Protest picket at the Philippine Consulate General:

Community health service is NOT a crime: Release the 43!

 

Hong KongI

 

February 18, 2010

 

Speech of Necta Montes, niece of Dr. Alex Montes, one of the Morong 43

 

 

 

Bruce Van Voorhis of the HKCAHRPP
   

 

Today, February 18,  members and supporters of the HKCAHRPP picketed the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong to condemn the illegal arrest and detention, torture and harassment of the 43 community health workers.
 

Participating in the protest picket  were the Asian Human Rights Commission, Asia Monitor Resource Centre, United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers, Mission For Migrant Workers (HK), Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Kowloon Union Church, Philippine Independent Church Hong Kong. Other groups were the World Student Christian Federation of Asia Pacific and the Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (ASA).

Necta Montes-Rocas, secretary general of WSCF AP and niece of arrested Dr. Alex Montes, spoke at the protest picket.
 

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Photos courtesy of HKCAHRPP
           
           

 

Hong Kong Coalition for the Advancement of Human Rights
and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP)
Press Statement -

For reference: Bruce Van Voorhis, convenor (852-9492-3064)
Eman Villanueva, convenor (852-9758-5935)
Necta Montes-Rocas, convenor (852-6693-2511)

Community health service is NOT a crime: Release the 43!

While community-based health service is seen as noble by most people, Gloria Arroyo and her ilk apparently see it as an act of terrorism.

The Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) joins the international community in strongly condemning the illegal arrest, detention, torture and intimidation of the 43 community health workers by the Philippine military and police on February 6, 2010.

What they were subjected to was unjust, inhuman and deserving of the people’s outrage. For the first few days of their arrest, the 43 health workers, now known as the Morong 43, were handcuffed for 36 hours, subjected to torture, intense interrogation and sexual abuse. Only after five days of incarceration were criminal charges filed against them.

The military itself is caught in their own cacophony of lies as they accused the Morong 43 of being members of the Military Department and later the Health Department of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The military has stuck, however, with the accusation that they were undergoing training to make explosives.

We support and stand by the statements released by families and co-workers of the Morong 43 that they were undergoing a First Respondents Training for Health Workers sponsored by the Community Medical Foundation Inc. (COMMED) at the time of their arrest.

This recent breach of human rights is an addition to the very long list of crimes committed by the Arroyo administration and the Philippine army against the Filipino people. It is most definitely a part of the administration’s counterinsurgency scheme called Operation Plan Bantay Laya (Guard Freedom).

Despite the growing international condemnation it has received, President and Commander in Chief Arroyo remains mum about the whole issue. Is this an admission of her guilt? Will she have to wait for other governments and the United Nations to speak before she makes a move?

Already migrant workers, health workers and church leaders around the world have issued statements and sent appeals, like the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the World Council of Churches.

There is no greater crime than to let impunity reign in our country. From the reckless red-baiting of activists, lawyers and journalists, now this murderous administration of Gloria Arroyo is out to get anyone who stands in her way. Even health workers are not spared.

The HKCAHRPP thus calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43 as well as an immediate and independent investigation of the case. This incident begs for the enforcement of Republic Act 9745, or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, in addition to the call for the immediate end to the Oplan Bantay Laya’s implementation. Prosecution under this law will indicate whether this recently enacted legislation is meant to stop the use of torture in the country or is merely an empty gesture to appease the international community. Justice should be served to the 43 health workers who have been wronged by the military, and hence, those who perpetrated this crime should be punished. #

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Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of
Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines
c/o ASA, No. 2 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 98105070, 97409406 Fax. (852) 25262894
E-mail: hkcahrpp@gmail.com

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http://migrantecampaign.ning.com

#10 Banuyo St.Brgy.Amihan, Project 3, Quezon City
Telefax: 9114910

 

     

Necta Montes-Rocas. niece of Dr. Alex Montes, one of the Morong 43, talks about the doctor  and condemned his illegal arrest and torture Necta is the secretary general of WSCF AP (World Student Christian Federation of Asia Pacific

     

 

Speech of Necta Montes

Secretary Gneral of WSCF AP (World Student Christian Federation of Asia Pacific

Niece of Dr. Alex Montes, one of the Morong 43

 

Magandang Umaga po sa inyong lahat! Good morning to all of you! Thank you for giving me this chance to express my indignation on the illegal arrest, detention, and torture of the 43 health workers in the Philippines.  

 

My name is Necta Montes, I am a niece of one of the illegally arrested health workers, Dr. Alexis Montes. My uncle was accused by the Military of being a member of the New People’s Army and taking part in a plan to assassinate General Jovito Palparan, also known as the Butcher of Activtists and a favorite general of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Not able to find substantial evidence to prove these ridiculous accusation against my uncle and the 42 health worker, the Military charged them with Criminal offences and illegal possession of firearms. Using the guns and explosives they themselves, the Military, have planted as evidences during the raid and arrest they conducted last February 6.  

 

My family and the families of the 42 illegally arrested health workers strongly deny and condemn the Military for spreading malicious accusations and making-up false charges against our loved ones.  We are enraged by this incident and angered by the physical torture and the mental anguish that our loved ones have been subjected to by this fascist Military.

