the terrorizing Bush Doctrine principles are applied to the Philippines in order to advance US geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific region, key to which is an all-out war campaign to bail-out the world's wealthiest countries and financial oligarchs from the worst economic crisis in history.
Already the US government's hand in the military provocation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and rivaling superpower China spells plans for a US war offensive in the region that would not only bully and advance US trade interests in the region, but necessitate a large, permanent and reliable US military station in the Philippines.
Human Rights & People's Solidarity
With the burden of the global economic crisis breaking the backs of people both in the US and the Philippines, international solidarity between movements to hold governments accountable for increased public spending towards war and human rights violations rather than for jobs, education, healthcare, and other social services must be forged.
Since 2005, BAYAN USA has been campaigning with allies in the US to cut US military spending in the Philippines and for the withdrawal of US troops in from the region. These efforts in the US are in solidarity with those in the Philippines risking their lives everyday at the frontlines of a growing democratic movement to alleviate the Filipino people from their daily agony of poverty, landlessness, joblessness, and hunger amidst US-funded counter-insurgency and political repression.
BAYAN USA firmly believes that communities in the US play a role in the struggle for human rights in the Philippines by holding the Obama administration accountable for its actions in the Philippines, just as the Filipino people must hold the Aquino administration accountable for its broken promises and subservience to foreign dictates. The ongoing culture of impunity in the Philippines beckons the international community to support the Filipino people's fight for justice for the victims of human rights abuses and the punishment of human rights violators unleashed by the state.
Free the Morong 43 & all Political Prisoners!
Scrap Oplan Bantay Laya!
End Impunity, Prosecute Arroyo!
US Out of the Philippines!
TO : SECRETARY LEILA M. DE LIMA
Department of Justice (DOJ)
SUBJECT : IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF INFORMATIONS AGAINST THE "MORONG 43"
DATE : December 8, 2010
This refers to the forty three individuals arrested in Morong, Rizal on February 6, 2010, collectively known as the "Morong 43." There is an urgent need to address their plight even solely on humanitarian grounds. Furthermore, it is consistent with the spirit of the season that the "Morong 43" be freed from detention and spend Christmas with their families. More importantly, questions raised on the legality of their arrest justify their release.
Pursuant thereto, and upon instructions of the President, you are hereby ordered to cause the withdrawal of the following Complaints against the aforesaid individuals, to wit:
Criminal Case No. 10-9079-M, People vs. Gary Liberal et al. pending before the Regional Trial Court of Rizal, Branch 78;
Criminal Case No. 10-9078-M, People vs. Reynaldo Macabenta; Municipal Trial Court, Morong, Rizal;
Criminal Case No. 10-9080-M, People vs. Del Ayo Avera, Municipal Trial Court, Morong, Rizal;
Criminal Case No. 10-9081-M, People vs. Romeo de la Cruz; Municipal Trial Court, Morong, Rizal,
Criminal Case Nos. 7082 , 7083 and 7084, People vs. Delayo Avera et al., for Violation of COMELEC Resolution No. 87134 in relation to Article 261 (Q) of the Election Code, Municipal Trial Court, Morong, Rizal, and
Criminal Case No. 7130, People vs. Delayo Avera for violation of PD 1866, Municipal Trial Court, Morong, Rizal.
The International Human Rights Week is supposed to be a celebration of our enjoyment of rights as people, regardless of age, race, color or social status. But rampant violation of human rights across the nation could never give us the reason to celebrate.
As we continue our hunger strike, we express our solidarity with all the victims of human rights violations in their pursuit of justice. We also share the sentiments of other political detainees who suffer because of the slow course of justice. We condemn the killing of activists and journalists who have exposed realities of society. As health workers, we lament and strongly condemn the perpetrators who raped “Florence”, a nurse, and the senseless killing of botanist Leonard Co who contributed largely to the industry of herbal medicine.
These are only some of the numerous people who became targets of state agents for the mere reason that they serve poor communities. As health workers still detained for ten months, we share their plight and their families’ struggle. It is unfortunate that the price we have to pay to render service to far-flung communities is as expensive as our own life. Our experiences tell us the irony of being harassed, tortured, jailed or killed in a so-called “democratic” society. While our constitution and international declarations all pertain to protection of human rights, we couldn’t but question the administration’s seeming indifference to us who are victims of state brutality and acts of torture.
Morong 43’s illegal detention for barely a year now should be more than enough time for justice to be rendered in our case. In spite of gross constitutional and human rights violations since the day were arrested, we patiently waited for the President’s “righteous path” to happen. Even our families and supporters have always been present in all our hardships, lobbying for our freedom and giving us the courage. Though they shed tears each day that passed that we’re still in jail, they were still hopeful, believing that our call to be free has not fallen of deaf ears.
We know that our hunger strike signifies a legitimate call, giving us the strength to continue our struggle until we are heard and freed. We therefore call on President Noynoy Aquino to rectify the errors done against us, especially the blatant HRV’s of the past regime. He should end this culture of impunity, heed the call of our people and show sincerity through concrete actions.
As we commemorate Human Rights Week, we call on the Filipino to continue the fight of those who have been killed or disappeared, and for those who still suffer because of injustice. Together, let us stand up and act for what is just and right.
Free the 43 health workers now!
Free all political prisoners!
Justice for all victims of human rights violations!
MANILA, Philippines—A lawyer for the Morong 43 Wednesday appealed to President Benigno Aquino III not to be “onion-skinned” on an issue that will continue to fester for as long as it is not properly resolved.
“He becomes irritated when he is asked about the [Morong 43] but that should not be the case. He should not get tired of answering the issue until it is resolved. It is a legitimate issue until it is resolved. He cannot just brush it aside,” said Edre Olalia, who is secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
And if Mr. Aquino is becoming irritated about the issue, lawyers for the detained health workers are “frustrated, disappointed and outraged” over his latest pronouncements, Olalia said.
The President on Tuesday said that he would let the courts decide the fate of the Morong 43.
Olalia stressed that the “lives and freedom” of the detained health workers remain in Mr. Aquino's hands.
The Morong 43 refers to a group of health workers who were arrested earlier this year in a Morong, Rizal resthouse on suspicion that they were communist rebels. They are being held on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the gun ban.
British Columbia, Canada -- Iron bars and high walls will not stop the detained health workers, also known as the Morong 43, from asserting the just and legitimate demand for their immediate and unconditional release.
The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Migrante B.C. and the Victoria-Philippines Solidarity Group, based in British Columbia, Canada respect and support the hunger strike of the detained health workers, which began on Dec 3rd, exactly 300 days from their arrest on February 6, 2010.
It has been ten long months for the 43 detainees, time made so much more difficult because they continue to be held illegally and under false charges. The defective search warrant, the tainted “evidence,” the forced confessions, the violations of the detainees’ constitutional and human rights continue to be ignored by President and Commander-in-Chief Aquino and the military that he commands. President Aquino seems to have forgotten that as the top official of the land, he takes his mandate from the people who elected him into office, from the people he swore to serve, and not from the military.
President Aquino continues to turn a deaf ear to the appeals and demands for the release of the Morong 43 – these have come from groups like the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, several former secretaries of the Department of Health; the Dean and professors of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine; the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges; the Philippine Medical Association; the Philippine Nurses Association; and several lawmakers in the Philippine House of Representatives and Senate. National and overseas groups of women, students, churches, overseas Filipino workers, human rights advocates, lawyers’ groups, health workers and other sectors who have rallied behind the Morong 43 have also been ignored.
