Commemorating the International Human Rights Day

 

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December 10, 2010

 

■    A poem by Richard Gappi  

 

■    BONUS TRACKS: Sons and Fathers

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Photos courtesy of Roselle Pineda, Sarah Raymundo and Abby Valenzuela as indicated by the photo's filename
           
     
 
     
     

 

Press Statement
10 December 2010

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
CONTINUE WITH IMPUNITY UNDER PRESIDENT BENIGNO AQUINO III

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, we commend the Filipino people’s militant struggle for freedom and democracy and their international solidarity for defending and asserting human rights. This struggle has become more important and necessary with the worsening human rights violations and continuing impunity under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

Nothing has changed under Aquino. Social injustice persists. Civil and political rights are under attack. The Aquino government legitimizes continuing state violence and repression, absconding its responsibility to release the Morong 43 and all political detainees.

Ironically, Aquino has called for the release of Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi. He has granted amnesty to hundreds of soldiers who have engaged in at least three attempts of mutiny. But he remains intransigent in freeing the 43 illegally searched, arrested, detained and tortured health workers and the rest of at least 374 political prisoners in his own country.

The “war on terror” launched by the past regime is being continued by Aquino with the US government’s full financial, political and military support under a “new” counter-insurgency strategy. Trumped-up charges filed by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against leaders, organizers and members of progressive organizations are becoming the norm and are utilized to conduct actual raids of offices and arrests. Harassments and surveillance of human rights defenders are intensifying under this new administration that is supposed to be determined to take the matuwid na landas (straight or righteous path)

There were 18 victims killed during the last six months of Macapagal-Arroyo. There are now at least 25 victims of extra-judicial killings (EJK’s) barely five months after Aquino took over (July 1 – November 30, 2010).

No amount of redefining to “de-politicize” the extrajudicial killings could hide the truth that political killings in the Philippines continue. These have even worsened under Aquino.

Civilians have been killed in the AFP’s version of “crossfires” with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels where there were really none. We grieve for the loss of the country’s top botanist, Leonard Co, his two assistants and other victims of indiscriminate firing justified by the military as “legitimate military operations”. We shall pursue justice to the end and make the culprits answer for their heinous crimes.

While we laud the latest positive developments in peace negotiations between the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), reaching a 20-day holiday truce and tentative schedule of talks early next year, we deem it necessary for Pres. Aquino to be true to his pledge before foreign diplomats and the public of respecting human rights.

Finally, we seek genuine social justice for the overwhelming majority of the Filipino people as we link up in arms with the international community in the struggle for human rights.

On International Human Rights Day, we reiterate our call:
Free the Morong 43 and all political detainees!
Justice to all victims of human rights violations!
Uphold human rights, freedom and democracy! ###

Reference:
Jigs Clamor, Acting Secretary General (0920-946-6210)
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PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
publicinfo@karapatan.org
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Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
Web: http://www.karapatan.org

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. It was established in 1995.
 

     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Press Statement
10 December 2010

PEOPLES’ LAWYERS CALL FOR EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
TO HR VIOLATIONS

In commemoration of international human rights day

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day on December 10, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) reiterates its call for justice for victims of human rights violations and calls on the Aquino government to implement more effective measures for the protection of the Filipino people’s fundamental rights.

Citing the continuing instances of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal detention, and other forms of repression, NUPL Secretary General Atty. Edre U. Olalia stated that the human rights situation in the Philippines this year remains a cause for concern. “Despite the change in political leadership, 2010 is still a dismal year for human rights in our country. Even as we commemorate the 62nd year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, most of its guarantees remain paper-promises to the majority of Filipinos, especially to the poor and marginalized, who are often denied access to justice,” said Olalia.

Many of the most serious cases of human rights violations committed during former President Macapagal-Arroyo’s term have yet to be resolved. Twenty cases of extrajudicial killings, two enforced disappearances, and 16 instances of torture have already been recorded by human rights group Karapatan during the first four months of the present administration.

This year has also been witness to ten months of unjust detention for the 43 health workers illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal last year. Individuals and organizations from various sectors, including several national and international lawyers’ associations, have called for the release of the Morong 43. To date, however, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has not directed the withdrawal of charges against them, and the detainees have been on a hunger strike for the past week to protest against the continued denial of their rights. NUPL serves as co-counsel to the Morong 43, along with the Public Interest Law Center (PILC).

The situation is also similarly bleak as far as economic, social, and cultural rights are concerned. After decades of struggle for genuine land reform, no resolution has been reached in the case for redistribution of land to the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the current President’s family. Neither has justice been achieved for the families of the 14 farm workers who were killed in the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004.

“Contrary to its promise of reform, impunity for human rights violations persists under the Aquino administration,” Olalia declared. “We call on the government to heed the people’s plea and initiate concrete responses to the alarming human rights situation in our country.”

Reference:
Atty. Edre Olalia
Secretary General, NUPL
Contact no.: (0917)511-3373

National Secretariat
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers(NUPL)
3F Erythrina Bldg., Maaralin corner Matatag Sts. Central District,Quezon City, Philippines
Tel.No.920-6660,Telefax No. 927- 2812
Email addresses:nupl2007@gmail.com and nuplphilippines@yahoo.com
"Visit the NUPL at http://www.nupl.net/


By calling yourselves the 'people's lawyer,' you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance." Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message to the NUPL Founding Congress,Sept. 15, 2007

     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Angono 3/7 Poetry Society-Tula-Sasalubungin ko ng Tula ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng Karapatang Pantao
by Richard Gappi on Friday, December 10, 2010 at 12:30am

Sasalubungin ko ng Tula ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng Karapatang Pantao
Tulad ng Bagong Taon.

Magiging silong ng langit ang aking papel.
Doon magpapaputok ako ng labentador.
Magpapalipad ng kwitis.

Maging mantel din itong sasapo
sa iba't ibang inumin at pagkain.

Kahit ngayon, mahimbing ang idlip ng daigdig
at maaaring Sila ay pinaghehele ng panaginip.

Sasalubungin ko ng Tula
ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng Karapatang Pantao.

Dahil ang Karapatang Pantao
ang gumigising sa atin kung tayo'y natutulog
ang bumubusog sa atin kung tayo'y nagugutom
ang bukal kung nais nating maampat ang uhaw

laluna sa panahon ngayon
na sugat-sugat ang balat ng Daigdig
at nawawarat ang kanyang kaluluwa.

Ngunit kahit ganito,
sasalubungin ko pa rin ng tula
ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng Karapatang Pantao.

Dahil kung walang tula
Dahil kung walang karapatang pantao
Mabubuhay tayo sa lumang Daigdig

At walang saysay ang tao
kung bakit tayo nandito sa mundo.
Dahil sa tula at karapatang pantao,
higit tayong nagiging tao.
At kung bakit laging makahulugan,
balon na hindi natutuyo,
ang bawat bagong sibol na araw.
Ang Bagong Tao.
Ang Bagong Taon.

-Richard R. Gappi
12:05AM, Biyernes, 10 Disyembre 2010
Angono, Rizal, Pilipinas

 

     
     
           
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
     

 

National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Mindanao
 

Press Statement
December 10, 2010

THE AQUINO GOVERNMENT CONTINUES THE FASCIST LEGACY OF THE US-ARROYO REGIME

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Mindanao (NDFP-Mindanao) unites with the entire Filipino nation in commemorating International Human Rights Day and remembering all activists and masses – martyrs and heroes of our time – who have fallen victims to the gravest abuses against human rights perpetrated by fascist agents and running dogs of previous and current reactionary regimes. We also join the whole Filipino people and the international community in voicing our strongest condemnation, and demand for justice to all the victims.

