“Nearly six months since the Morong 43 were arrested and the wheels of justice have been grinding slow on our detained colleagues. For these innocent health workers, being held each day more in detention is a continuing torture and a serious injustice.” – Dr. Eleanor Jara, CHD executive director and convenor of the Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Relatives and colleagues of the Morong 43 trooped to the office of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) section of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) July 28 to file cases against the military for violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The 43 health workers were arrested February 6 while conducting a health training in Morong, Rizal. Slapped with charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the 43 were held under military captivity at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal for almost three months. In May, the 38 of them have been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig.
The JMC is a mechanism formed for the monitoring of the implementation of the CARHRIHL by the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The CARHRIHL was signed in 1998 during the Estrada Administration between the GRP and the NDFP to guarantee protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Filipinos. The implementation of the CARHRIHL is also being monitored by Norway as a third party observer.
The Council for Health and Development (CHD), the national organization of community based health programs in the country, which hosted the medical training in Morong, led the filing of an official complaint of human rights violations including illegal searches and seizures, violations of the right to liberty and right against arrest and detention, of the right to substantive and procedural due process, physical and mental torture and degrading treatment.
“Within this framework, we look forward to an independent and credible investigation that could properly identify the abuses and breaches of human rights laws in the case of the 43,”Dr. Eleanor Jara, CHD executive director and convenor of the Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance said.
“Nearly six months since the Morong 43 were arrested and the wheels of justice have been grinding slow on our detained colleagues. For these innocent health workers, being held each day more in detention is a continuing torture and a serious injustice,” Jara said.
Relatives of the Morong 43 discuss the case of their loved ones to Jaime Crispin Arroyo, legal counsel of the GRP nominated section of the Joint Monitoring Committee (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
In the complaint, the CHD and relatives of the Morong 43 also cited Part IV, Article 4, nos. 3,7 and 8 stating that medical personnel and/or medical groups must be protected and respected and that personnel of medical profession must not be the target of any attack.
The complaint also cited Part III Article 8 of the CARHRIHL stating that the GRP shall review its jurisprudence including the Ilagan vs Enrile doctrine. It states thus: “Upon effectivity of the agreement, the GRP shall, as far as practicable, not invoke these decisions to circumvent or contravene the provisions of this Agreement.”
In the case of Morong 43, the Ilagan vs. Enrile doctrine was used by the Court of Appeals (CA) to dismiss the petition for writ of habeas corpus. The doctrine renders moot and academic the remedy of habeas corpus upon the subsequent filing of charges. Lawyers of the Morong 43 filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.
Jaime Crispin Arroyo, legal counsel of the GRP section of the JMC, also noted the illegality of the warrant used during the February 6 arrest. “It [filing of charges] does not render moot and academic the illegality of the arrest,” Arroyo, not related to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, told the relatives of the Morong 43.
The search warrant used was against a certain Mario Condes who was not among those arrested and who had never been found. The warrant does not also specify the exact address and items to be searched.
Arroyo said that even cases against drug pushers are dismissed due to faulty evidence. “These people deserve to go to jail but because the police failed to obtain evidence, the cases against them are dismissed,” he said.
“It has been the orientation of the military…The moment you filed a case, all the evil that came before it can be cured,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo said their office would help in doing periodic follow-up on the case. “The Supreme Court has no reason not to issue a decision [on this],” Arroyo said. “This whole thing is political,” he said, adding that political pressure is important.
A complaint of human rights violations was also filed at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Relatives have also sought the help of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland.
“We hope that the Aquino administration treads the ‘daang matwid’ (straight path) the president was pronouncing. We welcome the release of Col. [Ariel] Querubin; we hope this can be done likewise to the political prisoners by starting with the release of the Morong 43,” Karapatan chairwoman Marie Hilao-Enriquez who also joined the filing of the complaint at the JMC, said.
Relatives went straight to Malacanang palace and to the Department of Justice to submit their appeal to President Aquino and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. (Bulatlat.com)