President Aquino washes his hands off the case and declares that it is up to the courts – what he does not say is that it is up to the military. After all, did not former President Gloria Arroyo, under whose term the group was arrested, award bronze medals to the two military officers involved in the 43’s arrest and detention? Did not the military brag that this “accomplishment was the biggest victory of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign in recent years?” This is the same counter-insurgency operation Bantay Laya, then embraced by Arroyo and now continued by Aquino, which aim to eliminate any form of critical dissent through any means, from extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal arrests and other forms of human rights violations.
Edre Olalia, Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), describes the President as “either confused, legally ignorant, or being fed with inaccurate information on his persistence that he cannot do something about the release of the group.” The solution is simple; the President can always withdraw the false charges against the Morong 43, leaving the courts with no logical and legal option but to release them. However, in the Philippines, political prisoners are deemed guilty and face indefinite detention until proven innocent and President Aquino proves this every day that the Morong 43 continue to stay behind bars.
When will President Aquino muster the will to take the correct legal step, the morally right step and release the Morong 43? The detainees have taken the task of struggling for their release with the weapon of the hunger strike. The ball, so to speak, is inside President Aquino’s court.
We wish the detainees strength at this crucial time as they pursue their right to be free!
We hope that the 43 detained health workers will be able to go home to their families and return to their work of caring for the people's health very soon, maybe before Christmas.
Withdraw all charges against the Morong 43! Free the Morong 43!
Free all political prisoners!
Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPS-HR)
Victoria-Philippines Solidarity Group (VPSG)
British Columbia, Canada
THE Morong 43 should be released “not through an amnesty program” but by virtue of technicalities surrounding their arrest, Sen. Francis Escudero said yesterday.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, supports calls for the release of 43 health workers who were arrested 10 months ago on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the gun ban.
“The Morong 43 may be freed without availing of the amnesty program extended by the administration. There is no admittance from the health workers that they are indeed members of the New People’s Army as alleged by the military. They cannot therefore avail of the program because of the imposed impossible condition: admittance of guilt,” he said.
Citing an opinion rendered by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima that the arrest warrant against the group seemed to be defective, Escudero said there were three options that could be explored to free the detained health workers.
He said the DoJ may file a motion in court withdrawing information on the ground of technicalities on the arrest to release the Morong 43. The defense team may file a motion for reinvestigation and the release on bail and recognizance pending reinvestigation without the need for technicalities.
The DoJ and the defense team may also jointly file a motion for judicial determination of probable cause to resolve the issue once and for all, Escudero said.Bernadette E. Tamayo Ralated News
Manila, Philippines -- The People’s Health Movement (PHM), a global network bringing together grassroots activists, civil society organizations, academics and health workers from around the world, reiterates our strong condemnation of the illegal arrest and continued detention of 43 community health workers and doctors in the Philippines who continue to unjustly languish in jail since February 6, 2010.
The health workers who were conducting health skills training to enhance their health interventions in poorly resourced rural areas, but were illegally arrested, detained, and tortured continue to be victims of human rights violations. Their arrest is not just an attack on their persons but more so, is an attack on the right to health of the poor. Their continued unjust detention has deprived millions of poor people the health services that these health workers have long been giving them.
To call the attention of President Noynoy Aquino to their innocence vis a vis the charges levied against them and the urgent need for their release, these so called Morong 43 Health workers have staged a hunger strike in pursuit of justice.
The PHM supports the hunger strike of the Morong 43 and is in solidarity with them in their continuing fight for justice! We call on justice, freedom and peace loving citizens of the Philippines to do the same.
The PHM calls on the Philippine President Benigno C. Aquino III to immediately and unconditionally release the Morong 43 and dismiss all charges filed against them NOW! Just as he supported the call for Burmese Aung San Suu Kyii’s immediate release as well as amnesty for the soldiers who were involved in coup d’etat attempts in the Philippines, we urge him to order the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43.
Indeed, justice delayed is justice denied!
Dr. Edelina P. Dela Paz
Coordinator, PHM Southeast Asia
Member, Global Steering Council
People’s Health Movement
Group hits P-noy annoyance on Morong 43 questions, says continued detention of illegal detention of health workers and bias towards military show signs of unhealthy democracy.
Health groups gather today to call for the release of the Morong 43. They ask President Aquino to finally stop evading the initiative which has long been asked from Malacanang and this is to withdraw the cases against the Morong 43.
In his latest pronouncement over a press conference in Alaminos, Pangasinan, President Aquino said the government cannot just release the health workers without the court’s sanctions and is not even considering the withdrawal of the cases against them.
Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE said, “we are not asking president to order the release of the Morong 43 thru Malacanang and not thru the courts, for it will not happen, it is the withdrawal of the cases is what we have been expecting the executive branch to do.”
The group said that President Aquino seems to be having confused statements now. P-noy complains of something executive branch cannot do which is the immediate release of the Morong 43 but it would not heed to something it can do to help the court decide in the dismissal of the case which is thru withdrawal of charges.
“If Aquino complains of having to repeatedly answer to questions on the issue of the Morong 43 as “parang sirang plaka” (like playing a broken record), then this is something we will never be tired of doing if it would mean the release of the Morong 43.”
Caguiat said “we feel sorry that the president feels exasperated over the repeated plea for him to intervene and address the issue of the Morong 43, yet we are also dismayed on the President’s irascible response. He should be reminded that the illegally detained health workers and their relatives too have long been suffering, anxious and impatient in more ways he could only imagine. After all his father was once a political detainee too, he should be the first to know.”
However, the group said the Aquino should not complain because but it his moral and political obligation to see to it that justice is extended to every citizen of this land. It is the lives and personal freedom of innocent civilians that are at stake in this case.
According to the medical professionals, continued detention of the 43 health workers is also reflective of our government’s human rights agenda. Caguiat said, if the Morong 43 would be a gauge of this government’s political integrity, then we can say that the government is showing signs of an unhealthy democracy.
Caguiat explains that Aquino’s seeming evasion of a decisive order on the issue of Morong 43 is indeed a sign of a frail administration -- a government that slowly exposes itself as subservient to military influence rather than the rule of law and civilian authority.
The group criticized Aquino for obstinately insisting on a trial while the 43’s arrest is a product of a grossly unconstitutional arrest and detention.
Ironically, while giving into the whims of the military, the President virtually persecutes innocent civilians who are involved in health services in the community.
She added that such pronouncements all the more reinforce a general public sentiment that Mr. Aquino is extra cautious of the military officials’ opinion regarding the Morong 43. If there is somebody’s opinion that the President should be wary of, it should be the Filipino people’s and not that of the military’s, the spokesperson said.
The groups continue to challenge P-noy to heed to his tireless campaign slogan which is the straight and correct or the daang matuwid . The group reminded the President, “your strength lies on the people you are suppose to serve and lead”
Groups like Alliance of All Health Organizations of the Nation (AAHON), Ang Nars, Health Action Information Network, Peoples Health Movement –Asia Pacific among other health groups joined Morong 43 s relatives and supporters in a a short program at the Solidarity Fasting Center for the Morong 43 at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente along Taft Manila in support for the 43 detained health workers who are now staging a hunger strike. Reference:
Dr. Julie Caguiat
Spokesperson, Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance
Mobile: 0909 113 3038 / 0919 486 1580 / 881-0910
BE ASSURED, says presidential deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, that Malacañang is studying the case of the Morong 43. It cannot as yet release them because their case is different from that of the military mutineers.