As we mark this day with indignation and protests, the NDFP – Mindanao, together with all revolutionary forces, strives to intensify people’s struggle to put an end to social inequity and repression that spawn grave violations against civil and political rights. The people’s struggle for basic human rights also include the right to basic necessities, such as decent food, shelter and clothing; freedom from fear; and the right to enjoy an atmosphere of peace. Even UN Raporteur on Human Rights Philip Alston said that the reactionary bourgeois state, through its mercenary AFP, PNP, paramilitary forces and the so-called private armies, is the biggest human rights violator in the Philippines.

In recent past, the most vicious human rights violations were committed in the last nine years under the reign of the US-Arroyo regime. During this time, the US-Arroyo regime’s suppression campaign OBL 1 (2001-2006) and 2 (2007 –June 2010) gave rise to human rights violations, especially in Mindanao, against millions of people, Moro and non-Moro alike, in cities and in the countryside, which include indiscriminate killings, arson, torture, rape, enforced disappearances and the massive dislocation of communities.

Extra judicial killings committed with impunity under the US-Arroyo regime came to a staggering more than 1,200 lives of activists, lawyers, media workers and church leaders snuffed out. In Mindanao, 103 individuals in the Southern Mindanao Region have fallen victim to summary executions; 34, in North East Mindanao; 31, in North Central Mindanao; and, 32 in the Western Mindanao Region.

The Moro people, who are currently waging a battle for the recognition of their right to self-determination, have also been targets of extra-judicial killings, where under Arroyo’s reign of terror, 147 Moro died of summary killings in predominantly Moro areas, which brings to a total of 336 individuals felled by summary executions in Mindanao. The most grievous and grizzly of human rights violations happened right smack in Moro land when the Ampatuan warlords, sired and cultivated by Arroyo, mercilessly massacred 58, including journalists and lawyers. The combined reign of terror in the name of counter-insurgency of both the Estrada and Arroyo regimes have caused unimaginable economic, psychological, and social dislocation of millions of people in Mindanao.

Despite Mr. Aquino’s rhetoric of ending human rights violations, the first 5 months (June – October) alone of his regime took, summary execution style, the lives of 20 individuals, including activists and journalists. Particularly in Mindanao, 3 have already perished through extra-judicial murders in Southern Mindanao and 2 in the North Central Mindanao Region. And, the extension of OBL until end of 2010 saw the displacement of numerous peasants from the countryside because of massive military offensive operations, particularly in the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Compostela Valley, and in certain Moro areas. Worse, it failed to hold these criminals behind bars!

We have to be aware that these human rights violations have always been an inseparable component of counter-insurgency suppression campaigns, which have elicited massive local and international public outcry, rage, and mounting protests in cities and urban centers across the country and the world. Alarmingly, all indications tend to show that the US-Aquino regime carries the same contemptuous attitude and policies of the previous regimes as regards human rights.

Now that the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines is unstoppably marching forward in spite of the brutal suppression campaign of all previous regimes, we can expect that human rights violations would even exacerbate, especially so that the new suppression campaign hatched by the US-Aquino regime is patterned after the counter-insurgency (COIN) guide of its US imperialist master. The AFP, the proven biggest human rights violator in the country, has ironically presented themselves as the biggest human rights advocate in the guise of the Community Organizers for Peace and Development (COPD) rehashed from the dreaded special operation teams (SOT).

Human rights violations have been inflicted against the people for the protection of the selfish economic interests of the ruling class and their imperialist masters, as seen in the violent suppression of the peasant struggle for genuine land reform, of workers’ rights to just wages and to form unions, of students’ right to education, of the Moros’ and Lumads’ right to self-determination, and of the entire nation against US imperialist intervention. The worst manifestation of this was the Mendiola and the Hacienda Luisita massacres, where the peasants’ aspiration for land ended brutally in the name of the Cojuanco-Aquino clan to which the “icon of democracy,” Cory Aquino, and Noynoy belongs. Recently, we witnessed the violent dispersal of protesting kuliglig drivers as well as of students in Manila. In Mindanao, the suppression of workers’ basic rights continue in Filipinas Oil Palm in Agusan del Sur, DoleFil in South Cotabato, and in other local enterprises.

The recent breakthrough with regard to the formal resumption of talks between the GRP and the NDFP gives the people something to look forward to, hoping that the GRP would honor previously mutually-signed agreements, and take positive gestures, such as releasing all political detainees and prosecuting immediately under its judicial system human rights violators with cases lodged in the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee.

The NDFP-Mindanao enjoins the people to unite in exposing and opposing the current regime’s fascism, which breeds and inflicts the most vile human rights violation against the populace. The people must demand and fight for justice for the victims of human rights violations, and press the US-Aquino regime to honor and implement the human rights provisions stipulated in the CARHR-IHL.

Genuine justice can only be attained when the three basic problems of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism are crushed, and the people’s democratic revolution is victorious!

Justice for the victims of the Mendiola massacre and Hacienda Luisita Massacre!
Justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre!
Justice for all victims of extra-judicial killings!
Justice for all victims of social injustice!
Onward with the people’s struggle for national freedom and democracy!

(Sgd.) Ka Oris
Spokesperson
NDFP-Mindanao

 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
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PRESS RELEASE
December 10, 2010

Scientists group AGHAM calls for justice for Leonard Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo!
End impunity! Justice for all victims of human rights violations!

Scientists group AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) joins the country in celebrating the International Human Rights day by adding its numbers to a human chain along Espana and Morayta.

Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of AGHAM, said that they joined the commemoration especially since the recent killings of botanist Leonard Co and his companions, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo in Kananga, Leyte.

" We are reminded by the killings of Leonard Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo that rampant violations of human rights all over the nation continues even as we celebrate the 62nd year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) today," noted Dr. Tapang.

Leonardo Co, renowned conservationist and botanist in the country, along with forester Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo was killed by elements of the 19th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army in November 15, 2010. The research team was fired upon while they were conducting a tree biodiversity research in the Manawan-Kananga Watershed in Leyte. A fact-finding mission led by AGHAM found that found no indications of any crossfire in the area as alleged by the military.

Dr. Tapang further pointed out that Julius Borromeo who was shot in the chest during the incident could have lived had the military unit provided immediate medical attention and hospital treatment to him.

"This delay in denying medical attention to Julius Borromeo prolonged his agony and ultimately led to his death", said the physicist Tapang.

"This kind of impunity is not an isolated incident. The Oplan Bantay Laya II which continues to be implemented today created this climate of impunity that encourages warlords and the AFP to shoot first and ask questions later. This has led to multiple killings such as the one in Maguindanao and now the massacre of Leonard Co and his companions in Kananga, Leyte", said Dr. Tapang.

Dr. Tapang noted that the value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that it makes human rights a set of specific obligations of the governments that have subscribed to it.

"In commemorating the 62nd year of the UDHR, we hold the current administration to respect, protect, and fulfill their obligations and stop the impunity that has destroyed lives and communities in the country", concluded Tapang.###


REFERENCE:
Dr. Giovanni Tapang, 0927.5736714
--
Make science and technology serve the people!
ADVOCATES OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PEOPLE (AGHAM)
P.O. Box 268 Araneta Center 1135 Cubao
Quezon City Philippines
T: +63 2 4343173 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +63 2 4343173 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
F: +63 2 9209099
URL: www.agham.org

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JUSTICE FOR LEONARD CO! Movement will join the nation in commemorating the December 10 International Day of Human Rights!

