Geneva– The Morong 43 case is emblematic of the human rights violations occurring in the Philippines. The plethora of violations at every step of the way, the various legal shortcuts, the brazen abuse or total disregard of the law and the deliberate attempts to escape accountability are conclusive evidences of so much impunity in the Philippines. Atty. Edre Olalia, one of the counsels to the Morong 43 and acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), made these remarks at the side event highlighting the case of the 43 healthworkers, during the 14th session of the Human Rights Council held at the Palais des Nations at the United Nations.
Also testifying at the side event was Mr. Roneo ‘Jigs’ Clamor, husband of one of the detainees and Deputy Secretary General of KARAPATAN. He narrated the circumstances during and following the arrest of the 43 health workers Clamor described how his wife was threatened and that her family would be harmed if she refuses to own up being a member of the New People’s Army. The other detainees experienced similar threats and other forms of torture, he said. He added that relatives who visited were subject to harassment by elements of the military . Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary General of KARAPATAN went on to detail how the Morong 43 were deprived of their rights.
Speaking at the same event, Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing also rued the failure of the military to respect the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights Quisumbing said the military does not respect human rights and does not see the difference between the mandate of the CHR and the investigative powers of the police. This is one reason, she said the military defies the Commission. Quisumbing also scored the “apparent impropriety of the warrant of arrest”.
In his response to the testimonies of the members of the Philippine Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights, Mr. Eric Sottas, Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture, noted that the Morong 43 is an example of the criminalization of social protest where the health workers are portrayed as criminals. Sottas said the social conditions in the Philippines, the vulnerabilities of the people and the great gap between the rich and poor and the fact that human rights defenders are advocating for these rights which are being denied, bear on human rights violations. Sottas said the Philippine government readily admits recommendations from the international community like the UN. But, it remains to be seen whether it has the political will to adopt and implement those recommendations.
Ms. Renate Bloem, representative of of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (Civicus) in the UN, reiterated that the international community of NGOs has been doing its share of supporting the case of the Morong 43 and will continue to link up and work for their release.
The side event entitled, The Morong 43 Case in the Philippines, was sponsored by the Ecumenical Voice for Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines and co-sponsored by the Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT). (Bulatlat.com)
Fr. Rex Reyes