Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One Week Fasting to Press for the Release of All Political Prisoners in the Country

This coming February 15-21, 2011, we the undersigned political prisoners will hold another fasting to pursue our just call for the release of all political prisoners.
By subsisting on water and 5 biscuits a day for one week, we wish to call on President Noynoy Aquino to:
  1. Order Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to immediately draft the necessary mechanisms to review all cases being faced by the 350 political prisoners still languishing in the various detention facilities all over the country. Three weeks ago, DOJ Secretary De Lima was quoted in answer to calls for the review of the cases filed againsts political prisoners as having said, “ We have thought of that but we haven’t had the time to really put mechanisms in place!” (NPA Leader not a peace talk adviser, insist Gov’t, PDI Jan 24, 2011).
  2. Instruct the negotiating panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH), now in Oslo Norway resuming its formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) to uphold the validity of past GPH-NDF signed agreements including those made in 2001, 2004, and 2009 urging the immediate release of scores of political prisoners based on legal grounds and humanitarian considerations.

More than one month has passed since the last day of the so-called military rebels implicated in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, 2006 Fort Bonifacio stand-off and 2007 Manila Peninsula seige was freed from detention. Yet the plight of political prisoners remain in limbo. Why is this unfairness of double standard and discrimination being done by President Aquino upon political prisoners? Must the President refuse to right the injustice inflicted to political prisoners and their families by the past Arroyo regime? As the principal beneficiary of the broad anti- Arroyo sentiment of the people which political prisoners helped form and for which they got arrested, tortured and detained, is it not incumbent upon the Aquino presidency to effect the immediate freedom of political prisoners?

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA 1 People Power uprising, we remember Ninoy as a political prisoner who staged hunger strikes to attain his freedom and resist Marcos’ tyranny, and Cory as having immediately and unconditionally released political prisoners upon assuming the presidency, must we remember Noynoy as the son with an unjustly different legacy?


Danao City(JailCebu)

Danao City(JailCebu)

Tagbilaran District Jail (Bohol)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Road to recovery: The Morong 43 outside detention

by Mila Polinar
This article was first published in print in issue 23 of the Philippine Collegian on 24 January 2011.)

The Morong 43, however, were not criminals but were merely victims of flawed military operations. Upon their capture, the Morong 43 were deprived of sleep for 36 hours. They were interrogated continuously and were coerced to admit that they were members of the armed group waging agrarian struggle in the countryside, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Reynaldo “Rey” Macabenta, another member of the Morong 43 and an administrative staff at CHD, remembers hearing screams, gunshots, and other threats of violence. “Parang katayan ng tao,” he describes.

Grabe ang psychological torture,” says Tere, adding that she copes from the traumatic experience by continually talking about it and making herself busy. Meanwhile, Rey, dubbed as the Mr. Kutingting of the CHD had alluded himself to fixing broken equipment in their office.

After the incident, Tere and Rey returned to the CHD come January and resumed their jobs. “Nagiikot-ikot na kami at nagstart na rin sa health training. Noong nakaraan, nakapagbigay na ulit ako ng vital signs, kumuha ng blood pressure [at] temperature,” narrates Tere.

Despite what we have gone through, we are resolute in our commitment to serve the poor and lay the foundations of a people-managed health care system,” says Dr. Merry Clamor of CHD’s Health Education, Training and Services Department.

Moving on

On January 24, four members of the Morong 43, including Tere, Rey and Dr. Merry held a medical mission at Lupang Pangako, Urban, Payatas B. They were joined by another member of Morong 43 Delia Ocasla, a volunteer community health worker from Barangay Fairview, Quezon City.

With their return to the communities, Tere shares that her parents fear that she might once again be harassed by the military. “[Ngunit], kung magpapadala kami sa takot, sino yung kawawa, sino yung lugi? Ang magiging lugi doon, yung mga komunidad na sineserbisyohan namin,” reasons Tere.

In her years as a community health worker, the February 6 incident was not the first time she was harassed by soldiers. For instance, soldiers interrupted a health seminar she and co-workers conducted in Dumallan, Pagadian about two years ago, and even took pictures of her and her fellow workers. We were being watched for any activities which may link us with the NPA, says Tere.

Even then, it was through such experiences in far-flung communities that Tere had seen the true state of the health sector in the Philippines. “May mga health center na may sira-sirang bubong, gawa lang sa dikit-dikit na kawayan at walang mga gamit. Hindi napupuntahan ng mga nurse o midwife,” shares Tere.

Beyond freedom

Even as the members of the Morong 43 have now returned to the communities, their issue, it seems, does not stop with their freedom but with the pursuit of justice. The Morong 43 have already filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regarding the torture and military harassment they experienced. The CHR is yet to release the results of the complaint.

We are also calling for the freedom of the Morong 43 members who are still detained, says Rey. As of now, three members of the Morong 43 are still in Camp Bagong Diwa while five are still held by the military in Camp Capinpin. The five allegedly confessed that they were in fact members of the NPA.

Even as members of the 43 claimed to be health workers, the military has continually referred to them as members of the NPA in their website and in various news reports. Meanwhile, the three who are still held in Camp Bagong Diwa are charged with petty crimes such as violating the anti-bouncing check law, among others.

With their experiences in detention, the Morong 43 have come to know the plight of other political prisoners. As such, when the female members of the Morong 43 marched out of Camp Bagong Diwa, they held their fists in the air and together, shouted “Palayain, bilanggong pulitikal.”

May usaping politikal din sa pagkakadakip sa amin,” says Tere. Rey shares that beyond their freedom, they are also pushing that other political prisoners be freed as well. Indeed, the illegal arrest of the Morong 43 is an assault to the community health workers who only opted to address government negligence in the health sector.

For 2011, the Department of Health was granted a budget of P31.8 billion. While the health budget indeed rose from last year’s P25.65 billion, the 2011 allocation still falls short of the P38.6 billion budget proposed by DOH for this year.

Napakahalaga ng serbisyong pangkalusugan. [Kung hindi ito mabibigay], mas mararaming nagkakasakit, hindi sila makakapagtrabaho, apektado ang pamilya. Sobrang hirap ang mararanasan ng mamamayan,” says Delia.

In far-flung communities where health services are continually deprived, where the right to a better quality of life is neglected, the need for community health workers cannot be denied. It is for this cause that the Morong 43 steadfastly return to the communities, in hopes of healing others and themselves.

Friday, February 4, 2011

San Francisco Committee for Human Rights' Message to the Newly Freed Morong 43

San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines extends its warmest congratulations to the Morong 43 health workers on their release from political imprisonment. Their release after 10 months of illegal detention is truly a people’s victory. We will continue to clamor and fight for the release of the remaining 10 of the Morong 43 still in detainment and all political prisoners in the Philippines. Mabuhay ang Morong 43!
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