Together with different sectors, the JUSTICE FOR LEONARD CO! Movement will be one in the call to respect and defend human rights, and prosecute all violators and perpetrators of human rights violation. END IMPUNITY NOW!

See you in Morayta, Espana Dec10, 130PM, as we will form part of the human chain for justice! March to Mendiola follows at 4PM. Wear your justice shirt, or organizational/white shirt. Bring banners and poster calling for justice! Call us for details at 0949-8176205.

--
Make science and technology serve the people!

ADVOCATES OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PEOPLE (AGHAM)
P.O. Box 268 Araneta Center 1135 Cubao
Quezon City Philippines
T: +63 2 4343173
F: +63 2 9209099
URL: www.agham.org
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ISABELA ECUMENICAL CONFERENCE [IEC]

STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2010

On the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 2010, we, representatives of various churches in the Province of Isabela, met in prayer and dialogue at the Our Lady of Atocha Parish, Alicia, Isabela on November 8, 2010, and affirmed our ecumenical partnership to uphold and support the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every human person. We condemn human rights violations of all forms and call on Government of whatever nation to apply the full force of the law to perpetrators even as we call these to repentance and penance.

We acknowledge in sadness that religion sometimes is misused in ways which violates human rights of man, woman, and child. Even so, we of different faith traditions, came together in unity to assert that religion continues to be and must be a primary source of inspiration for promoting and defending human rights. We claim these words of Sacred Scripture:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created male and female he created them”. (Genesis 1:27)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27);

We recognize our responsibility towards our Christian faithful and to the peoples of the world at large, and reaffirm our commitment to take all necessary steps within our local churches, towns, and barangays, and in co-operation with progressive people’s organizations and civil society, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone regardless of religion or belief. We do our share in Isabela encouraged by others with the same concern and mission all over the world.

We are saddened that some of our pastors, priests, nuns, lay workers, and members have been subjected to various human rights violations. We remember well those illegally arrested, detained and tortured, or still missing. We remember our martyrs in the cause of justice and human rights – like, the Rt. Rev, Alberto Ramento (IFI), Fr. William Tadena (IFI), Fr. Cecilio Lucero (RC), Ptr. Andy Pawikan ((UCCP), Rev. Edison Lapuz (UCCP), Alyce Claver (ECP). Pepe Manegdeg (RC), broadcaster Romeo Sanchez and other journalists killed by death squads allegedly linked with the military.

Then there are those are facing criminal charges without benefit of due process. We remember torture victims Rev. Berlin Guerrero, Albert Teredanio, James Balo (ECP) missing till now, and many others of so-called counter-insurgency programs. We remember Dr. Alex Montes (UCCP) and his fellow health workers (Morong 43) still under detention. We remember violations of rights of workers and peasants by big business and big merchants. Amnesty International has listed many victims of different countries.

We are frightened that, in town and country, church people and common tao linked with cause-oriented groups or movements are subjects for surveillance, for arrest, and even for summary execution. Still we and our communities, in joy and hope, keep the faith and claim the power of our Lord Jesus Christ to help us build his reign on earth. The gates of hell shall not prevail.

On the occasion of the 62nd Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, in the spirit of prophets of justice, peace, and care for the earth, we cry out with one voice:

STOP HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!

UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY OF PERSON AND COMMUNITY!

RESPECT, PROMOTE, AND DEFEND LIFE!

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, SERVE THE PEOPLE!

For the Isabela Ecumenical Conference:

Most Rev. Joseph A. Nacua, OFMCap, D.D.

Rt. Rev. Alexander Wandag

Bishop Elorde Sambat

Co-Chairpersons: Most Rev. Joseph A. Nacua, OFMCap, D.D. (Bishop, RC Diocese of Ilagan); Rt. Rev. Alexander Wandag (Bishop, ECP Diocese of Santiago; Rt. Rev. Ephraim Fajutagana (OIC Bishop, IFI Diocese of Santiago); Rev. Joshua Cuarteros (Bishop-elect, IFI Diocese of Santiago); Rev. Elorde Sambat (Bishop, UCCP NL Jurisdiction)

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Unity Statement on Human Rights

4 December 2010

By the Religious Discernment Group

We, Religious Sisters, Brothers and priests have gathered together at UST this Sat. Dec 4, to discern our prophetic role in promoting and defending human rights. Aware that the Social Doctrine of the Church holds this role as (an intrinsic part of her religious mission (Compendium #159), we followed the process of “see, judge, act”. We analyzed (listened to the) human rights situation both from the perspective of (the) Government and non Government organizations involved in the defense of human rights. We shared the anguish of victims and their families who had suffered because they dared to stand for truth and freedom. We remember particularly the 29 church workers who have been the victims of extrajudicial killings and others who have suffered torture, harassment and false charges.

We were appalled by the fact that under the (new) Government of President Aquino, there has been on average one extra judicial killing per week. The number of sectoral leaders, particularly peasants, jailed on false charges has continued to increase. Until now, the Morong 43 remain in jail despite even the President himself referring to their arrest as fruit of the poisoned tree. The case of the Ampatuan massacre continues at snail’s pace with witnesses disappearing or (being) killed. There has been no action on the numerous cases of corruption alleged against the former President Arroyo. To this day, not a single perpetrator of human rights abuses has been convicted, in itself an indictment of a government that claims ang daan Matuwid as its mandate. The culture of impunity that began with the Arroyo Government continues to undercut any talk of democracy. It disregards the dignity of the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God.

We are bothered that President Aquino has not called off Oplan Bantay Laya and is now actually endorsing a new counter insurgency program. The travesty of human rights violations will just continue. There will be no justice, freedom and peace for our people until the Government take the welfare of the people, especially that of the urban and rural poor instead of the interests of local elites and large foreign corporations, as the starting point for all development policies.

Remembering the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as our self (Deut. 6:4-5; Mk 12:29-30) we reflect on the words of John: “he/she who does not love his/her brother or sister whom he/she has seen, cannot love God whom he/she has not seen” (1John 4:20). John challenges us further: “let us not love in word and speech but in deed and truth” (1 John 4:18). As we discern within the framework of see/judge/act, we commit ourselves to the protection and promotion of human rights as part of our religious mission. We commit to work for the release of the Morong 43 and all political prisoners. We shall continue to lend our voices and efforts to see that the perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice. We stand with those who speak for truth against all forms of injustices and graft and corruption. We ask the Government to abandon plans to implement Oplan….but rather to resume peace talks with the NDFP and MILF to ensure that the roots of injustice are stamped out.

We are taught: “The church trusts above all in the help of the Lord and his Spirit who, poured forth into human hearts, is the surest guarantee for respecting justice and human rights, and for contributing to peace. The promotion of justice and peace and the penetration of all spheres of society with the light and leaven of the Gospel have always been the object of the Church’s efforts in fulfillment of the Lord’s command” (Compendium 159). As religious and priests who believe in God’s redeeming love. There can be no more compelling reason to proclaim and defend human rights than the call to bear witness to our baptism. We have the duty to uphold the sanctity of life.