But of course their case is different from that of the military mutineers. They have more right to be released than the military mutineers.
Unlike the military mutineers, the Morong 43 are innocent. They are innocent because the law must find them innocent. They were arrested on the strength of a warrant against someone who has no fixed address and who is nowhere to be found—very likely a fictitious person. They were given no legal recourse, prevented not just from seeking any legal counsel but also from seeing relatives and friends, and thrown in the dark for months. Some of them were probably tortured; at least they have claimed so. No group of persons have been so systematically denied their basic rights since 1986 other than those who have been summarily fed to the worms by their captors.
Whatever has been found in their possession or extracted from them by way of confession is the “fruit of the poisoned tree,” as lawyers put it, which is inadmissible evidence. And in any case, they have resolutely stood by their word that the arms and explosives that materialized in their persons were planted, and confessed only to being so dedicated to their calling they were holding a medical seminar when swooped down upon by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s stormtroopers.
What is there to study? If only by the circumstances of their arrest, Malacañang should have thrown their case out the window as soon as it welcomed a new tenant. If only by the ordeal they have endured—10 months and counting—Malacañang should have offered them its deepest apologies and vowed to bring the tyrant who brought them to that pass to justice.
Even if they are NPA sympathizers, or NPA themselves, what of it? At the very least, the mutineers themselves took up arms against government, even if as in the case of Danny Lim that lay more in the threat and the execution, and they have been freed, to much rejoicing by the military. Even Tony Trillanes, who quite literally took up arms against GMA while she was still legitimate, has been freed, to much rejoicing by his family and friends. Why can’t the Morong 43, who haven’t even been proven to have taken up arms, be so? The selectiveness is patent and should be a source of shame for government.
At the very most, whose case is really thornier and requires interminable study?
Military officers are there to defend the citizens, for which they get benefits and privileges and guns for the role they play. When they turn those guns against government, they do not just commit rebellion, they commit treason. They betray the very thing they are sworn to uphold. The only compelling justification in the case of Lim and company is that they did so against a government that had no right to exist, that did not represent the citizens. They did so against a usurper, one who made fighting back a matter of self-preservation. The presidential amnesty given them naturally implies that justification, specifically the part about GMA’s illegitimacy. Otherwise, nothing justifies it. Treason is unjustifiable.
You grant that the Morong 43 are NPA sympathizers, or NPA themselves, then their case is far simpler and more forthright. They are rebels, they exist to fight government, they enjoy no pay or privileges in doing so. On the contrary they suffer privations and are hunted down as outlaws. Their added justification for fighting government over the last six years is that it is a coup regime, wrought by ballot if not by bullet. For which they have paid the gravest price: Hundreds of their fellows have been killed or made to disappear; many, like Jonas Burgos, judged, juried and executed without proof of their being NPA.
Between those two groups of political prisoners, the second is far more easily pardonable. That is tacitly implied by the peace talks with the NDF. You do not negotiate with bandits, you negotiate with rebels, or with people you consider to have principles. Yet the military mutineers have been released and the Morong 43 not so. Why so?
The only reason I can think of is that government doesn’t want to piss off the military. That’s what P-Noy’s own mother, Cory, did after 1986, and succeeded only in emboldening them to mount one coup after another. Led by Juan Ponce Enrile who, in one of life’s sublime ironies, or in one of this magic realist country’s not so magical twists, is now a staunch P-Noy ally. There’s no other explanation for it, certainly nothing approaching legal or moral. It’s just plain double standards.
It’s also just plain injustice. Government has no business appeasing the military, it has every business punishing the military. Or those of them that helped GMA mount a rule so vicious it made rebellion an act of grace. Or those of them that helped GMA steal the vote in Muslim Mindanao and propped up the even more vicious rule of the Ampatuans in Maguindanao to accomplish it. Or those of them that helped GMA stamp out any and all resistance against her, scuttling rallies, arresting protesters, mounting a cynical war against enemies of the State—State defined as the state of health of GMA and her husband, which buried hundreds of political activists, many of them in the flush of youth, in shallow graves. Or those of them that should even now be facing the Truth Commission to tell the truth about how they made the truth, quite apart from people like Jonas Burgos, disappear from the face of the earth.
What’s to study? The matuwid na landas is clear enough: Release the Morong 43.
MAKABAYAN demands the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 volunteer doctors, midwives and community health workers now in the 3rd day of hunger strike to protest their unjust arrest and detention.
“Why does President Aquino refuse to intervene for the release of the 43 health workers when he himself acknowledged that the search warrant was defective and the evidence thus produced was illegally obtained? Isn’t this silently condoning the abuse of human rights?” says Satur Ocampo, MAKABAYAN President, on the 10th month of the Morong 43’s detention.
The Morong 43's continued detention based on a defective search warrant is an injustice not only to them and their families, more so to the communities which rely on their services as health workers. Liza Maza, MAKABAYAN vice-president, added, “How many indigent pregnant women and children have been endangered since the Morong 43’s arrest? How many ailing farmers have not been been given a check up since the AFP and PNP forcibly took the volunteers while they were on a medical training?”
Apart from the human rights abuses, the great injustice which the detention is highlighting to the world is the gross negligence of the administration in providing basic services to its people. These doctors and community health workers are serving far flung communities for the simple reason that the government is not there to do its duties. Denying these communities health care is another crime to which this administration must answer to.
The Morong 43’s only fault is being acutely aware of the people’s suffering, their only “crime” is providing free health care services to the needy, and their only “violation” is making sure that medical help is given to the poor. The people have had enough of this administration’s silence, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43.
Vancouver, B.C. – Around 78 people came out in the rain and the cold to support the early evening vigil for the release of the Filipino detained health workers, or the Morong 43 last December 2nd. It started off with rousing songs of freedom and hope. The Solidarity Notes Labour Choir, composed of activists led by choir director Earle Peach, came to sing for the release of the 43. Yvon Raoul played the bagpipes, music which drowned the sound of traffic from cars and buses. Jim Edmondson from the Vancouver-Kensington Community Singers played his guitar and sang the songs for the Morong 43, including one that he had memorized, “Bayan Ko.”
The crowd at the Philippine Consulate General in downtown Vancouver included members, friends and supporters of the Vancouver Free the 43 Committee, the Alliance for People’s Health, Migrante B.C., the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, the Social Justice Class contingent of the Lord Byng Secondary and other human rights advocates. Candles were lit, “Free the 43” signs held onto and the photos of the detained health workers held high or taped on the glass panels of the building.
Friends of the Morong 43 spoke to the crowd, the pedestrians and people waiting for their buses on why the Morong 43 must be released immediately and unconditionally. They spoke of the illegality of their arrest and detention, the defective search warrant used by the military, the torture and other human rights violations committed on the detainees. Valerie and Yvon Raoul who went to observe the last Philippine elections told their personal stories of meeting the detainees and their families. Aiyanas Ormond and Martha Roberts spoke of the great work done by community health workers in the poor and rural communities, and the personal friendships they made with Rey Macabenta and Dr. Clamor who they met in the Philippines. A Lord Byng Secondary student spoke on behalf of her Social Justice class and was later joined by her teacher, Alain Raoul, who then described the “Write-a-thon” his students would be doing on December 10th. A young student from Tupper Secondary led the crowd into another round of chanting “Free, free, free the 43!”
