11 February 2010
In the Middle of NYC's Snow Storm, Fil-Am Human
Rights Advocates Protest for the Release of 43 Illegally Detained
Contact: Cris Hilo, Bayan Northeast Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY- Although over 9 inches of snow was falling on New York City
yesterday, Filipino community members rallied in front of the Philippine
Consulate in NYC to protest the illegal detainment of the 43 Healthcare
workers in Rizal, Philippines. Members of BAYAN USA and National Alliance
for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) picketed the Consulate to raise awareness
to the local community.
Even though it was blistering cold weather, community members gathered
outside the Philippine Consualte to demonstrate against the current human
rights violations in the Philippines clamoring "FREE FREE the 43!" and
holding signs bearing the words "END IMPUNITY NOW!". Some members of the
contingent spent their lunch breaks in below zero temperatures in
solidarity for the 43 victims of illegal detention and torture.
"It is of utmost importance to raise awareness about this situation
because every minute that they are in military custody, we have no idea
what type of torture, sexual harassment, or abuse is being done to them.
Despite the Philippine Constitution that expressly prohibits these types
of actions, such events are not unknown to occur in contemporary times.
The event brings back memories of past events during the martial law
years," stated Berna Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA and member of New
York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP).
This action was one part of a simultaneous series of demonstrations by
BAYAN USA and NAFCON all over the nation, including San Francisco and Los
BAYAN USA, is an alliance composed of Fil-Am progressive groups
nationwide. National Alliance for Filipino Concerns is engaged in
community-based and worker-based organizing and leadership development
across the United States. Organizations that were present at the picket
include Philippine Forum, Anakbayan NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and
Empowerment (FiRE), and New York Committee for Human Rights in the
10 February 2010
In front of Philippine Consulate
New York, USA
Kahit na may bagyo, kahit na may unos...
Representatives of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the
Philippines (NYCHRP), Philippine Forum, National Alliance for Filipino
Concerns (NAFCON), BAYAN USA, GABRIELA USA, Filipinas for Rights &
Empowerment (FiRE) and Anakbayan in the US East Coast trooped to the
Philippine Consulate in New York for a quick protest action despite
snowstorm to express condemnation on the illegal arrest (without warrant)
of 43 community health workers in Morong, Rizal, Philippines by the
Philippine Military last February 6. The community health workers were
baselessly accused of being NPA's/communists and were subjected to torture
and are still in detention as of press time.
Please sign the online petition for the immediate and unconditional
release of the 43 community health workers: http://www.petitiononline.com/Free43/petition.html
FREE THE 43 COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS ILLEGALLY ARRESTED, DETAINED &
TORTURED BY THE PHILIPPINE MILITARY/GOV'T!!!
STOP TORTURE IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!
NO TO IMPUNITY!!!
JUSTICE FOR THE MORONG 43, MELISSA ROXAS AND ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Location: In front of the Philippine Consulate in New York
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Sec. of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Senator Barbara Boxer
112 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510
Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central, Diliman,
Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
We demand the immediate and unconditional
release of the "Morong 43!"
February 8, 2010
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the Philippine police and military’s
illegal raid and abduction of 43 community health workers and doctors who
were conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal, Philippines on
Saturday, February 6, 2010. The health workers and doctors administer
health services to poor communities, and were participating in a First
Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc.
(COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD). Their personal
belongings, as well the training materials used, were all confiscated by
According to reports by the media and the human rights alliance KARAPATAN,
approximately 300 soldiers and police of the Southern Luzon Command of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Rizal Philippine National
Police (PNP) forcibly entered the farmhouse of Dr. Melecia Velmonte at
6:15 AM. The training participants were then lined up, violently frisked,
blindfolded, and taken to Camp Capinpin, headquarters of the 202nd
Infantry Brigade, AFP. The health workers have been held incommunicado
since then, and have been denied their right to legal counsel. A team from
the Commission on Human Rights was also blocked from seeing the detainees.
We condemn the government for sending the message that Filipino doctors
and nurses are welcome to go abroad to work, but they are unjustly
targeted and arrested if they stay in the Philippines to serve the poor
and the underserved. These illegally arrested and detained health workers
are the first responders that have tirelessly served the communities
affected by the flooding and landslides in the aftermath of Typhoons Ondoy
and Pepeng last year.
We are deeply concerned for the safety of these healthcare professionals
who have committed their lives to serve the underserved communities in the
Philippines. We are equally concerned that it is our tax dollars that are
being sent to finance the Philippine government and its’ military in
on-going operations that are clear violations of basic human rights. We
support the following demands so that they can immediately return to their
families and the communities that they serve without further violations of
their human rights.
1. The immediate release of the health workers who are illegally arrested
and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.
