Canadian lawyers want Morong 43 free

A SPECIAL REPORT ON MORONG 43 CASE

MANILA, October 6, 2010—The Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) has sent a letter to President Benigno C. Aquino III and Justice Secretary Leila B. De Lima requesting to set free the Morong 43, or the 43 health workers arrested due to accusations of rebellion and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The 43 were arrested last February 6, while on training in a private farm owned by infectious disease specialist, Melecia Velmonte, also a professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine in Manila.

Case vs. Morong 43, ‘hoax’

In a copy of the letter sent to CBCPNews, Atty. Gail Davidson, executive director of the LRWC said that the results of their investigation concur with the assessment of the different non-governmental organizations and Church groups that the Morong 43’s case is but a hoax.

“NGOs around the world have expressed the opinion that the charges against the 43 health care workers are trumped up and the evidence against them fabricated to ensure false convictions and have called for their unconditional release… LRWC—as a result of our own investigations—agrees with this assessment. LRWC is further of the opinion that the charges against the 43 health care workers (illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the Commission on Elections gun ban) are not sustainable and cannot result in bona fides convictions before a properly constituted court because of tainted evidence, denial of rights to timely access to counsel, due process and a fair trial and illegal treatment during arrest and imprisonment,” says Davidson in her letter to the chief executive and the chief of the Philippines’ Justice department.

Evidences obtained, inadmissible to court

Davidson, also an anti-war advocate, had furthered that the evidence upon which the health care workers are being held, on non-bailable offences, has been obtained under circumstances that either forbid admissibility in a court of law or destroy reliability.

“For example, alleged statements by the 5 people still held separately (that they are members of the New People’s Army) appear inadmissible by virtue of the illegal treatment used to obtain the statements which available reports indicated included torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, denial of access to lawyers, bribery and intimidation. Factors indicating that physical evidence (C4 explosives, pistol, grenades and improvised land mines) alleged to have been found on the Velmonte property was planted that cannot be ignored include: opportunity, absence of arrest warrants, absence of valid search warrants for the premises, failure to ensure that the search of the premises was witnessed any independent party or representative of the accused, failure to ensure that the search of the premises was supervised by appropriately trained police personnel, extraordinary measures (blindfolding) taken to prevent the accused from observing or overseeing in any way the search of the premises, failure to advise arrestees of the allegations against them, the reasons for their arrest or the reason for the search of the premises,” the legal luminary argued.

The LRWC also calls on the Philippines’ Human Right Commission, now led by former Akbayan Partylist Rep. Rosetta Ann Rosales, to “ensure a professional review of allegations that evidence against them (Morong 43) has been fabricated or illegally obtained…” and as their rights to due process and a fair trial and to remedies for the violations their internationally protected rights have already been so severely impaired.

Davidson also scored the slow trial for the appeal of the plaintiffs for the writ of Habeas Corpus, which has stalled for eight (8) months, she said.

“This delay raises the concern of executive interfere—again fatal to the legitimacy of the procedure,” she said.

Community service records of the accused prove that they’re no criminals

The lawyers’ group has hightlighted the community service records of the accused, that has drawn them into conclusion that the accused are not criminals of any sort.

“We urge a solution before more damage is done [against the accused],” Davidson said.

Nevertheless, the LRWC also urged the Aquino government to immediately release of Mercy Castro, who is about to deliver her baby on the 27th and Carina Judilyn Oliveros, as their continued detention can have a long term negative impact to the newborn.

Davidson ahd also furthered, based on LRWC’s examination of the applicable international law, it is clear that the illegal arrests, the improperly authorized and supervised search of Dr. Velmonte’s property, the exposure of the health care workers to treatment absolutely prohibited under international law and the denial of due process critical to a fair trial, combine to irremediably impair their right to a fair trial.

They also concluded that the [legal] remedy required is withdrawal of all charges and release.

“We know of no factors and no law that legitimately authorizes continued detention. We note that continued detention may in itself constitute a violation by the government of the Philippines , to ensure rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is well established that state party to this treaty must as an essential part of the duty to ensure protected rights, act quickly to provide effective remedies for violations,” Davidson stated.

8th month of Morong 43 detention, remembered with protest

Meanwhile, members of the the Free the Morong 43! Alliance stormed the Department of Justice (DOJ) today to protest the continued detention of the 43 health workers and to pressure the administration to immediately release them.

In a statement, Carlos Montemayor, spokesperson of the Free the 43 Health Workers! Alliance said that the continued detention of the 43 health workers are but a clear sign that human rights violations in the Philippines continue, despite the change of administration.

Nevertheless, the group strongly urged President Aquino to “hasten the review of the case and take a definite stand for human rights and people’s health.”

“If indeed the president is to prove the people that his administration is the bastion of democracy and change, now is the time to prove it,” Montemayor said adding the government should free the 43 health workers now because they are innocent of the charges hurled against them,” Montemayor said. (Another version of this appeared in CBCPNews.com)

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