Aiyanas Ormond from the Alliance of People’s Health broke the news to everyone that the Morong 43 had just declared that they were on hunger strike – the hunger strike started at 6:30 a.m., December 3, Philippine time. That day would have marked their 300 days in detention since their arrest last February. December 3 also marks the International Day in Solidarity with Political Prisoners.
The Morong 43 is made up of 2 doctors, 2 midwives, 1 nurse and 38 community health workers. They are two nursing mothers, Judilyn Oliveros and Mercy Castro; both delivered their babies in detention. There are the sick. Dr. Merry Clamor suffers from uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and infected skin wounds aggravated by poor jail conditions. Jane Balleta is epileptic and has had seizures in prison. Both have been taken to the hospital by the military in the recent past. There are the elderly. Dr. Alex Montes and community health worker Lydia Obera are both in their sixties.
Free the 43 Committee members Valerie Raoul delivered a letter for Philippine President Aquino to the staff of the Philippine Consulate General. Reference:
Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada)
1230 East 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Since December 3, the 43 health workers have been on an indefinite hunger strike. Our four-day fasting starting today until December 9 (Thursday) is in support of the protest action, as well as in solidarity with similar activities from December 3-10 by more than 300 of our fellow political prisoners all over the country.
Through this protest, we convey this message to President Noynoy Aquino: Effect the soonest possible release of the Morong 43 health workers by withdrawing now the baseless and unjust illegal possession of firearms charge, through the government prosecutors who haphazardly filed it in early February this year.
Two weeks ago, President Aquino was quoted having said, referring to the bogus evidence being used against the Morong 43: “I understand there’s a concept in law called fruits of the poisonous tree - - it can’t be used against the defendants.” (PDI, 10 Nov 27 p3) It was a virtual repetition of what he also said in mid-October: “It is a generally accepted principle that what lawyers call the fruit of the poison tree, or evidence wrongly gotten, cannot be used”. (PDI, 10 Oct 15 p3) Yet, on both occasions, President Aquino said the executive’s hands are tied since the case against the 43 health workers is already with the court.
This is an acceptable word-play by the president. Everybody knows it was the government prosecutors who filed the baseless illegal possessions of firearms charge against the Morong 43 health workers. And these are the same people who can withdraw the same either MotuPropio, or upon the President’s order as chief executive of the land.
We are aware that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who illegally arrested and tortured the Morong 43 health workesr under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter insurgency program, has consistently stated that the release of the 43 health workers would negatively impact upon its troops’ morale.
But must President Aquino allow himself to be held hostage by the AFP’s veiled threats? Must he turn his back on his political obligation to right the wrong of the AFP, of which he is the commander in-chief? Or has he slowly but surely learned the cunning and brutal ways of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?
After this four-day fasting, we are ready anytime to resume and heighten our protest, should President Noynoy Aquino continue to ignore the ever growing domestic and international call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43.
As we celebrate International Human Rights Week, we demand no less than justice for the Morong 43 health workers and all political prisoners in the country.
SGD. ALBERTO ACERDIN
Danao City Jail
SGD. RAMON PATRIARCA
Danao City Jail
AFTER President Benigno Aquino III said he would let the courts decide the fate of the “Morong 43”, one of the group’s counsels said he may already be “succumbing to the military”.
National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Edre Olalia said the President “is either confused, legally ignorant, or being fed with inaccurate information on his persistence that he cannot do something about the release of the group”.
Olalia added the executive can always withdraw the false charges against the group, leaving the courts with no logical and legal option but to release them.
The Morong 43 is a group of health workers who were alleged members of the New People’s Army.
Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan, like other legislators, insisted that President Aquino has the power to withdraw the case.
“It is within his (Aquino) powers to instruct the Department of Justice to withdraw the case. Why the delay? His words are not translated into the appropriate action,” Ilagan said.
The Morong 43 face charges of illegal possession of explosives before the Morong Regional Trial Court and illegal possession of firearms before the Morong Municipal Trial Court.
They also have a pending appeal before the Supreme Court on their habeas corpus petition questioning the validity of their arrest.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) pressed the Aquino government to make a clear and categorical statement on their plans to resolve the Morong 43 case.
“It’s been 10 months, two DOJ memoranda, two babies born in detention and countless appeals from the day the Morong 43 were illegally arrested, tortured, denied counsel and detained. It’s not enough that the Aquino government to say that the case is up to the courts” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.
“Of course it will be the courts who will order the release. But what will Malacanang do to enable the courts to make such a decision? What are the concrete steps Malacanang will undertake to secure the release of the 43?” Reyes asked.
On persistent calls for Aquino to meddle the case, a Palace official insisted that "the ball is with the court”.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado said President Aquino’s stand is the prudent thing to do as of the moment.
“Once the case is filed in court, it’s with the courts. Even if the prosecutor will file the motion, that is nothing if the court will not approve that,” Amorado said.
While the families of the Morong 43 appealed help from the administration, Amorado said they would want to see a move from the group first.
“Why is it that their lawyers have not filed anything to quash the search warrant which was issued in Cavite? Because that will trigger whether the government will oppose the motion,” the Palace official said.
“If you feel that the warrant is invalidly issued, your first move should have been to move to quash it because any evidence that were gathered by virtue of a void warrant is the fruit of the poisonous tree and cannot be used in court,” he added.
He meanwhile dismissed that Aquino is “succumbing to the military” for letting the courts decide on the fate of the suspects. (Kathrina Alvarez/Jill Beltran/AMN/Sunnex)
Believing that it’s not enough to simply say that the case is up to the courts, umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan again pressed the Aquino government to make a clear and categorical statement on their plans to resolve the issue of the detention of the Morong 43.
“It’s been ten months, two DOJ memoranda, two babies born in detention and countless appeals from the day the Morong 43 were illegally arrested, tortured, denied counsel and detained. It’s not enough that the Aquino government to say that the case is up to the courts. What the people want to know and what the detainees want to know, is what exactly will Malacanang do to rectify the situation?” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“Of course it will be the courts who will order the release. But what will Malacanang do to enable the courts to make such a decision? What are the concrete steps Malacanang will undertake to secure the release of the 43?” Reyes asked.
Over the weekend, President Benigno Aquino III was quoted as saying that the case is up to the courts to decide. It is the third time he has commented on the case of the Morong 43, and the first time after the detainees launched their hunger strike last December 3.
Bayan said that the 43 remain in high spirits during their hunger strike, even if, according to their doctors, some are experiencing hyperacidity, dizziness, nausea and hypertension. Other BJMP detainees have also fasted to show support for the Morong 43.
The umbrella group also slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines for statements it made over the weekend, saying that NDFP Chief Negotiator Luis Jalandoni’s call to free the 43 health workers is proof that the detainees are members of the NPA
“That statement is non-sequitur inasmuch as Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada’s call to free the 43 does not mean the detainees are members of the Liberal Party. The statements made by the AFP show that up to now, they are still unrepentant over the illegal arrest, detention and torture of the 43. They are, quite possibly, the force that is trying to stop the release of the health workers, despite the DOJ review,” Reyes said
“We challenge Malacanang to make a clear and categorical statement within this week, when the world observes Human Rights Week.
Two detainees have already given birth while in detention. Judilyn Oliveros and Mercy Castro are now both at the Philippine General Hospital as they are allowed to breastfeed their babies.
The Morong 43 face charges of illegal possession of explosives before the Morong Regional Trial Court and illegal possession of firearms before the Morong Municipal Trial Court. They have a pending appeal before the Supreme Court on their habeas corpus petition questioning the validity of their arrest.