2. The government must ensure the safety of the victims and that they are
not harmed; their belongings be returned immediately to them.
3. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and
investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups,
the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will
investigate the raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting
health skills training in Morong, Rizal.
4. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights
defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and
“enemies of the state.”
5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all
the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of
these instruments’ provisions.
6. The immediate withdrawal of US military aid to the Philippine
government and military that continue to perpetrate violations of human
and civil rights.
SERVE THE PEOPLE! Makibaka! Huwag Matakot!
Anakbayan (in english: "sons and daughters of the nation") is a
comprehensive mass organization that aims to build unity among Filipino
youth -- immigrant, US-born/raised, student, working, LGBT, women,
artists, etc -- striving for nationalism and democracy and for the
promotion of cultural awareness and the advancement of rights, welfare,
and social justice. All Filipino youth are agents of social change, so all
Filipino youth are welcome to join.
Anakbayan New York/New Jersey is a full-fledged chapter of Anakbayan in
the Philippines and a member organization of BAYAN USA, MIGRANTE
International, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON),
International Migrants' Alliance (IMA) and International League of
Peoples' Struggle (ILPS).
February 10, 2010
Reference: Yoko Liriano, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines,
Arrest of 43 Another Case of Torture as a State Policy-- NYCHRP
NEW YORK-- A local human rights advocacy organization denounced the arrest
and ongoing maltreatment of the detained 43 health workers in a Philippine
military camp as another example of the Philippine military's routine use
of torture in its counter-insurgency campaign known as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).
It called for the immediate and unconditional release of the health
workers affiliated with the Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED)
and Council for Health and Development (CHD) who are currently still in
detention in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.
"The Arroyo government acts as if it is above International Humanitarian
Law and International Human Rights Law," states Gary Labao of the New York
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP). "Since OBL's first
launch in 2002 and re-launch in 2007, one of its distinctive features is
the targeting of unarmed civilians critical of government policies in the
name of annihilating armed insurgency in the countryside. The arrest of
the 43 health workers, who were conducting a medical training seminar to
service of the poor, shows how the Philippine military employs arbitrary
arrests, denies legal counsel, and inflicts torture upon civilians,
forcing them into 'admit' they are armed rebels. This so-called 'evidence'
gathered by Philippine security forces should not be deemed admissible in
any court of law."
The rights group also recalled the case of Melissa Roxas, a US citizen and
community health worker from Los Angeles, whose testimony to the
Philippine Supreme Court last year stated that she was abducted,
blindfolded, and tortured for six days by captors who were forcing her to
admit she was a member of the New Peoples Army (NPA). Though the
Philippine Supreme Court denied a petition filed by Roxas to conduct a
investigation of Fort Magsaysay, headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division
of the Philippine military and the location where Roxas believes she was
detained, it ruled to grant Roxas a writ of amparo (protection) that
validated the claim of abduction and torture based on supporting testimony
from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and reports from medical
“What the Arroyo government repeatedly ignores is the mandate of the
various covenants on human rights it has ratified which unconditionally
entitles armed groups such as the NPA protection from any form of torture
or degrading treatment,” Labao added.
In its concluding observations of the Philippine delegation's presentation
during its 42nd session in Geneva last April, the United Nations Committee
Against Torture (UN CAT) expressed concern over the "routine and
widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police
custody." The Philippines ratified the Convention against Torture and
other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment of Punishment in 1986, the
same year that marked the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.
Two international non-governmental organizations (NGO's)— the
International Federation of Actions by Christians for the Abolition of
Torture (FIACAT) and Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)
submitted an alternative report on the Philippines to the UN CAT that same
"Torture and ill-treatments are often committed [by the Philippine
military] in order to extract confessions...and obtain forced
testimonies," the 2009 FIACAT-ACAT report on the Philippines states.
The same report also outlines the practice of "arrests with excessive
violence" and "the use of fabricated charges" as a "method to keep
targeted persons in unjustifiable detention."
NYCHRP also warned that the upcoming May 2010 elections are another
indication of escalating violence in the country, as demonstrated by the
clash of governing warlords competing for a gubernatorial seat in
Maguindanao that resulted in the gruesome Ampatuan Massacre last November
"OBL and the case of the Morong 43 validates of the UN CAT's published
observations on the Philippines," Labao added. "But as long as a culture
of impunity persists in the Philippines, allowing the perpetrators of
arbitrary arrests and torture to roam unaccounted, the international
community plays a role in supporting the people's movement in the
Philippines for the advancement and protection of basic human rights and
New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Study in contrasts
The contrast is too stark to be missed. “But they are NPA (New People’s
Army)!” Thus did Executive Secretary and former General Eduardo Ermita
justify the arbitrary arrest of 43 health workers and professionals
attending a training seminar in Morong, Rizal last Saturday, their
torture, subjection to indignities, deprivation of legal counsel, and
denial of visits by relatives and officers of the Commission on Human
This is the same Secretary Ermita who, along with other Arroyo henchmen,
immediately invoked the right to due process of the Ampatuans, Arroyo’s
warlord allies in Muslim Mindanao suspected to be behind the gruesome mass
murder of relatives and supporters of their political enemies, a bevy of
media personnel as well as innocent bystanders.
