Morong 43 under inquest, still denied visits by kin, lawyers

MANILA, Philippines — Friends and colleagues of 43 health workers arrested over the weekend in Morong, Rizal have decided to hold the filing of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus following reports that the detainees are undergoing inquest.

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

She also said that the detainees remain deprived of visits from relatives and lawyers. “[N]o family member has seen them…(N)o phone calls, no counsel have been given (to) the victims” of what colleagues maintain was an abduction and not, as the military and police insist, was the arrest of suspected members of the New People’s Army supposedly undergoing explosives training.

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

In New Zealand, the group Wellington Kiwi Pinoy issued a statement condemning the “abduction” of the health workers.

“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,” the statement said.

“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,” the statement from group spokesman Rod Prosser said.

“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,” the statement said. “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?” it added. (Dateline Philippines)