Doctors and Community Health Workers Abducted by Military in Rizal

Video courtesy of Kodao Productions

Update on Morong 43:

Health workers arrested under inquest; families, lawyers still no contact

ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines—The Community Health Foundation, (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development, Inc. have decided to hold the filing for writ of habeas corpus before the Supreme Court due to the news circulating that the 43 health workers are under inquest.

“We decided to hold filing of writ. [There is] news circulating that inquest was done last night (February 7). [In] what court, we do not know yet. So we are still here at [Camp] Capinpin and Taytay Provincial Prosecutor’s Office,’ said Dr. Julie Caguiat, executive director of COMMED in a short mobile message.

Legal website, http://www.batasnatin.com/ has defined inquest as “is an informal and summary investigation conducted by the   public   prosecutor   in   a   criminal   case   involving   persons arrested or detained without the benefit of a warrant of arrest issued by the court, for the purpose of determining whether said persons should remain under custody and correspondingly charged in court.”

Dr. Caguiat, in a second short mobile message to this reporter said, “[N]o family member has seen them” and that “[N]o phone calls, no counsel have been given [to] the victim.”

“We have no idea what is happening to them and we fear for their health and safety and what has been done to them,” the SMS furthered.

Since the arrest of the 43 health workers, including two doctors and a midwife, the 202nd Infantry Brigade, headed by Col. Aurelio Baladad, allegedly continuously deny the right of the arrested to see their family and to talk to their respective lawyers.

Last Sunday, CHD, COMMED and the human rights watchdog Karapatan held a press conference, aiming to pressure the military to surface their colleagues.

Meanwhile, Wellington Kiwi Pinoy, a group of New Zealanders supporting campaigns against human rights abuses in the Philippines, issued a statement condemning the abduction of the 43 doctors and community health workers by the joint forces of the Philippine Army and the local Philippine National Police.

“This shameless attack on medical personnel who were gathered in training in the house of Dr. Melecia Velmonte again exposes the wanton disregard of civil liberties by military and police forces. Dr. Velmonte, a renowned infectious disease specialist, and her colleagues deserve the greatest respect for serving the poor communities of Morong, Rizal in the face of government failure to deliver the most basic health services for the poor. Wellington Kiwi Pinoy joins the families and colleagues of the victims in demanding their freedom. We likewise support the call to end militarization in the communities of Rizal and other provinces where similar cases of military abuses have been committed against civilians,” read Rod Prosser’s statement, spokesperson of Wellington Kiwi Pinoy.

“After the brutal massacre of scores of journalists, lawyers and other civilians in Maguindanao, the Morong incident adds to the long list of large-scale human rights violations under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. It’s not surprising that  the heads of the raiding team, Colonel Aurelio Baladad and Police Superintendent Balonglong, based the raid and abduction on phony “intelligence reports” that the medical personnel were members of the New People’s Army (NPA). How many more brutal killings, torture and detention of ordinary peasants, laborers, journalists, clergy, doctors and others will be justified by the government’s counter-insurgency campaign?,” the statement further read.

Prosser also said that it is “deplorable that the Philippine government continues to enjoy millions of dollars in foreign aid from the US, Australia and even New Zealand for its corrupt military and police forces.”

Migrante Middle East and other chapters of Migrante abroad, has also expressed their support to the health workers’ families and asked for their immediate release.