Noy Told: Free Health Workers, Political Prisoners on Day 1

News Release
May 31, 2010

Presumptive President-elect Noynoy Aquino should not let Day 1 pass without releasing political prisoners from jail, labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said today as it raised the urgency of releasing health workers and others illegally arrested under the Arroyo regime.

“Noynoy should do a President Cory by immediately dropping the charges against the 43 health workers and other political prisoners once he assumes the presidency on June 30. It will be the first test of his administration’s commitment to democracy,” KMU chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog said.

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“Letting illegally-detained health workers, labor leaders, and activists stay in jail is tantamount to readily inheriting Arroyo’s attack on labor and human rights. Freeing them, on the other hand, is one step in undoing the injustice done to Arroyo’s critics,” he added.

KMU said Arroyo will be leaving with more than 200 political prisoners still in jail, including the 43 health workers detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig and Eastern Visayas trade-union organizer Vincent “Ka Bebot” Borja in Tacloban City Jail. Borja was arrested on May 7, 2007 by soldiers from the 19th Infantry Battalion of the armed forces on charges of murder and rebellion.

“Borja, the 43 health workers, and other political prisoners should be immediately released as soon as Aquino takes his oath as president. They have no reasons for languishing longer in jail under the incoming administration. The charges against them are clearly the handiwork of Arroyo and her armed forces,” Labog said.

Labog said it is also a challenge for Aquino to uphold the findings of local international fact-finding missions on the country’s dismal human rights situation, which hold the Arroyo regime responsible for the killings, abduction and fabrication of cases versus activists.

“UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, the International Labor Organization, and even the Melo Commission – they have all spoken. Noynoy has to uphold the findings of these bodies simply by releasing Arroyo’s political prisoners as initial step,” he said.

“Workers and the people will be vigilantly waiting for his action on Day 1 as regards the plight of illegally detained activists. We do hope he will do a Cory,” Labog added.

Should Aquino fail to heed workers’ demand to free all political prisoners on Day 1, KMU said it will not hesitate to intensify its protest actions for the release of Borja and others.

“Noynoy won the elections by promising the people that he will go after Gloria for her crimes. But he should go beyond that: he should reverse Gloria’s policies. If he won’t, he will be giving a bad message to the Filipino workers and people: that the new Aquino regime is no different from the Arroyo regime,” Labog concluded.

Reference: Elmer “Bong” Labog
KMU chairperson

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