Religious Discernment Group Convenors,

Fr. Wilfredo Dulay,MJ Sr. Ailyn Binco,RGS
Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, Jr.,OP Sr. Pat Fox, NDS
Fr. Gregorio Obejas, OSM Sr. Angelita Navarro, ICM
Fr. Tito Maratas, MSC Sr. Rebecca Pacete,MMS
Fr. Joselito Sarabia,CM


 

     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada NEWS FLASH

Friday, December 10, 2010: INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

Manila, Philippines: CHARGES AGAINST MORONG 43 TO BE DROPPED

Today President Aquino ordered the immediate withdrawal of charges against the 43 health care workers (the Morong 43) who have been imprisoned in the Philippines since February 6, 2010. We hope this means that the 43 health care workers along with the two babies born in custody will be released before Christmas. “This represents the President’s commitment to respect human rights and to uphold the rule of law, a commitment that will be consistent regardless of the parties’ political affiliations,” said the official making the announcement.

LRWC work, done in cooperation with other NGOs around the world, was one of the factors contributing to this happy result. LRWC’s recent work on the Morong 43 case included: a/ a prison visit to 37 of the imprisoned health care workers on Sept. 20th; b/ a letter /legal brief to President Aquino, Secretary of Justice de Lima and the Human Rights Commission Chair, outlining a variety of due process violations and the remedies required on Sept. 29; c/ a visit with the Vice-Consul in Vancouver on Nov. 9th. As a token of concern for the plight of the two infants born in custody, LRWC recently sent a gift of moccasins and blankets from the Yukon Territories .

LRWC’s analysis of the legal remedies triggered by the illegality of the Morong 43 arrests, searches and in-custody treatment coupled with the denial of timely access to counsel got good coverage on Philippine television and in print media.

Thank you to those who worked on this file and to all of you whose fees and donations enabled the research and the LRWC September trip to Manila .

Thanks also to the Bear Paw Music and Gifts, a store owned by First Nations people in Whitehorse , Yukon Territories (YT) who donated the blankets and to the Tutchone people of Beaver Creek , YT who made the moccasins.

Friday, December 10, 2010
 

     
           
     
     
     

Tagbilaran,  Bohol

Photos courtesy of Karapatan - Bohol

           
     

 

10 December 2010
News and Photo Release

KARAPATAN holds march-rally at UDHR’s 62nd commemoration

TAGBILARAN CITY – Around a thousand people bringing placards and streamers took to the streets of Tagbilaran City on 10 December 2010 to mark the 62nd commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

KARAPATAN – Bohol (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), a premiere human rights group with provincial chapters all over the country, spearheaded the said march that culminated into a rally in front of the Agora Square.

The march-rally was joined by other organizations including Hugpong sa Mag-uuma’ng Bol-anon (HUMABOL), Bagong Alyansa’ng Makabayan (BAYAN), Bol-anong Kahugpongan sa mga Kabus nga Nangisda ug Nanagat (BOKKANA), GABRIELA and the newly formed youth organization Kabatan-onan Para sa Kalamboan sa Nasud (KAPAKANA). Representatives from the said organizations spoke about issues concerning human rights and the demand for justice to all victims of extrajudicial killings. KARAPATAN – Bohol has documented 7 cases of extrajudicial killings in the province that victimized Victor Olayvar, Mayong Auxilio, Nestor Arinque, Leizelda Cunado, Ronald Sendrijas, Eugenio Furog and Olympio Crame.

At the rally, Atty. Artemio Cabatos, chairperson of BAYAN-Bohol, criticized the government to which he referred as a “syndicate government”, for violating the rights of the people especially by tagging them as “rebels” when they simply air out their complaints. According to him, he too, was maliciously tagged as a “rebel” by the military unit now staying in his hometown.

A barangay councilor of Brgy. Doljo, Panglao spoke about their firm stand of opposing the reclamation project in their town which, according to her, threatens their livelihood and may bring irreversible environmental destruction in the future. A farmer from Brgy. Caluasan, Dagohoy also expressed his anger and frustration to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) that forcibly converted their lands into rice paddies more than a decade ago for a promised “irrigation” that never delivered even a drop of water to their now damaged lands. From Talibon town, a fisherman lambasted the planned “red algae plantation” for bio-ethanol production within the 30 coastal municipalities of Bohol. For him, this project will cause livelihood dislocation of fisherfolks who have been fishing along the seawaters of the targeted 30 municipalities.

Unlike previous rallies, KARAPATAN infused cultural presentations during this year’s UDHR commemoration. Fisherfolks from Brgy. Doljo creatively packaged their stand on the reclamation issue into a drama presentation while youth members of a cultural group called BANSIWAG also rendered dances that interpreted socially relevant songs.###

For Reference:

Marinet Pacaldo

Research and Documentation

Contact #: 500 1034
 

     
     

Davao City

Photos courtesy of Karlos Manlupig

           
           
     
   
     
     

 

KMU hails people’s efforts for pressuring Aquino to concede w/ Morong 43

“Overwhelming support by all sectors from all over the world, exhaustive efforts in all arenas of struggle, and outstanding display of collective action pressured President Aquino to finally order the dismissal of the case against the Morong 43. We celebrate with the people and the Morong 43 in reaping the fruits of our struggle.”

KMU Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog said this as President Aquino called on the DOJ to “withdraw the informations filed in court” against the Morong 43, “subject to court approval.”

“We will continue to pressure the current administration until the Morong 43 are finally released, and all cases against them nullified. President’s Aquino’s action today was a truly delayed one. We hope the release of the Morong 43 would not be stumbled by anymore delays. The reasons for the Morong 43’s immediate and unconditional release are clear, solid and already known to the world,” Labog said.

“We hope that this will also pave the way for the progress of the cases of other political detainees, and victims of human rights violation in general. Aquino, until today, has not done anything concrete, on the long list human rights violations of the previous regime. His administration has actually added more murders and human rights violations in just half a year in office.” #

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Freeing Morong 43, easiest move for HR for Aquino – KMU

Giving the Morong 43 an immediate and unconditional freedom, by withdrawing the cases against them, is the easiest step that President Aquino can take to really uphold human rights in the country today.

This was the statement of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno as the world celebrates International Human Rights Day today.

“Freeing the Morong 43 is the easiest move for Aquino not only because it only requires him to order cases to be withdrawn, but more importantly because the reasons for the Morong 43’s immediate and unconditional release are clear, solid and already known to the world,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

“When the president, himself not an avid advocate of the Morong 43’s release, conceded that the warrant used for their arrest is defective and that incorrectly acquired evidence on the case cannot be used, nobody dared contest his statements. That’s a clear indication of the public’s acceptance of the Morong 43’s release, which makes it very easy for Aquino to act now and release them from detention,” Labog added.

Jail Arroyo, Free the Morong 43

KMU also criticized Pres. Aquino for failing to show resolve in going after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo while also failing to act for the release of the Morong 43.

It said the Aquino regime has failed to maximize other avenues to seek justice for the former president’s grave and numerous crimes against the Filipino people – such as pursuing the NBN-ZTE case in the Department of Justice, investigating cases of human rights violations through the DOJ, and impeaching pro-Arroyo Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez through Congress.

“There’s this principle which legal scholars love to quote, that it is better to set free those guilty for a crime than to imprison those who are innocent. On the one hand, this regime has failed to pursue charges against Arroyo, whom many people believe is guilty of crimes against the people. On the other hand, it has failed to set free the Morong 43, whom many people believe are innocent of the charges filed against them,” Labog said.

“A regime which does not act swiftly to correct this injustice and uphold basic human rights will surely reap the anger and protests of the Filipino workers and people,” Labog said. #
 

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AFP’s guilt by association logic on Morong 43 dangerous

We condemn Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s statement that National Democratic Front chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni’s call for the release of the Morong 43 is an “affirmation” that the health workers are indeed members of the New People’s Army.

