HE Benigno C Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
17 October 2010
Dear President Aquino,
The 43 Health Workers Known as the ‘Morong 43’
I am writing to you as chair of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers regarding the case of the Morong 43.
The Haldane Society has been following this case along with its colleagues at the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) from the time we heard of the arrest of the workers. We are aware of the illegality of the search given that the warrant was obtained for an entirely different person and premises than the conference centre where these workers were in a week-long training session. The illegal search makes the subsequent arrest of these workers illegal, as there were no arrest warrants. We are also aware that they were deprived of counsel for many days, and when they were rounded up at the conference centre there was ample opportunity for the military to plant incriminating evidence. We are also disturbed that the petition appealing the dismissal of the habeas corpus case from the Court of Appeals challenging the legality of the search and their arrest has been pending at the Supreme Court for almost seven months.
Members of the Haldane Society’s executive committee attended the Fifth Conference of Lawyers of the Asia Pacific (COLAP V) in Manila a few weeks ago. On 15 September, they were part of a delegation which met with Justice Secretary de Lima who assured them that she was reviewing the case. They met the prisoners on Monday 20 September, and observed their conditions of confinement. They also heard from the women prisoners that, based on their qualifications as health workers, they have been assisting the prison authorities in teaching health related subjects to the administration and the other prisoners.
I understand that the justice secretary has completed her review and has forwarded it to you for action. While I do not know what the justice secretary has concluded, I know from the meeting which my colleagues attended, that based on her work as head of the Human Rights Commission, she was aware of the facts of the case and the problems noted above regarding their arrest and detention. She also acknowledged the policy of previous administrations of legal harassment to which the workers claim they have been subjected. The Haldane Society, therefore hopes that she has recommended that the prosecutions be abandoned and that you will agree to this request.
I understand that the delegation who visited Camp Bagong were convinced of the sincerity and dedication of the health workers who want to provide medical support to the people of the Philippines who do not have access to medical care.
The Haldane Society requests that you take action as soon as possible to address the issues raised in the report by Secretary de Lima and move with dispatch to release the 43 who have now been held for more than eight months.
Barrister and Chair
Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers