February 28, 2010
The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) reiterates its strong denunciation of the illegal arrest, continued illegal detention, coninuing physical and spychological torture, harassment and inhuman treatment of forty-three (43) Philippine health workers who were abducted by the Philippine military in the morning of February 6, 2010 in Morong,Rizal, Philippines.
Those arrested were medical practitioners and health workers who were participating in a one week First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD) at a conference and training facility.
It will be recalled that at around 6:15 am on February 6, 2010, around 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the conference site, forcing the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.
All the medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed. The male victims were then blindfolded with old shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape. All of the personal belongings of the victims were also taken by the military.
It was only when the participants were already handcuffed, that the police showed a search warrant for someone who is not even the owner nor a participant or related at all to the conference The search warrant did not indicate the exact address of the compound where the training was taking place.
The military declared that the victims were members of the New People’s Army because of the explosives allegedly found inside the compound. However, according to witnesses, the military conducted the search of the compound’s premises only after all of the victims, as well as the residents, were already outside the buildings.
The arrest and false charges thrown on the 43 health workers, disregards and shows disrespect for proper legal procedures. Their basic human rights violations have been violated left and right.
The search conducted by the military was itself illegal. It proceeded from a search warrant that was invalid. The “evidence” that was presented were planted to justify and cover-up the illegality of this blunder. The arrested health workers were also denied their basic constitutional rights. They were purposely uninformed of the nature of their arrest, and they were simply blindfolded and brought to the military camp. They were denied visits by their counsels, doctors, and family, in clear violation of their rights.
Some families of the detained health workers were allowed to see them for half an hour.
They told their families that they were subjected to acts of torture, both physical and mental, by their military abductors.
The arrrested health workers conduct health care in rural areas in the Philippines, where medical care is not available to the people. They are doctors, nurses, and medical aides, who have chosen to devote themselves to helping the local community by bringing the medical missions to them, since the government is unable or refuses to do it.
The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) calls on the Goverment of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to immediately release the arrested health workers.
The IAPL also calls on its members, and lawyers world wide, to join them in protesting the violations of the rights of the arrested health workers, and offer their services in the defense of these health workers.
Secretary General, International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)
28 February 2010