Community health service is NOT a crime: Release the 43!

February 18, 2010

Hong Kong Coalition for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP)

While community-based health service is seen as noble by most people, Gloria Arroyo and her ilk apparently see it as an act of terrorism.

The Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) joins the international community in strongly condemning the illegal arrest, detention, torture and intimidation of the 43 community health workers by the Philippine military and police on February 6, 2010.

Disclaimer | What you are reading is either a press release/ statement or a manifesto. These materials do not go through our editorial process and do not reflect our policy or position.

What they were subjected to was unjust, inhuman and deserving of the people’s outrage. For the first few days of their arrest, the 43 health workers, now known as the Morong 43, were handcuffed for 36 hours, subjected to torture, intense interrogation and sexual abuse. Only after five days of incarceration were criminal charges filed against them.

The military itself is caught in their own cacophony of lies as they accused the Morong 43 of being members of the Military Department and later the Health Department of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The military has stuck, however, with the accusation that they were undergoing training to make explosives.

We support and stand by the statements released by families and co-workers of the Morong 43 that they were undergoing a First Respondents Training for Health Workers sponsored by the Community Medical Foundation Inc. (COMMED) at the time of their arrest.

This recent breach of human rights is an addition to the very long list of crimes committed by the Arroyo administration and the Philippine army against the Filipino people. It is most definitely a part of the administration’s counterinsurgency scheme called Operation Plan Bantay Laya (Guard Freedom).

Despite the growing international condemnation it has received, President and Commander in Chief Arroyo remains mum about the whole issue. Is this an admission of her guilt? Will she have to wait for other governments and the United Nations to speak before she makes a move?

Already migrant workers, health workers and church leaders around the world have issued statements and sent appeals, like the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the World Council of Churches.

There is no greater crime than to let impunity reign in our country. From the reckless red-baiting of activists, lawyers and journalists, now this murderous administration of Gloria Arroyo is out to get anyone who stands in her way. Even health workers are not spared.

The HKCAHRPP thus calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43 as well as an immediate and independent investigation of the case. This incident begs for the enforcement of Republic Act 9745, or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, in addition to the call for the immediate end to the Oplan Bantay Laya’s implementation. Prosecution under this law will indicate whether this recently enacted legislation is meant to stop the use of torture in the country or is merely an empty gesture to appease the international community. Justice should be served to the 43 health workers who have been wronged by the military, and hence, those who perpetrated this crime should be punished. #

For reference: Bruce Van Voorhis, convenor
Eman Villanueva, convenor
Necta Montes-Rocas, convenor

Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines

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