Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance: DOJ, AFP Defying the CHR is Defying the Constitution

Media Release
21 March 2010

Free the 43 Health Workers alliance today condemned the brazenness of the Armed Forces of the Philippines including their Commander in Chief, Philippine National Police, and the Department of Justice in their deliberate actions to disregard the Commission of Human Rights’ (CHR) Constitutional mandate. Despite an order issued by the Commission last February 26 summoning high military and police officials and requiring Mrs. Arroyo to submit a comment about the alleged human rights violations, most of the respondents failed to show up or submit a comment on the said hearing.

“First, the AFP violated many provisions of the Bill of Rights on the illegal arrest and torture 43 health workers, now they defy and challenge the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights. This latest incident only goes to show how the military (dis)regard CHR’s mandate and therefore the Constitution,” commented Dr. Julie Caguiat, one of the spokespersons of the FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS NOW!

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While supporters of the 43 lament the missed chance for the 43 to freely affirm their affidavits and answer clarificatory questions before the Commission, the group also fears that AFP’s and Mrs. Arroyo’s defiance to follow CHR’s order may lead to a Constitutional crisis.

In the AFP’s obvious stance to evade the fact finding proceedings, Dr. Caguiat said that “the military acts as if it is above the Constitution.” The doctor furthered that by invoking a litany of the “right to remain silent”, and “subjudice rule” in a fact-finding hearing, the military and the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) is blocking the people’s and the CHR’s mandate to know the truth and come up with remedies.

“Ironies here are just so unbelievable!” said Caguiat. It is shameless how the military can suddenly avail and cloak themselves of so much legal protection but have since denied these rights to the 43 detainees since they were arrested.

The group also slammed the Department of Justice (DOJ) thru its representative State Prosecutor Romeo Senson for its obvious collusion with the AFP. While Senson is invoking “ subjudice rule”, he also showed no pretention in “lawyering” for the for military who got tangled in its web of lies.

“It is a clear sign of how the AFP view and regard human rights within its ranks. This obstinate assertion and open defiance can only come from a Commander in Chief who does not respect the Constitution and who is a human rights violator herself,” concluded Dr. Caguiat.

Dr. Julie Caguiat, Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance

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