As an organization that has also called and mobilized for the release of the 43 health workers, we from the Kilusang Mayo Uno, find the AFP’s statement both idiotic and dangerous. This “guilt by association” ill-logic simply has no basis, and everyone the military brands as NPA are hunted down and killed.

The AFP remains in a “state of denial” over its humongous mistakes in arresting, torturing and detaining the Morong 43. It is now using ill logic to justify the injustice that it committed without sufficient intelligence work and without following due processes.

The injustice that is being committed against the Morong 43 is crystal clear by now and one does not have to be organizationally linked with the NPA to call for the health workers’ immediate and unconditional release. Even lawyers, ecumenical groups, and health workers from all over the world have called for the Morong 43’s release.

It is simply the duty of all Filipinos who have at least a sense of justice to call and work for the release of the Morong 43. We understand that the NDF chief negotiatior’s call is in fulfillment of this basic duty.

It is precisely this guilt-by-association ill-logic that has been the AFP’s justification for carrying out the extra-judicial killing of more than 1,000 activists, including almost a hundred trade-union leaders and activists, under the Arroyo and Aquino regimes. The fact that the AFP persists in using this canard bodes ill for the state of human and trade-union rights in the country – a warning, no less, that it will go on attacking organizations which it thinks are linked with the NPA. #

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
           
   
     
     

Zamboanga City

Photos courtesy of Kawagib

           
     


Int’l Rights Group to Aquino: Probe Mistreatment of Detainees

“Aquino should promptly order a criminal investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment in military custody.” – Human Rights Watch

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – While New York-based Human Rights Watch lauded the order of President Benigno S. Aquino III to withdraw the charges against the 43 health workers, the group also called on Aquino to investigate mistreatment of detainees.

“By ordering the release of the ‘Morong 43,’ President Aquino is telling security forces to uphold the law for arrests and detention,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is a step toward meeting Aquino’s promises to tackle injustice and impunity.”

The Morong 43 refers to the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal by at least 300 combined elements of the police and military. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms. On Dec. 10, Aquino ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop the charges against the 43 because they were based on illegally obtained evidence.

The Morong 43 told the Human Rights Watch that at the time of their arrest, the authorities did not provide them the reasons for their arrest or inform them of their rights to remain silent or to obtain legal counsel. “Such rights are guaranteed under the Philippine constitution. Some detainees described ill-treatment in military detention, such as being blindfolded and interrogated on and off for as long as 36 hours,” the group said.

The Morong 43 have filed complaints with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against the military and police for alleged torture and ill-treatment.

“The mistreatment of detainees will only end if the abuses are also investigated and prosecuted,” Pearson said.

On Dec. 12, Aquino however stated that the military need not issue an apology to the Morong 43. “I think that’s already too much,” he said of the demand of some Morong 43 relatives that the military publicly apologize for their detention.

Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43 said that the Morong 43 are ready to file counter charges against the military. Soon after the release of the health workers, Pastores said they would talk with their clients about filing administrative, criminal or civil cases against the perpetrators of the raid, arrest and torture.

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Hunger Strike Forced Gov’t to Withdraw Charges — Morong 43, Rights Advocates

“We are happy but we are still angry. In the first place, the Morong 43 are innocent. They should not have been detained,” Ofelia Beltran-Balleta, mother of Jane Balleta, one of the Morong 43, said in an interview with Bulatlat.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — After President Benigno S. Aquino III announced, on December 10, that he has ordered the dropping of charges against the Morong 43, their relatives who were gathered at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) cried with joy.

The 43 health workers were arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal while conducting a health skills training when 300 combined elements of the police and military raided the rest house where they were staying. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, tagged as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and subjected to physical and psychological torture. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The Morong 43 had been on hunger strike and their relatives were also fasting since Dec. 3 when President Aquino announced his order.

“We are happy but we are still angry. In the first place, the Morong 43 are innocent. They should not have been detained,” Ofelia Beltran-Balleta, mother of Jane Balleta, one of the Morong 43, said in an interview with Bulatlat. “After Aquino repeatedly said ‘Let the courts decide,’ he finally ordered the dropping of charges against the Morong 43. Thanks to the international community, organizations and individuals who supported our struggle. This is a victory of the Filipino people,” Balleta said in a speech at the rally at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola bridge) on Dec. 10.

In October, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima submitted her review and recommendations on the case of the Morong 43. When asked about the said review, Aquino said the arrest of the 43 can be considered fruit of the poisonous tree and that errors should be rectified. But he said, he was leaving it to the courts decide.

After two dialogues held by relatives with Malacañang officials, Aquino refused to budge.

Supporters criticized Aquino for his refusal to act on the case of the Morong 43.

When a delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) came to the country early December and met with de Lima, the justice secretary said she would submit another memorandum to the President on the case of the Morong 43. De Lima told the WCC that she would act to have the charges against the Morong 43 withdrawn by Dec. 10 or before Christmas.

“The Morong 43 have been detained for ten months already in two camps. Still, they had to resort to a hunger strike – the highest form of struggle they could wage – before Aquino acted on their plight,” Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, one of the 43 detained health workers, said.

After the arrest, the Morong 43 were held under military captivity in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal for almost three months. The legal counsels of the Morong 43 and then Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairwoman de Lima had to push for the transfer of the 43 to a civilian detention facility. On May 1, thirty-eight detained health workers were transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa while five have remained under military detention.

Clamor, also secretary general of Karapatan, added that the ten months in detention of the Morong 43 have not been easy. He said even the relatives experienced harassment and surveillance.

“We do not owe Aquino any gratitude,” Fr. Diony Cabillas, spokesman of Selda, an organization of former political prisoners, said in his speech at the rally. “If the Morong 43 did not stage a hunger strike, they would not have been released.”

Cabillas added that former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, after assuming power, immediately released almost 400 political prisoners.

Julius Matibag, one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43 and a member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said Aquino’s announcement proves that their clients are innocent. Matibag said the DOJ has yet to file the motion to withdraw the charges. He said they are hoping that the Morong 43 would be released by next week.

Asked whether any of the Morong 43 has standing warrants of arrest for other charges – because Aquino said those who do, could not be freed yet – Matibag said, “No document has been officially submitted to the courts regarding alleged cases. Until they produce official documents, our clients should be released upon the grant of the motion to withdraw [of the information] by the Morong court.”

Matibag added that the perpetrators of the arrest and torture of the Morong 43 should be held accountable.

Release All Political Prisoners

Matibag said Aquino should also look into the cases of other political prisoners. “The Aquino administration should have a clear policy against detention of political dissenters,” Matibag said.

“There are many more political prisoners who should be released. All of them are victims of Oplan Bantay Laya,” Cabillas said. The Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) is the counterinsurgency program of the Arroyo government and has been extended by the new administration.

Cabillas said the Aquino government added 22 persons to the list of political prisoners. He said there are 369 political prisoners all over the country, including the Morong 43. Majority were arrested during the Arroyo administration.“It is only through the mass movement that political prisoners would be freed,” Cabillas concluded. (http://bulatlat.com)

 

 
 
 
 
     
     
 
     
     
     

Cebu City

Photos courtesy of Karapatan - Central Visayas

           

 

‘No Change in Human Rights Situation Under Aquino’ – Karapatan
 

According to Karapatan, there have been at least 25 victims of extrajudicial killings, two victims of enforced disappearance, 16 victims of torture, and 18 victims of illegal detention under the Aquino administration. It has barely been five months since Aquino took over on June 30.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The commemoration of International Human Rights Day this year became a celebration because of the withdrawal of charges against the detained health workers who are collectively called as the Morong 43. But still, cause-oriented groups maintained that there has essentially been no change in the human rights situation under the Aquino administration. They said it is the people’s collective action that made Aquino act on the case of the detained health workers.