 

As doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers they commit themselves to an oath to provide medical care and attention to ANYONE, and I repeat ANYONE needing their help at all times and in any place. In fact, when the illegal arrest was conducted on February 6, they were undergoing a First Respondents Training, NOT to build explosives as this stupid military accused them, but to equip community health workers to SAVE LIVES and NOT TO DESTROY LIVES!   

 

 

 

My Uncle Dr. Alexis Montes is a 62 year-old licensed medical doctor.  He has used his professional training and skills to heal the sick among the poor in my country.  He has tirelessly devoted his service to people who cannot afford to go to the hospital for all sorts of ailment and treatment. He has spent nearly 40 years of his life visiting poor rural communities organizing Medical Mission together with members of our the Healing Ministry of our church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippine.  As his eldest niece, my uncle has often asked me to assist him in simple surgical procedures when poor families from nearby slum communities would come to our home to seek for his help. He would not only do the surgical procedure for free, but he would send the patients with medicines and oftentimes give them few pesos for their ride home.   

 

In a country where half of our population have no access to basic health care, where 40 % of our people cannot afford basic medicines even to treat a simple cold and where 10 women die every day because of childbirth related complications, health workers like my uncle and his 42 co-workers are the only HOPE and lifeline for the poor people.

 

Now I ask our government, Is it a CRIME to heal the sick poor people? Is it a crime to take on the responsibility of the failure of this government to provide basic medical care to its people? Is it a crime to be motivated by your faith to follow the example of Jesus Christ to heal and serve the people?    

 

The illegal arrest of  Dr. Alexis Montes and 42 health workers is a miscarriage of justice! It is an act of blatant disregard of human rights and the ideals of any democratic society!  The arrogance of the Military establishment indicates a direct approval of the president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of these actions!

 

If the Philippine government will not act to stop the Military’s wanton disregard of people’s rights and welfare and continue to commit crimes against the people, WE WILL ACT!

 

Justice to all the victims of human rights violation of the Gloria Arroyo Regime!

Free the 43 Health workers Now!

           
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Dan Reyes of AHRC Norman Carnay of Bayan - HK Protesters at the Philipp[ine consulate
     

 

PRESS RELEASE
February 10, 2010
For reference: Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, 604-775-1033

Filipino MLA condemns abduction of 43 health workers, doctors in Rizal

Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington today expressed outrage over the illegal arrest and detention of 43 health workers and doctors, known as the “Morong 43”, in the Philippines.

The Morong 43 were abducted around 6:15am from a conference facility in Morong, Rizal last February 6th. They were participants in a First Responders Training sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation (Commed) and the Council for Health and Development. They were taken by 300 heavily armed elements from the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and Rizal Philippine National Police to Camp Capinpin in Taytay, Rizal.

“These kinds of shocking events and blatant human rights violations are a black eye and an embarrassment for the Philippine government,” says Elmore, who also expressed her concern to President Arroyo and other government officials.

In her letter to President Arroyo, Elmore cites her alarm over reports that the detainees were subject to various forms of torture and sexual harassment.

According to the Health Alliance for Democracy, the detainees were handcuffed and blindfolded for 36 hours after being brought to Camp Capinpin. At the Camp, they were confined in dark cells and forced to listen to gunfire. At night, the detainees recounted that men would enter their cells to punch them and take their pictures.

Further, relatives of the detainees and the Commission for Human Rights were initially denied access to the detainees by the military at the Camp.

“These are all very disturbing violations of the basic rule of law (such as invalid search warrant, denial of access to legal counsel and a doctor) and fundamental human rights,” said Elmore.

“This event is inexcusable and combined with the massacre in Maguindano, it’s important that we all speak out and advocate for these victims. We need to take steps to ensure everyone’s basic human rights are observed,” she added, noting reports of how the Arroyo administration often tramples on the rights of those who criticize it.

Along with Elmore’s correspondence to President Arroyo, she also forwarded her concerns to the Canadian government and is calling on Canada to condemn the illegal arrest and immediate release of all detainees. As well, she noted how the international community needs to increase pressure on the Philippine government to take immediate and concrete steps to stop and prevent such human rights abuses and election-related violence.

Elmore concluded by announcing that the upcoming International Observers Mission (IOM) for the Philippines’ national elections in May is an opportune time for Canadians to become involved in efforts to safeguard democracy and human rights in the Philippines.

Locally, the Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights is organizing a Canadian contingent, which will include legislators and other advocates, for this IOM. #

Mable Elmore, MLA
Vancouver-Kensington
Community Office
6106 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC
V5W 3A1
T: 604-775-1033; F: 604-775-1330
Mable.Elmore.MLA@leg.bc.ca
mableelmore.ca
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#10 Banuyo St.Brgy.Amihan, Project 3, Quezon City
Telefax: 9114910

           
     

 

Streetwise
by Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Morong 43
 

Respected human rights lawyer, Romeo T. Capulong, minced no words in stating before the Court of Appeals hearing the petition for habeas corpus of the Morong 43 that de facto martial rule was in effect vis a vis his clients.

