March for Freedom: Morong 43 supporters flock Mendiola

MARCH 5, 2010 - Supporters of the 43 health workers, including two doctors, a midwife and nurse, marched from the University of Sto. Tomas to the historic Chino Roces Bridge to pressure Malacañang to release them. Joining the rally are the members of the Benedictine sisters, headed by Sr. Edita Eslopor, OSB who serves as the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Council of Health and Development where Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor and other two are connected. (Noel Sales Barcelona; shot using Nokia 7210C Supernova)

MORONG 43 still suffers—HEAD

MANILA, Philippines—For almost a month now, the Morong 43 or the 43 health workers arrested for rebellion in Morong, Rizal are still incarcerated despite the Commission of Human Rights demand to release them.

Arrested on February 6, the health workers are allegedly being tortured and harassed to admission of being members of the communist New People’s Army. There are also reports those female members of the Morong 43 undergone sexual molestation by the members of the 202nd Infantry Brigade.

Dr. Geneve E. Reyes-Rivera, secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), one of the organizations that are campaigning for their release, shares with this reporter the latest updates about the Morong 43 case:

Noel Sales Barcelona (NSB): What are newest developments about the Morong 43 and how the Writ of Habeas corpus case is doing in the Court of Appeals?

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera-Reyes (GER): The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines and the local regional trial court of Morong have maliciously maneuvered the [case] of 43 health workers to be arraigned [for rebellion charges] but because of the motion of hte lawyers [or the] petition of the writ of Habeas Corpus that is now pending before the Court of Appeals, they (the lawyers) are able to postpone the arraignment. We see that as a small victory and we are now still waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeals and hopefully it would be a favorable ruling. If it is not, we are ready to exhaust all legal means.

Street performers depict the alleged "agony" of the Morong 43 and the bloody state of the health sector as the military continue to torture and harass the 43 health workers, who are now called "Dakila" or "Great" 43. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

NSB: Do you have any information about the missing three health workers? I have read in the newspapers that the military have separated Paulino, Carandang and Tawagon, from the remaining health workers and had been secretly incarcerated somewhere else?

GER: We’ve heard that the three of the 43 (health workers) were taken by the AFP and were forced to get a new lawyer. And we are actually condemning that because it is unethical because the three health workers already have their own lawyer. It is a part of their dirty tactic because they do not have enough evidence to persecute the 43 and they are now making up charges, making up stories to justify their maneuvers. They are forcing the 43 to admit being NPAs (New Peoples Army) and that is a clear violation of their rights.

NSB: Are you planning to appeal or bring the case in the International Criminal Tribunal so that the process of the case will be sped-up?

GER: Yes, actually, we are contemplating of filing complaints before the UN Commission on Human Rights and other human rights bodies internationally. But we are exhausting all legal remedies here in the Philippines so that international fight will be stronger… we are still trusting the processes of the government for we are still hopeful that they have still, even a little a sense of justice.

NSB: Are you planning to sue Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo, for this, as the Commander-In-Chief of the AFP?

GER: She’s a part of the respondents in our complaint in the Court of Appeals and in the Commission on Human Rights. She is, by the principle of command responsibility, and she, being the commander-in-chief of the AFP, she is likewise liable.

NSB: Do you want to appeal to the international community for support or any other help so that the 43 would be released?

GER: We are calling on all organizations, internationally and locally, to help the 43 health workers who are illegally arrested and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin. It is a blatant disregard of the rule of law and due process; it is a blatant disregard of human rights of the people; and we are condemning it, with all the people’s organizations, in our part.

Listen to this podcast: Interview with HEAD Sec. Gen. Geneve E. Rivera, M.D.

There are also photo releases of this story at Dateline Philippines. The story is also the headline of the Philippine News Vanguard.