By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw the charges against the Morong 43.
The announcement coincides with the International Human Rights Day.
The 43 health workers were arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal while conducting a health skills training. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
On Dec. 3, the Morong 43 began a hunger strike to call for their release.
“We salute the 43 health workers who staged a hunger strike to call for their release. The announcement of Aquino is no less than a reaction to the highest form of protest by the Morong 43 and to the overwhelming support for their case,” Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, one of the 43, and acting secretary general of Karapatan, said in a phone interview.
“We consider their release as the ‘fruit of the just struggle for human rights’,” Clamor added.
Evelyn Montes, wife of Dr. Alexis Montes, also expressed happiness over the announcement. In a phone interview, Mrs. Montes said she is with the other relatives of the Morong 43 at the solidarity fasting center at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Taft Avenue Manila when they heard the news.
As early as October, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima submitted her review and recommendations on the case of the Morong 43 but Aquino initially said that he would leave the case to the courts.
Clamor said this should pave the way for the eventual release of all political prisoners who are victims of illegal arrest, torture, detention and human rights violations. Along with the Morong 43 detainees, there are at least 374 political prisoners throughout the country.