According to Karapatan, there have been at least 25 victims of extrajudicial killings, two victims of enforced disappearance, 16 victims of torture, and 18 victims of illegal detention under the Aquino administration. It has barely been five months since Aquino took over on June 30.

Members of cause-oriented groups led by Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched from different assembly points in Manila toward Don Chino Roces (former Mendiola) bridge calling for justice for all victims of human rights violations and vigilance on the continuing violations.

Increasing Human Rights Violations

“We are working to earn a living then Mayor Alfredo Lim wants to phase it out. They are not only violating our human rights but also our right to live,” said Fernando Picorro of Alyansa ng mga Nagkakaisang Pedicab at Kuliglig Drivers ng Maynila (ALNAPEDKU-Manila), referring to the violent dispersal of their mobilization at the Manila City hall last Dec. 1.

Picorro said under the Aquino administration, their human rights are being gravely violated. “If this is the straight path he is talking about, then we would just take the winding road.”

Meanwhile, Giovanni Tapang, national chairman of Agham (Science and Technology for the People, not the party list group) said the recent killing of renowned botanist Leonard Co and companions Julius Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez proves that the climate of impunity persists. “We are reminded by the killings of Leonard Co and his companions that violations on human rights continue. The counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II, which continues to be implemented today, engendered a climate of impunity that encourages the military to shoot first before asking questions later,” Tapang said.

Lorena Santos, deputy secretary general of Desaparecidos, criticized the Aquino administration for offering amnesty to his father Leo Velasco. “They said that my father Leo Velasco and his colleague Prudencio Calubid can file for amnesty. Are they insulting us? My father and Calubid have been missing up to now. Besides, they are not criminals, why should they avail of amnesty!” Santos said. “My father and Calubid did not do anything wrong. They have been fighting for what is right and we would continue what they have started.”

Velasco was abducted on Feb. 19, 2007 while Calubid was abducted on June 26, 2006.

Santos said the perpetrators of the 206 cases of enforced disappearance under the past government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have not been prosecuted.

Glen Malabanan of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog (Karapatan-ST) said that after Aquino took power, the Southern Tagalong region has experienced an intensification of violations of human rights. “There are already eight victims of extrajudicial killings, one victim of enforced disappearance, and 66 political detainees, ” she said.

Malabanan also scored the intensifying militarization in the provinces of Laguna and Batangas.

Meanwhile, Rommel Linatoc of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) questioned Aquino’s sincerity in taking the righteous path when the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) could not push through. He said the Aquino administration should implement the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Both agreements were signed by both parties.

Linatoc added that the Aquino administration should also take seriously the formation of the Reciprocal Working Group for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER). Based on the Hague Joint Declaration, which lays down the framework of the peace negotiations, the CASER is the second agenda following the CARHRIHL.

US’s Hand

“There has been no substantial change under the Aquino administration, only cosmetic changes. We would continue to expose this administration’s anti people policies and we would uphold and fight for pro-people policies and justice,” former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo said during the rally.

Ocampo said that on January 2011, a new counterinsurgency plan patterned after the 2009 United States Counterinsurgency Guide (COIN) will be implemented by the Aquino administration.

“The Aquino administration is no different from the past administration. It is still under the dictate of the United States,” said Ocampo. He pointed out that public private partnership projects, conditional cash transfers are all for the interests of foreign investors and would only make poverty worse for the poor. Former Gabriela Women’s Party representative Liza Maza also said the country’s economic policy still serves imperialist countries like the U.S.

Vigilance

“The mass movement against repression of human rights by the government has won the struggle in the case of the health workers,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, national chairwoman of Karapatan said.

“Only through the unity and determination of the Filipino people would we triumph against human rights violations,” Enriquez said. (Bulatlat.com)

 

     
           
     
     
           
     

Bacolod City

Photos courtesy of BAYAN - Negros

           

 

BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN-NEGROS

Press Release November 10, 2010

Reference:

CHRISTIAN TUAYON

Spokesperson BAYAN-NEGROS

Mobile #: 09217859554

 

BAYAN challenges the Provincial Government to take action

against Extra Judicial Killings (EJK) particularly the Bayles murder

 

The umbrella organization of BAYAN-Negros spearheaded a picket protest in front of Provincial Capitol urging the Provincial Government to take necessary actions against the killings of the political activists perpetrated by state agents particularly the Philippine Army.

 

There are 41 victims of summary executions since 2001, were 33 of these came from Negros Occidental based on the data of a Human Rights group KARAPATAN. Most of the victims are members of progressive organizations who were tagged by the military as front organizations of CPP-NPA-NDF in order to justify their killings.

 

The group cited the controversial murder case of Benjamin Bayles perpetrated by 2 suspects that were later confirmed to be members of the 61st IB PA.

 

“While the case is ongoing, the military has systematically made a series of harassments to silence the witnesses of the said case,” Mr. Tuayon said.

 

Progressive organizations and Partylists have scheduled a dialogue with Gov. Marañon to ask for his help regarding the case but he seems not interested in extending support to the resolution of the controversial extra-judicial killing that will unmask the truth of a state policy of murdering activists with impunity.

 

BAYAN-Negros strongly demands to the Provincial Government to do its responsibility to protect and uphold Human Rights and stop tolerating the vilification campaign and murderous spree of the Philippine Army against activists.###

 

Office Address:: #222 Ylang-Ylang St.   Barangay Bata, Bacolod City

Mailing Address:   Email: bayannegros@yahoo.com       bayannegros@gmail.com

 

   
   
     
     

Hong Kong

Photos courtesy of UNIFIL = Miigrante-HK

           
     
     
     

 

Note: Today, on the eve of the International Human Rights Day, the HKCAHRPP held a press conference calling on the Philippine government to take concrete steps to end extrajudicial killings and disappearances, to release all political prisoners including the illegally-detained 43 health workers and to render justice to those who were extrajudicially killed including workers and peasant organizers, students, lawyers, Church people and journalists. Those who spoke at the press conference include Bruce Van Voorhis (Interfaith Cooperation Forum), Jackie Hung (Justice & Peace Commission of the HK Catholic Diocese), Necta Montes (World Student Christian Federation - Asia Pacific, niece of Dr. Alexis Montes of the "Morong 43"), Phyllis Tsang (Hong Kong Journalists' Association), Ng Koon-kwan (Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions), Doris Lee (Asia Monitor Resource Center) and Suki Chung (Labor Action China, ATNC Monitoring Network). Norman Uy Carnay of BAYAN Hong Kong read the joint statement.

After the press conference, the group trooped to the Philippine Consulate General. Upon instruction from the Philippine Consulate, the HK Police and the building security personnel initially prevented the group from taking the elevator to go up the 14th floor where the Philippine Consulate is located. Because of the group's assertion, they were finally allowed to go up after being held at the 2nd floor lift lobby for more than 15 minutes.

After short speeches from Eman Villanueva of UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK and Doris Lee (AMRC), the group submitted their joint statement which was received by the representative of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.

Below is the joint statement signed and endorsed by Hong Kong-based and overseas organisations and regional institutions.