“Government must take responsibility for rectifying the situation of the Morong 43. The courts can only act if the DOJ withdraws the cases filed against the 43. If there’s no action from the executive, what do they expect the courts will do?” Reyes asked. ###
Public Information Officer
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
(+63)915 763 9619
In a show of support, 43 OFWs in Hong Kong wearing placards saying “Support the hunger strike! Free the Morong 43 Now!” stood at Chater Road in Hong Kong and held a 43-minute program urging Filipino migrants in Hong Kong to back the call for the immediate release of the jailed health workers collectively known as Morong 43.
“Like our brothers and sisters, we too are hungry for justice. Their arrest was illegal and the charges were obviously trumped up. President Aquino should order the prosecution to drop the case, let go of the Morong 43 and take to justice those who perpetrated this condemnable human rights violation,” said Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the militant United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK).
The action, Balladares said, was conducted to show support to the Morong 43 who started a hunger strike last Friday, December 3. The strike is being supported by relatives of the jailed health workers and advocates for human rights.
“They have been tortured and the past 10 months have surely traumatized them. Even the Department of Justice and the President himself have admitted the irregularities of the arrest. The injustice against the Morong 43 must end,” she added.
BAYAN-HK spokesperson Norman Uy Carnay, meanwhile, reported that the action was the first in a series of protests they will conduct on the human rights situation in the Philippines. The actions, he said, will be held together with local organizations in Hong Kong under the banner of the Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines or HKCAHRPP.
“On December 9, local people in Hong Kong from different professions and affiliations will hold actions that will highlight the various human rights problems in the Philippines such as extrajudicial killings, lack of justice for the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre, refusal to release political prisoners, the penchant of the military to file trumped up charges against activists like what they did to the Morong 43, enforced disappearance, and the blatant disrespect to life such as the indiscriminate firing that killed renowned environmentalist Leonard Co,” Carnay relayed
Carnay said that President Aquino’s human rights record does not indicate significant improvements from the past administration’s “criminal regime”
“The case of the Morong 43 shows that the Aquino government is not being decisive in turning the tide for human rights in the country. In fact, KARAPATAN’s report of a rise in number of victims of extrajudicial killings since Aquino assumed the presidency is a cause for serious alarm,” Carnay stated
Finally, Balladares concluded that they will encourage more OFWs and their families to support the hunger strike of the Morong 43
“Their release is one positive step for human rights that the Aquino government should take. He must act now or his administration will be known the same way as its predecessor – a murderer of people’s rights,” she said. Reference:
Tel: 974 72986
Norman Uy Carnay
Tel: 964 72567
Four days prior to the observance of the International Human Rights Day, relatives and supporters of the Morong 43 renewed their call for the immediate withdrawal of all cases filed against the incarcerated health workers in Camp Bagong Diwa. By joining the 43 health workers' hunger strike, they took their campaign for freedom and justice to a higher level. They declared their all-out support for the Morong 43's hunger strike which began Friday last week.
Carlos Montemayor, a registered nurse and spokesperson of the Free the Morong 43 Health Workers! Alliance revealed that relatives and supporters will also hold a hunger strike beginning today at the Philippine Independent Church along Taft Avenue in solidarity with the health workers.
The hunger strike will continue until their demand for the Morong 43's unconditional release is realized, the group said.
Meanwhile, the group expressed optimism on Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima's pronouncement that she has submitted another memorandum to Malacañang on December 3 addressing in part the plight of the Morong 43. “We hope that Sec. De Lima will do everything in her authority to make the President realize that rectification of errors in this case means the withdrawal of all charges filed to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of the health workers,” Montemayor added.
Montemayor furthered that the DOJ executive's hope of finding closure to the case is shared by their group. However, closure can only be achieved when the Morong 43 are unconditionally released and the people behind the case are punished – regardless of their position and influence in the government, he added.
The group said that they are aware that the perpetrators of this gross human rights violation are doing everything it takes to block the executive and judiciary branch from releasing the 43. “The health workers were stripped of their basic political and democratic rights ten months ago today. They are on a hunger strike because they are fighting for a just and principled demand,” Montemayor said.
The group pinned hopes that Sec. De Lima will not succumb to pressures from the military and other government officials behind the Morong 43's detention.
Montemayor vowed that different groups and supporters of the Morong 43 here and abroad will be holding protest activities in similar forms if the Philippine government will continue to detain the health workers.##
Carlos Montemayor, RN
0922 499 6237 / (+632) 929 8109
On the 10th month of detention of the Morong 43, the human rights alliance Karapatan called on President Noynoy Aquino to end his tired refrain of “leave it to the courts”.
“It’s the state authorities who issued a faulty warrant, performed an unlawful search, made a preposterous claim of bomb-making, planted pieces of evidence, inflicted torture, denied counsel for and illegally detained the health workers. The government human rights commission, the Justice Department, and other civilian and civil society groups have all reviewed the case, and are one in declaring the travesty of the courts and gross violation of their rights,” Karapatan acting secretary general Jigs Clamor said.
“The National Democratic Front of the Philippines and some senators have been more compassionate to the plight of the Morong 43 asking for their release. PNoy just looks dumb with his repetitive, incoherent, empty, baseless, and contradictory statements,” Karapatan said.
"President Aquino said that he is all for upholding the rights of the people and yet he does not act to do so. He should stop washing his hands off the case of the Morong 43, other political prisoners and all human rights violations victims and take decisive action." Enriquez added.
Thirty-six of the Morong 43 detainees at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig went on hunger strike since Friday.
Karapatan also scored the Armed Forces of the Philippines for “it’s twisted logic” after Army spokesperson Col. Antonio Parlade Jr. said that the NDFP’s call for the Morong 43’s release is an “affirmation that they are NPA”.
“That doesn’t justify the legal, civil, political and moral wrongdoings of the military especially against the Morong 43 and other unarmed civilians. The NDFP has been known to take up cases of human rights violations since its inception during martial law, and together with the Philippine government, signed an agreement to respect human rights and international humanitarial law. The AFP can only show its rabid pro-US war-mongering, ” Karapatan said.
“Pnoy should release the Morong 43 and all political prisoners. That is not a precondition for peace talks but is a positive step towards achieving peace based on justice,” said Karapatan. ###
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer doctors on Sunday were finally allowed to check the condition of female “Morong 43" detainees who are on their third day of hunger strike to pressure the government to expedite their release.
In an interview, Dr. Geneve Rivera of the Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance said jail warden Senior Inspector Mary Jane Clemente had earlier refused to allow volunteer doctors and medical personnel to check on the female detainees.
On Sunday afternoon, however, Rivera and her medical team were finally allowed to enter the Camp Bagong Diwa jail facility in Taguig City.
“We were able to visit them (today), but it’s lamentable that it had to take a lawyer to pressure the jail warden to allow us to visit the detainees," she said.
The Morong 43 detainees are health workers arrested last February in Morong, Rizal, on suspicion that they are members and supporters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. They are facing charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
According to Rivera, some of the detainees now need medical attention, citing the case of Jane Balleta who suffered an epileptic seizure Saturday night. Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, one of the detainees, reported to Rivera that there were no available medical personnel from the jail management to attend to Balleta.
Rivera said other health workers on hunger strike are also experiencing dizziness and headache.
“Both male and female Morong detainees are determined to go on hunger strike and we respect that. We hope that Warden Clemente would be responsible enough and accept that we are willing enough to provide medical services we know their facility may not be able to provide," Rivera said.