To be labeled as NPA, ergo an “enemy of the state”, is tantamount to a
death sentence (via extrajudicial execution) or being subjected to the
worst human rights violations by state security forces with the blessings
of Malacañang. On the other hand, to be a valued political ally of Mrs.
Arroyo, able to deliver hundreds of thousands of fraudulently acquired
votes for her presidential bid, to beat back government opposition in an
entire region and to terrorize a dirt-poor and restless populace is to be
dealt with kid gloves despite being the prime suspects in the most heinous
According to General Ermita there was nothing illegal in the arrest of the
43 - two of whom are doctors, two others a nurse and midwife and the rest
community health workers - because this is based on solid intelligence
information. If this were the case, why were the combined AFP/PNP raiding
force of 300 who came in four military trucks and two armored personnel
carriers, unable to present any valid search or arrest warrants? Why did
they conduct their search of the private resort owned by Dr. Melecia
Velmonte, an infectious disease expert at the UP-Philippine General
Hospital, to come up with so-called evidence without any impartial
witnesses to corroborate their find.
The same military intelligence that led to the "discovery" of a bundle of
arms and explosives in a health training seminar had failed to detect an
entire arsenal of weapons, ammunition and even armored vehicles in the
Ampatuans' possession. It took the declaration of emergency rule and
eventually martial law before the authorities could come up with anything
substantial against the Ampatuans.
And this same AFP-PNP combine that willfully allowed the Ampatuans to
commit the massacre, if they did not actually participate in it by
refusing to provide security to the prospective victims, has turned its
brutal, coercive power on hapless doctors and health workers whose only
intent was to learn how to care for the sick in a setting of want and
In order to give the Gestapo military and police time to manufacture more
evidence and extract tortured confessions from their victims, the 43 were
blindfolded and shackled, held incommunicado, denied food and toilet
privileges for maximum discomfort, and deprived of mandatory visits by
their legal counsel and CHR officers.
After two days, when the relatives of some of the arrested were allowed
in, they were given a very short time to inquire into the condition of
their loved ones and always in the intimidating presence of their captors
for which reason many could not speak about the despicable treatment they
While refusing to present the 43 to the media, the AFP keeps issuing press
releases in a ludicrous attempt to concoct a story about their latest
victims: that they were undergoing training in bomb manufacture; that the
60-year-old physician in the group, Dr. Alex Montes, is actually the NPA
operative assigned to kill retired General Jovito Palparan, the
bloodthirsty general who confesses to “inspiring” his men to kill NPA
suspects vigilante style; that several of the women have been identified
as having participated in NPA attacks.
And lo and behold, the AFP reported that campaign materials of the
progressive party list Bayan Muna were also seized from the group. All the
better to keep up the military’s vilification campaign against the party
that has successfully won several seats in Congress since 2001 and is now
fielding a senatorial candidate? Why limit the propaganda to the AFP’s
having chalked up a big blow against the NPA when you can also, by
innuendo, implicate Bayan Muna, currently in the thick of the electoral
campaign, as an NPA “front” and scare away potential voters?
The raid against the health workers can only be seen as part of the Arroyo
regime’s propensity to crack down on those who oppose its policies and its
illegitimate rule. The Council for Health and Development, under whose
auspices the training was undertaken, is a non-government organization
committed to rendering health services to poor and underserved
communities. They are critical of government policies and programs that
underlie the people’s poverty, ill health and inadequate, low quality
health services. As advocates of community-based health care, health
training for community volunteers is a staple of their program.
The practice of treating “NPA” or “NPA suspects” as “enemies of the state”
and therefore undeserving of due process rights and, more important, non-derogable
human rights such as the right to life, against being tortured, against
unjust arrest and detention, etc. has brought about a situation wherein
military and police officials up to the Executive Secretary can blithely
justify their fascist actuations on their mere say so that someone is an
But more than the fascist military mindset, it is the overweening
brutality, ruthlessness and arrogance of power that characterizes the
Arroyo regime, in combination with its rabid craving and desperation to
remain in power that has cultivated and nurtured the culture of impunity
for perpetrating such horrendous atrocities.
With elections crucial to the fate of the Arroyo cabal just around the
corner, there is reason to fear that the worst is still to come. #