(Photos: Norman Uy Carnay [IMG_5533]; Bruce Van Voorhis [IMG_5573]; Jackie Hung [IMG_5586]; Necta Montes [IMG_5609]; Phyllis Tsang [IMG_5590]; Ng Koon-kwan [IMG_5614]; Doris Lee [IMG_5630]; Suki Chung [IMG_5644]; Eman Villanueva [IMG_5695])


** Apologies for cross-posting **

Joint Statement
9 December 2010

For reference: Bruce Van Voorhis (9492-3064)
Doris Lee (9862-1736)
Jackie Hung (9268-1803)
Eman Villanueva (9758-5935)
Convenors, HKCAHRPP


Justice for the victims, justice for the people!
Condemn the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Philippines

Hong Kong people from various professions and affiliations - legislators, workers, church people, journalists, health workers, students, women, migrant workers and human rights advocates - are one in expressing dismay and condemnation for the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines.

The hope of a more just and peaceful society that is free from the prevailing culture of impunity is getting dashed rapidly.

It is alarming to know that based on the report of the human rights group Karapatan, the number of victims of extrajudicial killings for the first four months of the Aquino administration is even higher than the recorded killings during the last six months of the Arroyo government. Not only have there been no concrete advances in bringing to justice the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses of the past regime; the new government is fast appearing to fare no better in terms of upholding human rights.

The recent case of the killing of respected and renowned botanist and environmentalist Leonard Co on November 15 has shown how atrocious the killings are in the Philippines. Without doubt, disrespect to life and the country’s own legal processes still pervade the Philippine military shown also by the slow-paced delivery of justice to the journalist and civilian victims of the Maguindanao Massacre.

The numbers – more than 1,000 victims of extrajudicial killings and hundreds more of enforced disappearance from the previous government – keep piling up and there is no clear resolution in sight. Repression is still rampant especially against trade unions, people’s organizations and activists including church people and progressive parliamentarians.

The illegally arrested health workers collectively known as the Morong 43 is also a cause of grave concern. Despite the report of Department of Justice Sec. Leila de Lima showing the irregularity of the arrest and President Aquino’s own admission of problems in the conduct of the arresting party, the 43 still languish in jail. Two women, Carina Judilyn Oliveros and Ma. Mercedes Castro, have already borne babies but they still have not yet been released even on humanitarian grounds.

The case of the Morong 43 shows that trumped up charges are still being used to intimidate, harass and criminalize activists. To date, hundreds of men and women political prisoners languish in jail including personnel involved in the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. In particular, the repression of trade unions and peasant and labour activists, such as of the Toyota and Nestle union leaders in Southern Tagalog, contributes to continuing extreme wealth inequality and poverty overall, as workers are unable to exercise their due collective bargaining rights but must suffer intolerable wages and working conditions.

People of Hong Kong have not escaped the low regard to the right to life of the armed forces of the Aquino government. The August 23 tragic bungled hostage rescue operation is still fresh in the hearts and minds of the Hong Kong people. The people of Hong Kong have been themselves victims of what activists, oppositionists and civilians continue to face.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, people from all walks of life in Hong Kong come together to demand the Aquino government to:

1. Immediately release the Morong 43 and all political prisoners
2. Prosecute perpetrators of gross human rights violations and stop the culture of impunity
3. Order the military to surface activists they have forcibly taken to their custody
4. End all forms of repression of trade unions and labour activists
5. Actively pursue the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Stop the killings! Surface the disappeared! Free all Political Prisoners!
Uphold human rights and promote peace in the Philippines!

09 December 2010


Signed:

Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP)
Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asia Pacific Youth and Students Association (ASA)
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Asian Transnational Corporation (ATNC) Monitoring Network
Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS)
BAYAN Hong Kong
Cordillera Alliance Hong Kong
Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU)
GABRIELA Hong Kong
Hong Kong Christian Institute
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)
Iglesia Filipina Independiente HK Fellowship
Interfaith Cooperation Forum
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese (HKJP)
Labor Action China
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
World Student Christian Federation – Asia Pacific (WSCF-AP)

Endorsed by the following groups overseas:

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), the Philippines
Korean House for International Solidarity
National Free Trade Union, Sri Lanka
Solidarity of Cavite Workers, the Philippines
Support Group for TMPCWA, Japan
Thai Labour Campaign, Thailand
The Progress Union, Sri Lanka
Yokohama Action Research Center, Japan

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of
Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines
c/o ASA, No. 4 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 98105070, 97409406 Fax. (852) 27354559
E-mail: hkcahrpp@gmail.com

     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
     
     

AUSTRALIA

Photos courtesy of Migrante Australia

           

 

Migrante Australia and the Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP)

Support Morong 43

 

10 December 2010, Sydney, Australia

 

Members of Migrante Australia and Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines supported the hunger-strike of the Morong 43 by fasting daily from December 6 and culminated on December 10, International Human rights Day..

 

With worldwide support, the campaign for the release of the Morong 43 reached its first step to success.  Right on December 10, the Philippine President Noynoy Aquino has directed the Philippine Department of Justice (DoJ) to withdraw the charges against the Morong 43. But this has yet to be realized.

At the Migrante Sydney Neighbourhood Association Christmas party last Saturday one member, David Crotty of the solidarity group the Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP) explained that he supported the hunger strike of the Morong 43 by fasting from December 6 till Dec 10. He explained that the Morong 43 is a group of health workers, mostly young people, undertaking training in Morong, a town south of Manila, Philippines. This training was part of a course for community health workers. While in training, the Philippine military arrested them. 

 

The arrest violated the principles of the Philippines constitution. On the article by an academic and Australian lawyer Gill Boehringer stated: “any evidence discovered in the raid was “fruit of the poisoned tree” and could not be used as evidence against the 43 “.  In a country like Australia they would have been released a long time ago or more likely not arrested in the first place. Yet, here they are still held in prison after 10 months.

 

The people at the party also listened to Maria Elena Ang, a member of Migrante as she described her experience as a political prisoner during the time of Marcos. During that time she also participated in a hunger strike. She described how the body uses any fat available to it in order to survive. When the stores of fat are used up the body begins to break down and use the protein of its own muscles. It was a terrible picture that she painted of a hard experience. And yet it was worth it in the end. Marcos conceded to their demands.

 

After hearing these stories, people gave generously to the appeal. On the night, twenty one  people  gave donations amounting to  $135.  One person sponsored David Crotty $2 per day of his fast. Another person donated $5 per day. David’s fast lasted six days and ended Friday, the 10th of December 2010, with the news that the charges against the Morong 43 had been dropped.

 

The total amount raised was $AUS 187 or about Php 7480.

 

Migrante Australia sent this money to Karapatan (National Alliance of Human Rights Advocates of the Philippines) in Manila who passed it to the Free the Morong 43 Campaign. Many of the Morong 43 have families to support and were unable to do this for the last 10 months while they were in prison. In fact, the stress and hardships on the families of Morong 43 were greater as they had to struggle to support their imprisoned breadwinner.

At the end the week (10 December 2010), in the fading light of Friday evening, members of Migrante Australia in Sydney held their fasting and vigil near the steps of Sydney Town Hall. Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines had also distributed a statement at the vigil. The fasting –vigil was held in solidarity with the Morong 43. Only that day, President Aquino had ordered the Department of Justice to withdraw the charges on the Morong 43. But the vigil went ahead anyway. Based on the history of the case so far, we know we must continue our campaign until we hear that the Morong 43 have been released and justice has been accorded to them.

 

The Migrante Australia members who participated at the fasting and vigil were: Lingap Migrante (Migrants’ Aid), Migrante North, Migrante Sydney Neighbourhood Association and the Philippines-Australia Women’s Association (PAWA).

