Colleagues of arrested health workers to file Writ of Habeas Corpus to SC

Manila, Philippines—The Council for Health and Development (CHD), Inc., the Community Medicine Development (COMMED) Foundation, Inc., the Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) and the human rights’ group Karapatan, will file a petition for the Writ of Habeas Corpus before the Supreme Court tomorrow to force the members of the 202nd Infantry Brigade (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) to surface the 43 health workers who were “arrested” in the middle of their training in Morong, Rizal (see related story, Doctors’ group assails arbitrary arrests of colleagues in Rizal).

Dr. Eleanor Jara, a general physician and currently the executive director of the CHD said that contrary to the claims of Col. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd IB-PA the abducted health and medical professionals were all volunteer of different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and not by any means, connected with the communist rebels.

Karapatan has issued the partial list of the 42 health personnel, who are now in the custody of the military in Camp Mateo Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal that includes: Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, health and education training services coordinator for CHD; Dr. Alexis Montes; Gary Liberal, R.N. a nurse for the Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center in Manila; Teresa Quinawayan, RMW; community health workers Lydia Ubera, Reynaldo Makabenta, Delia Ocasia, Jane Balleta, Janice Javier, Franco Remoroso, Ailene Monasteryo, Pearl Irene Martinez, Elen Carandang, Dany Panero, Rayom Among and Emily Marquez.

Balleta, this reporter learned, was the granddaughter of the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran who is now working as health volunteer for an NGO while Mia-Clamor is the wife of Karapatan’s deputy secretary-general Roneo “Jigs” Clamor.

Jara disclosed that the abducted health workers were on their sixth day of their advance community health training at the farm of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, an expert on infectious disease and currently a consultant for the Philippine General Hospital.

“We belie the statement by the military that the abducted health workers were there to learn how to make bombs and firearms. That is absolutely not true! The truth is the evidence allegedly recovered from the area such as handguns, grenades, and other explosives and the Bayan Muna campaign paraphernalia were all planted,” says Jara in a press conference held in Treehouse Restaurant in Quezon City.

Too many violations

Meanwhile, Dr. Edelina de la Paz, vice president of the HAHR said that there are arresting team had committed too many violations.

“First of all, there was no clear search warrant. Though they have presented a search warrant, whose name is under Mario Condes, and it is written here, that he lives in Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. Who is Mario Condes? Nobody knows. Dr. Velmonte doesn’t know him, nobody knows him in the property of Dr. Velmonte, which was forcibly entered,” says de la Paz in Filipino, showing the media the photocopy of the said search warrant issued by Judge Cesar A. Mangroban of the Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court.

De la Paz said the military asked the Velmonte farm’s caretakers to open the gate at gun point.

“Dr. Velmonte was at the gate, demanding the intruders an explanation. Nobody was talking with her. They have just forced their way in, asked the participants to go out from the place, and when they have left the property they are now carrying grenades and other explosives. There are no witnesses in the seizure of these explosives and guns, which the military claims that have been found out inside the farm,” she added.

What makes the evidence more dubious, the doctor said, is where a hand grenade was found.

“They said they found the grenade in one of the bed’s headboard. Who will put a grenade under your pillow? This is a terrible lie,” she said.

In the fact sheet provided by Karapatan it says that the military had recovered C4 explosives, a pistol loaded with seven bullets, three hand grenades—one was allegedly found under a pillow, and some improvised land mines.

However, the military did not issue a receipt of inventory of the said firearms and explosives, which is an SOP in raids.

Meanwhile, de la Paz further said, the door of the farm was destroyed because the military kicked it as well as the doors of the warehouses inside.

De la Paz also said that there is overkill as 300 military and police operatives came just to arrest the 43, who she insists, unarmed.

“There are about 100 soldiers, who have entered the compound, and when they got out [together with the victims]—there are 200 more in the periphery of the area. What do they think of the place? And the men were blindfolded and forced to board 6 x 6 trucks. This again, is an outright violation of human rights! You don’t blindfold people and you won’t force them board into trucks without telling them where are going!” de la Paz said.

The doctor further said: “In fact, Dr. Velmonte did not know where the 43 were taken, they are asking the captors, where are they are taking the victims, and she even shouted, “Don’t carry them away!” You don’t have warrant of arrest! Your search warrant is already flawed; you don’t have any warrant of arrest, and they you will forcibly take them away!”

De la Paz revealed that some of victims were on their pajamas, wearing towels on their heads because they have just came out of the bathroom, and most of them have not taken their breakfast when the arresting team came.

Moreover, the doctor said, they only learn the whereabouts of the victim around 12:00 noon.

“We hurriedly go there, together with the victims’ families and their lawyers but the soldiers have denied us entry. And this is again, a violation of human rights—the denial of rights to counsel, the denial of the rights for families to see them, and the denial of the rights to see a doctor. I, myself, is a doctor and I want to ensure that they are in good health, that they are not—in anyway—tortured, or free from any physical injuries, and even from mental torture,” de la Paz explained.

De la Paz further told the media that they were outside Camp Capinpin until 7:00 PM but fail to see the victims. Even the ABS-CBN News team, who is also there, was prohibited to see the 43.

Not an isolated case

“However, this incident is not new; every time that we are in a medical mission, the members of the military and their paid cohorts continue to harass our doctors and nurses. They will photograph us and some will stage a mock rally. Some of them pretend to participate, especially in our health trainings, but their true intention is to harass us. In fact, there are incidents that the military will erect their detachments near the houses of our Community Health Workers (CHWs) to intimidate them. Isn’t it saddening that our doctors are now becoming nurses just to go abroad and here, the members of the military are arresting this handful of medical practitioners and health workers, who have decided to dedicate themselves in servicing the poor, those people that the government failed to serve?” Jara lamented.

Moreover, Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo “Jigs” Clamor believes that the latest incident of arbitrary arrest, that included his wife, was a part of the hurried efforts by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) to dismantle the four-decade Maoist insurgency in the country.

“Oplan Bantay Laya is still working… and the State forces is very much willing to do everything, even if it will result to gross human rights violations of those who are suspected as enemy of the state or those who are critical with this government,” he said.

Nevertheless, Jara was saddened by the fact that those who are sincerely working for the good of the people are being harassed, thus hampering their noble cause of bringing free health and medical services to the communities in far flung areas, especially to the poor.

Maza asks AFP to release 43 abducted

On the other hand, Nationalista-Makabayan senatorial contender Liza Largoza-Maza calls on the AFP to immediately release the 43 health workers, majority of which are women.

“The arrest of doctors and health workers, most of them women health workers including midwives, violates the right of women as enshrined in the Magna Carta to be provided with maternal and child care in the communities of Rizal. They should be released immediately and the military that enforced their arrests should be held accountable,” said Maza in a statement.

Maza stresses that eery second that passes by that they the 43 are being detained , it aggravates the violations committed against them.

“There’s no doubt as to the impunity of the Arroyo administration and the AFP on these cases of abduction and human rights violations,” Maza added.

Maza explained that the arresting team had violated the Section 9 of the Magna Carta of Women or RA 9710 that stipulates that “the State shall ensure that all women shall be protected from all forms of violence as provided for in existing laws. Agencies of government shall give priority to the defense and protections of women against gender-based offenses and help women attain justice and healing”.

She also said that the law specifically states that the “State, as primary duty-bearer shall refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights”.

“Instead of protecting women against discrimination and from violation of their rights, the Arroyo administration itself was the very one who committed these abuses,” Maza furthered. (Pilipinas Reporter, Feb. 07, 2010; also published in CBCPNews.com)