‘BJMP has doctors, nurse’
In a separate interview, Clemente said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has nurses and doctors who monitor the conditions of the workers. She, however, said they respect the right of the detainees to be checked by a doctor of their choice.
Clemente denied that she did not allow the medical volunteers to enter the jail facility, saying they only have procedures that must be observed regarding the medical checkup of the detainees. She did not elaborate.
“Hindi naman sila pinababayaan, kasi kung anuman ang mangyari sa kanila, kami ang mananagot (We are not taking them for granted because we will be placed in bad light if something bad happens to them)," Clemente told GMANews.TV.
She neither confirmed nor denied, however, if Balleta had a seizure and if there was indeed no medical personnel from the facility to attend to her condition.
“Dati na siyang maysakit, so ‘pag may change ng weather or stressed siya, nagkaka-seizure siya (She has a lingering illness so a change in the weather or stress can lead to her seizure)," Clemente said.
Five of the 43 remain detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, while the rest are detained at Camp Bagong Diwa except for two, Mercy Castro and Judilyn Oliveros, who are confined at the Philippine General Hospital after giving birth while in detention.
Various local and international groups of health workers, human rights advocates, church leaders and lawyers have been calling for the release of the 43 detainees.
Malacañang review ongoing
As this developed, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated that the case of the Morong 43 is under review and that actions are being undertaken to “rectify" whatever mistake was committed.
"I am not at liberty to discuss the details of this at the time but what we can say is something is being done to rectify the situation within the bounds of the law. [Justice] Secretary [Leila] De Lima, I believe, has already submitted another recommendation to the President, so hintayin na lang natin ‘yung magiging action ni President Aquino tungkol sa bagay na ito (so let’s just wait for President Aquino’s action on this issue)," she said in an interview over government-run radio dzRB.
She also expressed concern over the hunger strike being staged by the detainees.
"Ayaw naman nating malagay sa peligro ang buhay ng mga detainees (We don’t want something bad to happen to them), but it's in their discretion at may ginagawa na tayo (and we’re doing something) within the bounds of law," Valte said.
Valte meanwhile expressed hopes the case of the Morong 43 will not derail the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
NDFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni, upon his arrival in the country on Saturday, urged the government to release the 43 health workers, as well as the other political prisoners, as "goodwill and confidence-building measures" for the resumption of the peace talks.
"Wala naman sigurong magiging epekto ito dahil sa nakita natin sa mga nakaraang linggo hindi lang naman ang CPP at ang NDF ang nagtatawag para sa release ng Morong 43. But again, ang ating masasabi sa panahong ito ay something is being done to rectify the situation within the bounds of law," Valte said.
(I don’t think this will have an effect on the peace talks because as we can see not only the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NDF are calling for the release of the Morong 43.)
Valte clarified that the 43 could not be granted amnesty as President Benigno Aquino III’s Proclamation No. 75 covers only the soldiers and policemen who allegedly participated in attempts to bring down the Arroyo administration.
Senator Joker Arroyo earlier suggested to Aquino to grant amnesty to the 43 detainees. - KBK, GMANews.TV
Day 8 of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
Contact: Terrie Cervas,
Vice Chair of Finance – GABRIELA USA
Coordinator for Mass Campaigns - Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken!(SiGAw!)
(213) 537-8278 email@example.com
December 3rd, 2010 marks the first day that the 43 health workers, also referred to as the Morong 43, embark on a hunger strike in protest of their unlawful detention. Today also marks the 8th day of GABRIELA-USA’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, on which we highlight the struggle and bravery of the Morong 43.
Nearly 10 months ago, the lives of the Morong 43 (which includes doctors, midwives, and community health workers) were violently disrupted when they were arrested based on false allegations that they are members and supporters of the New People’s Army. While under detention, the 43 have endured physical and psychological torture. Catherine Traywick, journalist and member of Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken (SiGAw), traveled to the Philippines and personally visited the Morong 43 in the summer of 2010. The visit to the detention center and the specific experiences of the female detainees of the Morong 43 can be found in the article Traywick wrote for Ms. magazine, entitled “Defending the Rights of Detained Filipina Health Workers” (see below full article).
The families of the 43, along with community members from various local and international groups, such as nurses organizations, church groups, human rights advocates, and countless others, have worked tirelessly to demand the release of the 43. Philippine President Benigno Aquino has the ability to have all charges against the 43 health workers withdrawn, but he has not done so, despite his earlier admission that their arrest was based on a defective warrant.
In light of the fact that the Morong 43 remain unlawfully imprisoned under cruel conditions, they have decided to take on a hunger strike at the risk of their own health. The Morong 43’s statement notes, “This is the only course of action left us to end our continued illegal detention, there being no clear action by the government for our unconditional release.”
GABRIELA-USA calls on all concerned community members to stand in solidarity with the 43 and demand their immediate and unconditional release. The campaign calls on all international networks to support the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the following ways:
Join the hunger strike on December 6, their ten month anniversary in jail, and issue a statement of support;
Organize a sympathy fast or a hunger strike;
Picket the Philippine Embassy and demand freedom for the Morong 43 and other political prisoners especially Angie Ipong, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento and Sandino Esguerra;
Highlight the hunger strike in your commemoration of human rights week and December 10th - International HR Day;
Lobby your congress representatives;
Write your ambassadors stationed in the Philippines;
Encourage international organizations/institutions and those in your network to send support statements to the hunger strike (addressed to Malacanang cc Philippine Embassy in your country, Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima and Karapatan);
H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: +63(2) 564 1451
Fax: +63(2) 742 1641 ; +63(2) 929 3968
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Atty. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila, Philippines
Direct Line: +63(2) 521 8344 ; +63(2) 521 3721
Trunkline: +63(2) 523 8481 loc.214
Fax: +63(2) 521-1614
Circulate this and further announcements plus the hunger strike bulletins (visit freethehealthworkers.blogspot.com) which will be issued from time to time;
Solicit financial and material support for the Morong 43, other political prisoners and their families; and
Share your ideas with others so there can be a variety of support actions.
Free the Morong 43! Release Angie Ipong, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento and Sandino Esguerra! Free all political prisoners!
Defending the Rights of Detained Filipina Health Workers
In an unlawful and unjustified sweep, 43 health workers--including two pregnant women--were detained nine months ago in Morong, Philippines. The women and men were separated and sent to prison camps without explanation. Three women have since "disappeared." Find out more in this exclusive interview with the women workers from inside the detention center.
By CATHERINE A. TRAYWICK
When we enter the women's ward of the sprawling, open-air prison complex, we are greeted by a flurry of yellow behind a thin wall of bars. The 23 women we have come to visit are already waiting, buzzing around a wooden table just outside of the cell they share, eager to embrace those among us whom they knew in their former lives.
Each is wearing a brightly-colored t-shirt that reads "Free the 43 Health Workers" and, as the barred gate closes behind the last of us, the crowd bursts into song--a hymn about the strength of women--and some begin to cry.
At the time of our visit, the women (who range in age from early-20s to early-60s) had been imprisoned at this facility for nearly two months and, prior to that, were detained at a high-security military camp for three months. As I write this months later, they are still behind bars. By now, they’ve been locked up for nearly nine months—long enough for two of them, pregnant at the time of their arrests, to give birth in jail.
Within the crowd of 23, one woman is a doctor. Two are midwives. The rest are volunteer community health workers. They are happy to share their stories.