This started from the time of the February 6 raid without a valid search warrant; their mass apprehension without valid arrest warrants; their ordeal of torture - being continuously interrogated while denied food and sleep, threatened bodily harm or actually being beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed, treated to indignities like having their private parts handled by soldiers when they used the toilet; their being held incommunicado and denied visits by relatives, lawyers, physicians and human rights officials; their questionable ongoing detention in a military camp rather than a police detention facility; up to the military’s initial defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that the detainees be produced in court citing security concerns.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has tried to get away with its patent disregard of due process and even its human rights abuses by insisting that the 43 health workers are members of the New People’s Army.

To make the NPA label stick further, the military made much of the presence of progressive legislators and senatorial candidates, Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, during the hearing on the habeas corpus petition; the battery of defense lawyers headed by Atty. Capulong, a veteran human rights lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of activists, progressives and even avowed revolutionaries; the campaign paraphernalia of progressive party list groups as well as acupuncture needles apart from the firearms and explosives allegedly found in the seminar house; and the way some of the detainees raised their fists in protest when brought to court as constituting positive proof that the 43 are indeed NPA combatants.

What they succeeded in doing, however, is underscore the policy and practice of the Arroyo regime in its counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, of demonizing activists and their supporters as “communist terrorists” and subsequently targeting them for “neutralization”, military doublespeak for extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearance, illegal arrest, torture and illegal detention.

When Human Rights Commissioner Leila de Lima rebuked the military that even assuming the detainees are all NPA, they continue to have rights especially the constitutional presumption of innocence, Gen. Jorge Segovia retorted that soldiers should also be accorded “presumption of innocence”. With a straight face, the general said, “We know we are right; we know we did not commit those allegations.”

This statement only shows the military’s utter ignorance of what constitutes human rights and state responsibility in upholding and protecting them. On the other hand it is also an unwitting admission that the military itself is on trial before the public eye.

The military has tried to impugn the credentials of the 43 as health professionals and workers. They accused the 62-year-old doctor, Alexis Montes, of being assigned by the NPA to assassinate a retired military general only to have to conveniently drop the reckless charge when they realized how incredulous it was. (The doctor testified in the CA hearing that the only time he held a gun was in military training in college decades ago.)
 

 

 

The low educational attainment of most of the 43 health workers was also peddled by the military as proof that they could not be bona fide health workers. This was disputed by Dr. Michael Tan, a medical anthropologist and World Health Organization (WHO) consultant, who wrote in his recent column that the profile of a majority of the 43 fit that of volunteer community health workers (CHWs) in the tradition of China’s barefoot doctors and Latin America’s promoters de salud or health promoters.

Despite low levels of literacy and socio-economic disadvantages these CHWs have proven highly capable of serving the health needs of their communities. In fact, by the late seventies, their example was being held up by the WHO to be emulated and promoted the world over as part of the global strategy to achieve “health for all by the year 2000”.
 

Thus the military’s story line has shifted from the tall tale that the Morong 43 are NPA combatants conducting a training on bomb-making, to the taller tale that they are “NPA medical officers” who belong to a “’super body” or what the military claims is the “NPA’s version of the Department of Health.” The military now acknowledges that the group was indeed undertaking a health training but one that was for the purpose of the communist-led guerilla army!

Ironically, even granting that the 43 are "NPA medics", the AFP claim that this catch is the "biggest victory of the government in recent years" unwittingly reveals its lackluster performance and belies all previous grandiose claims such as dozens of guerrilla zones being dismantled and thousands of guerrilla fighters neutralized.

Now the AFP spokesperson avers that since cases have been filed in the Morong regional trial court against the 43 for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, these constitute “sufficient grounds for their continued detention” and “it would be up to them to prove their innocence in court.” Consistently, the military and the public prosecutors have taken the stance that the burden of proving their innocence lies with the 43 rather than the other way around; that is, their accusers, in a democracy, must prove the guilt of the accused.

What the military tries to gloss over is the fact that their entire operation was marked by illegality, including a spurious search warrant and planted evidence. Moreover, the detainees were never accorded legal counsel when they were charged before the fiscal and the case summarily filed before the RTC. Thus the cases filed cannot cure such gross violations of due process.

Under the Arroyo regime, it is clear that the Philippine military can do as it pleases with impunity, trampling on universally-recognized and constitutionally-guaranteed human rights. By the AFP's actions and words, and clearly with the backing of Malacanang thru Executive Secretary Ermita and Defense Sec. Gonzales, the military has been relentlessly undermining the supremacy of civilian rule. Malacanang is caught in a hypocritical cop-out, pretending to take a “hands off” posture now that public, including international outrage, is mounting.

No doubt, the military claim that the 43 are NPA medics will go the way of its other lies, and be proven untrue. One shudders to think what other lie -- or cop-out -- this government, thru the AFP, will come up with to justify its actions. Meanwhile the Morong 43 continue to suffer under this oppressive regime. #

           
           
           
     
       
           
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