Dec 9, 2010
British Columbia, Canada — Iron bars and high walls will not stop the detained health workers, also known as the Morong 43, from asserting the just and legitimate demand for their immediate and unconditional release.
The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Migrante B.C. and the Victoria-Philippines Solidarity Group, based in British Columbia, Canada respect and support the hunger strike of the detained health workers, which began on Dec 3rd, exactly 300 days from their arrest on February 6, 2010.
It has been ten long months for the 43 detainees, time made so much more difficult because they continue to be held illegally and under false charges. The defective search warrant, the tainted “evidence,” the forced confessions, the violations of the detainees’ constitutional and human rights continue to be ignored by President and Commander-in-Chief Aquino and the military that he commands. President Aquino seems to have forgotten that as the top official of the land, he takes his mandate from the people who elected him into office, from the people he swore to serve, and not from the military.
President Aquino continues to turn a deaf ear to the appeals and demands for the release of the Morong 43 – these have come from groups like the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, several former secretaries of the Department of Health; the Dean and professors of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine; the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges; the Philippine Medical Association; the Philippine Nurses Association; and several lawmakers in the Philippine House of Representatives and Senate. National and overseas groups of women, students, churches, overseas Filipino workers, human rights advocates, lawyers’ groups, health workers and other sectors who have rallied behind the Morong 43 have also been ignored.
President Aquino washes his hands off the case and declares that it is up to the courts – what he does not say is that it is up to the military. After all, did not former President Gloria Arroyo, under whose term the group was arrested, award bronze medals to the two military officers involved in the 43’s arrest and detention? Did not the military brag that this “accomplishment was the biggest victory of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign in recent years?” This is the same counter-insurgency operation Bantay Laya, then embraced by Arroyo and now continued by Aquino, which aim to eliminate any form of critical dissent through any means, from extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal arrests and other forms of human rights violations.
Edre Olalia, Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), describes the President as “either confused, legally ignorant, or being fed with inaccurate information on his persistence that he cannot do something about the release of the group.” The solution is simple; the President can always withdraw the false charges against the Morong 43, leaving the courts with no logical and legal option but to release them. However, in the Philippines, political prisoners are deemed guilty and face indefinite detention until proven innocent and President Aquino proves this every day that the Morong 43 continue to stay behind bars.
When will President Aquino muster the will to take the correct legal step, the morally right step and release the Morong 43? The detainees have taken the task of struggling for their release with the weapon of the hunger strike. The ball, so to speak, is inside President Aquino’s court.
We wish the detainees strength at this crucial time as they pursue their right to be free!
We hope that the 43 detained health workers will be able to go home to their families and return to their work of caring for the people’s health very soon, maybe before Christmas.
Withdraw all charges against the Morong 43! Free the Morong 43!
Free all political prisoners!