One by one, on the day of our visit, they recount the day of their arrest: That morning, they had been participating in a first-responder health training at a local doctor’s house, sponsored by Community Medicine Development Foundation. In the middle of their workshop, they found themselves surrounded by armed Philippines military and provincial police.
They were all, indiscriminatingly, bound, blind-folded and brought to an undisclosed location where they were interrogated for 36 hours and, some say, tortured. They were 43 when they were arrested in Morong, Rizal. Now they are fractured into three groups: 23 women are housed here, at Bagong Diwa Prison; 15 men are housed in the same prison's high-security ward; and five women and men remain isolated at the military camp.
The arresting officers claim that the health workers are members of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the insurgent Communist Party of the Philippines. They also claim that the health workers were making bombs at the doctor's home. Recently, they started claiming that the health workers were medics of the NPA.
The accusations are ever-changing and outlandish, even in a country as deeply divided as the Philippines. When I ask them, the women vehemently deny all accusations. Numerous local human rights, health and women's organizations have similarly rejected the allegations, in support of the health workers. The national ire sparked by their continued imprisonment has since fomented into international outrage. Amnesty International has called for a prompt and independent investigation into the legality of the arrest and detention of the health workers, as well as into allegations of torture, and the president of the Philippines has even spoken out (albeit cautiously) about the illegality of the arrests. But as yet all 43 remain in custody.
Sitting amidst the women, whose stories evoke both tears and laughter, it would be difficult to believe that they are terrorists, as the military claims. It's much easier to believe that they are victims, caught up in the government's controversial counter-insurgency campaign before anyone knew what was happening. For hours, they talk about the indignities they suffered at the military camp where, for five days, they were denied their right to counsel.
One of them explains that they were diapered during the first 36 hours of their detention, after which they were only allowed to use the toilet with the assistance of guards, who removed and replaced their underwear each time. An older woman tells us that she was isolated from the other women and that the interrogating officer repeatedly called her "mother" in between accusations. Another young woman recalls the day that three women were removed from the cell they shared, the guards muffling screams with heavy palms. They never saw those women again. They have since been told that the missing women, along with two of the men, are still at the military camp and that they are "cooperating" with officials.
While the health workers maintain that they are not affiliated with the NPA, they are honest about being community activists. "It's hard to be a community health worker and not become an activist," explains Merry Clamor, a 33-year-old doctor. When one sees the poor conditions of the people, she adds, one is compelled to advocate in their interests.
The contributions of health workers are profoundly felt by Philippines communities, which is, in part, why so many are outraged by the ongoing detention of the Morong 43. Following implementation of socially retrogressive programs imposed by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1980s and 1990s, the nation privatized its health-care system, effectively rendering it economically prohibitive and thus inaccessible to most Filipinos.
According to Ibon International, privatization has lowered government spending on health care to a mere 1.7 percent of total national expenditures over the last decade. For many Filipinos, the care offered by all-volunteer community health teams is the only care they are likely to ever receive.
"We are doing the work that the government refuses to do," Clamor says, "and this is how they repay us."
The Morong 43 are not the first community health workers to be accused of being NPA members and summarily arrested. At least 8 others have been detained or killed prior to their arrest. The human rights organization Karapatan, which keeps a running record of detentions, disappearances and deaths associated with the government's counter-insurgency program, calculates that 59 women (of 317 people in total) have been taken into custody as political prisoners under the current administration--among them community organizers, health workers and environmental activists.
Nevertheless, the women remain optimistic. While their families, lawyers, and organizations try to secure their release, they are putting their skills to use in the women's ward--they've started performing health check-ups on other inmates and, in their spare time, they make colorful beaded necklaces that read "Free 43."
Before we leave, they insist on singing us another song.
CATHERINE A. TRAYWICK is an immigration blogger for The Media Consortium, and a staff writer for Campus Progress. She interned at Ms. in the spring of 2010. She has a B.A. in English and a minor in Women & Gender Studies from Arizona State University. http://www.msmagazine.com/Fall2010/FilipinaWorkers.asp
On the first day of the Morong 43’s hunger strike, a volunteer medical team was denied to conduct medical check-up on female Morong detainees.
Warden Mary Jane Clemente who is in-charge of the female detention center inside the Camp Bagong Diwa did not allow the volunteer medical team to check on the female Morong 43 detainees.
According to the medical team led by Dr. Geneve Rivera from the FREE 43 HEALTH WORKERS ALLIANCE , “after much waiting, the warden gave no assurance as to when the necessary preliminary medical examination will be done if it was to be done at all. “ This was despite the effort of the female detainees to inform the warden that they want to be examined by doctors and medics of their choice.
“The Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance many of whom are doctors and medical professionals is willing to provide necessary medical assistance to the Morong 43 in this hunger strike, and the Morong 43 have accepted and designated our volunteers to do this very important task. “ said Rivera.
Rivera told BJMP officials that the Morong 43’s decision to stage a hunger strike is right that should be respected. They should be prepared for medical services to be warranted in any case of emergency. They should also respect that the detainees want doctors of their choice to monitor their medical status during the strike.
The volunteer medical team arrived at noon and went to check on the male detainees first. The result of their medical examination on the male detainees resulted in three having high blood pressure and one being underweight.
They also went to check on the jail’s preparations for the hunger strike. The infirmary has beds with new sheets but there was lack of some medical equipment and supplies and some equipment need repair. The detention’s medical personnel in charge of the infirmary also expressed that they will appreciate help from the volunteer medical team in any medical emergency that will result from the hunger strike.###
Dr. Geneve Rivera
Mobile: 0920 460 3712 / 545 0746
The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of former political prisoners in the Philippines, is one with the Morong 43 and all 371 political prisoners in the country in calling for their immediate and unconditional release from detention. As human rights organizations and peoples all over the world commemorate on December 3 the International Day of Solidarity for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, we are one in condemning the continuing policies and practice of torture, criminalization of the exercise of political beliefs and arbitrary detention of political prisoners and prisoners of war all over the world.
We salute the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the Philippines in their hunger strike which started on December 3, 2010. The hunger strike is a strong political statement of strength and unity amid efforts of the Aquino government to impede the release of the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the country. There were 2, 059 victims of illegal arrest under the Arroyo government, 579 of them are human rights defenders. 333 of them are women and 112 of them are minors at the time of their arrest. Among these victims are the Morong 43, the forty health workers who are on their 10th month of detention. While Pres. Aquino has called their arrest and the warrant used for their arrest as “fruits of the poisonous tree,” he has not pursued the withdrawal of charges against them and their unconditional release because of his apparent amiable relations with the so-called “security sector” of the state, which includes the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Security Council. Thus, the hunger strike of the Morong 43 is not only legitimate, it is most just. We likewise call for the immediate release of political prisoners such as peace advocate Angelina Ipong, National Democratic Front consultants Ed Sarmiento and Ed Serrano, and Sandino Esguerra, all have languished in jails for more than five years now.
In the first four months of the new Aquino government, there are already thirteen (13) political prisoners, among the 23 victims of illegal arrest and detention. Sixteen out of the 23 were victims of torture. SELDA attributes this directly to Aquino’s continued implementation of the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), Arroyo’s former counter-insurgency policy which has spawned the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and trumped up charges against activists and supporters. While Aquino’s new counter-insurgency program will still be enforced the next year, we see this as the same terror blueprint, with loads of deceptive programs included. A counter-insurgency policy patterned after the United States Counter Insurgency Guide of 2009 can only result to more victims of illegal arrests and arbitrary detention, EJKs, enforced disappearances and thousands of more human rights violations. It is thus no wonder that the climate of impunity continues.
The US counter-insurgency policies have been consistently drafted and implemented by puppet states of the US all over the world to crush legitimate political dissent in their countries, especially those that seek the halt of US plunder and intervention on its neocolonial states. These have been consistently implemented to promote aggression against national liberation movements of peoples all over the world. These have been consistently implemented to silence and put behind bars those who strive to work for genuine peace, social justice and freedom. Reference:
FR. DIONITO CABILLAS
Secretary General, SELDA
SELDA stands in solidarity with the political prisoners, their families and supporters and peoples of the world against these forms of political repression, fascism and aggression. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the Philippines and the world. We call for justice for all victims of human rights violations and state impunity.
An international delegation of church leaders/representatives from the World Council of Churches' “Living Letters” arrived in the country December 1, to look into the human rights situation under the present dispensation. A team visited the Morong 43 and had a dialogue with Sec. Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice while another team visited the workers of Hacienda Luisita. Before that, they had conversations with families of victims of human rights violations under both the Arroyo and Aquino presidencies. They released a statement about their concern on the human rights situation in the country and their solidarity “to the people of the Philippines with gratitude and admiration for your courage and your hope for just and lasting peace”.
On the issue of the Morong 43, who are currently on hunger strike, they questioned “the legality of their arrest and continued detention, as do some officials of the country including the President”. “We strongly urge their immediate and unconditional release”, they stated.
They appreciated their dialogue with Sec. De Lima, saying that “we saw, heard and rejoice in the resolve of... (Sec. de Lima) to have the charges against the 43 health workers withdrawn by December 10th, United Nations International Human Rights Day and if not by then, at least before Christmas”. They also appreciated Sec. De Lima’s “recognition of the existence of a culture of impunity that has resulted in extra-judicial killings and massive human rights violations, and her resolve to put an end to it”. They stated that “we affirm her belief that there is no inconsistency between human rights and justice; when you serve one, you serve the other”.
On the issue of Hacienda Luisita Workers, they called “for the immediate implementation of the decisions of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council to distribute the land to the farmers”. They also noted that they “saw and heard about the presence of local and foreign military personnel in Hacienda Luisita and in other parts of the country, posing a threat to the local communities”. On this matter, they called upon the Philippine Government “to repeal the Visiting Forces Agreement and withdraw all military presence from civilian communities”.
The delegation also said that they “saw and heard deep hopes that the President will keep his electoral promises to put an end to impunity with regard to extrajudicial killings, disappearances and abductions, implement genuine land reform, work toward reconciliation with justice and peace, and live up to his expressed commitment to give top priority to the peace negotiations.”
Lastly, they called on people of other nations “to express solidarity with the Filipino people and express their concerns to the international bodies, the Philippine President, the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs”.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a worldwide fellowship of 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories representing 560 million Christians. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland and has a Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. The “Living Letters” was organized by the WCC, where representatives from other countries make an organized visit to a given host country for a particular compelling reason. It is WCC’s way of expressing solidarity to the sisters and brothers in the host country. They are being hosted by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
The “Living Letters” process includes listening to the stories of human misery in the host country and providing necessary encouragement. The objectives of their visit are: to listen to the victims or the relatives of human rights violations in the Philippines; to have a first-hand knowledge of the state of human rights in the Philippines; to recommend ways and means for the international ecumenical community to support the active defense of human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines.
The delegation is composed of Rev. Tara Jewel Curlewis, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia; Moderator Mardi Anette Tindal of the United Church of Canada; Rev. Dr. Dan Sandu of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Mr. Tony Waworuntu, former staff of the Christian Conference of Asia; Ms. Vijula Aralanantham, Board Chairperson of Prison Fellowship International; Ms. Carmencita Karagdag, member of the WCC Central Committee. They are accompanied by WCC staff, Segmenish Asfaw, Anastasia Dragan and Aneth Lwakatare. ### References:
Rev. Fr. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr.
General Secretary, NCCP
Ms. Biyaya Quizon
Media Liaison, NCCP
09397751650 Living Letters Visit to the Philippines
(Statement of the World Council of Churches Delegation to the Philippines)
“Living letters” (2 Corinthians 3:3) is a symbol of the living Church which we represent by coming together under the auspices of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and at the kind invitation of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
When asked by the disciples where He lived, Jesus answered, “Come and see” (John 1:39), then He commanded John, “write down what you see and send a letter to the churches” (Revelations 1:12). Every visit is a revelation when the knower and the known become one.
This visit has been an opportunity for us to come and see: to see a culture, to see a people, to see a church, to see concerns, turmoil and hopes. First we were warmly welcomed by the General Secretary of the NCCP, Rev. Rex Reyes. With hospitality and assistance from him and his colleagues:
We saw and heard the heart-breaking stories of victims of human rights abuses and their family members. We saw and felt the pain of those who have lost loved ones by extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and enforced disappearances.
We saw, heard and felt the pain of the farmers in Hacienda Luisita in their struggle for just labour conditions and decent livelihoods, which have been denied to them as a result of land grabbing and unfair labour practices. We call for the immediate implementation of the decisions of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council to distribute the land to the farmers.
We saw and heard about the presence of local and foreign military personnel in Hacienda Luisita and in other parts of the country, posing a threat to the local communities. We call upon the Philippine Government to repeal the Visiting Forces Agreement and withdraw all military presence from civilian communities.
We particularly saw and heard the pain, spirit and courage of the 43 health workers and their families. We question the legality of their arrest and continued detention, as do some officials of the country including the President. We strongly urge their immediate and unconditional release.
We saw, heard and rejoice in the resolve of the Secretary of the Department of Justice to have the charges against the 43 health workers withdrawn by December 10th, United Nations International Human Rights Day and if not by then, at least before Christmas. We also rejoice in her recognition of the existence of a culture of impunity that has resulted in extra-judicial killings and massive human rights violations, and her resolve to put an end to it. We affirm her belief that there is no inconsistency between human rights and justice; when you serve one, you serve the other.
We saw and heard the desire of all Christian denominations, faith communities, social movements and all people of good will to unite together to recognise and promote the inherent value of life and human dignity.
We saw and heard deep hopes that the President will keep his electoral promises to put an end to impunity with regard to extrajudicial killings, disappearances and abductions, implement genuine land reform, work toward reconciliation with justice and peace, and live up to his expressed commitment to give top priority to the peace negotiations.
We write to the people of other nations to express solidarity with the Filipino people and express their concerns to the international bodies, the Philippine President, the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs. We write to the people of the Philippines with gratitude and admiration for your courage and your hope for just and lasting peace.
May the Baby Jesus make us all Living Letters to prepare His Way by committing ourselves to prayer and action.
Glory to God and Peace on Earth (Luke 2:14).
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. It was established in 1995.
In February 6, 2010, 43 health workers conducting a medical training in Morong, Rizal were arrested and accused of being members of the communist New People's Army. They suffered physical and psychological torture while in military custody.
"43" is a short documentary on the plight of the arrested health workers. It uses shadowplay to dramatize their experience in the hands of their captors.
a film by Southern Tagalog Exposure and Anino Shadowplay Collective
Featuring the voices of Joel Lamangan, Bibeth Orteza, Soliman Cruz and Bobby Balingit