 

Report written by:

David Crotty – member, APDP (Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines)

     

On Friday, 10 December 2010, Migrante Australia and the Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines in Sydney protested near the steps of Sydney Town Hall against the continuing detention of the Morong 43.

 

     
     

NSW Police talked to Jane Corpuz-Brock a member of Migrante regarding the Notice for the hunger strike vigil held near the Sydney Town Hall. The police found everything to be correct and the peaceful protest finished at 8pm.

In Australia people are confident that due process will be followed. The fact that due process seems to have been ignored is the main reason that people in Australia find the case of the Morong 43 so shocking.

 

     

Southern California

Photos courtesy of Bayan ISA

           

BAYAN USA Southern California International Human Rights Day picket at the Philippine Consulate to Free the 43!

Terrie Cervas, GABRIELA USA Vice Chair, speaks at the event
 

 

 

US-backed P-Noy is No Champion of Human Rights
December 9th, 2010

News Statement
December 10, 2010
Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA
Email: chair@bayanusa.org

Aquino’s Non-Resolution of Philippines’ Human Rights Crisis Serves US Foreign Policy

In commemoration of the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN USA would like to call international attention to their disappointment in Philippine President Benigno “P-Noy” Simeon Aquino III for his failure to act decisively towards resolving the ongoing human rights crisis in the Philippines.

Rather than working to fulfill his campaign promises to the Filipino people, Aquino has spent the past 5 months prioritizing the fulfillment of his promises made to the US government and to multi-national corporate investors to further liberalize the Philippine national economy and territory to accommodate their interests.

If the first 160 days of the Aquino administration are any indicator, the Filipino people can be certain the campaign of unabated extra-judicial killings, abductions, illegal detentions, and torture of civilians throughout the country by its security forces unleashed by the previous Arroyo administration will continue under the current presidency.

Like Barack Obama, the romanticized hype over Aquino’s candidacy and electoral win are slowly being replaced by a steady flow of political doublespeak on critical issues. One of the vilest examples of this can be seen with the case of the Morong 43 healthworkers, who are now in their 10th month of illegal detention under the Philippine military’s custody. After publicly acknowledging irregularities with the raid, arrest warrant, and even so-called “evidence” gathered against the 43 last February by the Philippine National Police and Philippine military, Aquino not only essentially washed his hands of the case by leaving it to the courts to decide on their fate, he beefed up the country’s military budget by an unprecedented 81%.

Unprecedented Military Spending for Counter-Insurgency Operations

The P1.64 trillion military budget proposal of the Aquino government for 2011 is a staggeringly massive amount inclusive of $434 million granted by the US State Department via the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Per the US military’s new Counter-Insurgency (COIN) guide, this amount will be dedicated to strengthening the very structural framework responsible for country’s continuing human right crisis– the national counter-insurgency plan known as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).

Though touted as a campaign to end the armed rebellion in the countryside, OBL has earned the scrutiny of international human rights monitoring groups for its baseless directive of targeting progressive and outspoken people’s organizations, party-lists, advocates, institutions and even social service providers such as the Morong 43 for being so-called “communist fronts.”

Under Aquino, 22 assassinations of civilians have been added to the piling list of extra-judicial killings and there remains 393 political prisoners throughout the country. Over 300 days have passed since Aquino promised to redistribute his family’s Hacienda Luisita to its tillers. Not a single arrest has been made to answer for the thousands of documented cases of killings and abductions under the Arroyo government, including Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre, as well as the abduction and torture of Filipina-American human rights advocate Melissa Roxas by military elements.

Aquino’s decision to extend and enforce OBL, despite its many critics, aims to choke off the strong nationalist movement in the Philippines that frustrates US foreign policy interests in the region. With Aquino’s help, the US government is working towards an official re-establishment of a permanent US military presence in the country. Like Arroyo, Aquino is committed to ensuring the terrorizing Bush Doctrine principles are applied to the Philippines in order to advance US geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific region, key to which is an all-out war campaign to bail-out the world’s wealthiest countries and financial oligarchs from the worst economic crisis in history.

Already the US government’s hand in the military provocation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and rivaling superpower China spells plans for a US war offensive in the region that would not only bully and advance US trade interests in the region, but necessitate a large, permanent and reliable US military station in the Philippines.

Human Rights & People’s Solidarity

With the burden of the global economic crisis breaking the backs of people both in the US and the Philippines, international solidarity between movements to hold governments accountable for increased public spending towards war and human rights violations rather than for jobs, education, healthcare, and other social services must be forged.

Since 2005, BAYAN USA has been campaigning with allies in the US to cut US military spending in the Philippines and for the withdrawal of US troops in from the region. These efforts in the US are in solidarity with those in the Philippines risking their lives everyday at the frontlines of a growing democratic movement to alleviate the Filipino people from their daily agony of poverty, landlessness, joblessness, and hunger amidst US-funded counter-insurgency and political repression.

BAYAN USA firmly believes that communities in the US play a role in the struggle for human rights in the Philippines by holding the Obama administration accountable for its actions in the Philippines, just as the Filipino people must hold the Aquino administration accountable for its broken promises and subservience to foreign dictates. The ongoing culture of impunity in the Philippines beckons the international community to support the Filipino people’s fight for justice for the victims of human rights abuses and the punishment of human rights violators unleashed by the state.

Free the Morong 43 & all Political Prisoners!
Scrap Oplan Bantay Laya!
End Impunity, Prosecute Arroyo!
US Out of the Philippines!
 

Southern California Immigration Coalition's (SCIC) International Human Rights Day event at MacArthur Park.

     
     
     
     
 
     
     
     

Switzerland

Photos courtesy of Migrante Europe

           
Prepararing the images to be used Prepararing the images to be used Images displayed on the Parliament Xmas tree
           

 

 

 

Creative protest infront of the Swiss Parliament during International Human Rights Day 2010

In solidarity with the commemoration of International Human Rights Day and the victims of human rights in the Philippines, and to call attention to the critical situation of human rights in the Philippines, a creative protest was mounted in front of the Swiss Parliament, by Jake Clemencio, a long-time Swiss resident and citizen and some friends. He prepared mounted images of victims of extrajudicial killings and disappearances in the Philippines on a string, and later displayed them around a Christmas tree infront of the Swiss Parliament.

Later, he wrapped himself with the mounted images, with a little help from some friends. The images came with the paper banners: Surface the Desaparecidos!, Free all political prisoners! Free the Morong 43!

Many took notice of the creative protest, including the Swiss police, who asked questions, but later allowed the artful expression to go ahead after being reminded of the significance of the commemoration (all forms of protests are banned infront of the Swiss Parliament, when it is in session).

For reference:

D.L. Mondelo
mig_europe@yahoo.com

Jake Clemencio
j.b.clemencio@bluewin.ch

     
           

 

Pinoy indie human rights film shocks audiences in Europe
By Brady Eviota, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/global-filipino/12/16/10/pinoy-indie-human-rights-film-shocks-audiences-europe

 

 

BERN, Switzerland - A powerful film on human rights abuses in the Philippines has shocked audiences during its showings here in Europe.

 

“Dukot” (Desaparecidos) tackles the reality of forced abductions and the torture and killings of political activists in the Philippines.

 

Directed by Joel Lamangan, “Dukot” stars Allen Dizon and Iza Calzado as the abducted activists, and veteran stars Gina Alajar and Robert Arevalo, among others, as parents of the desaparecidos.

 

Rio Mondelo of Migrante Europe, which sponsored the showings, said audiences in Europe were shocked at the brutality of the human rights situation depicted in the film.

 

“Especially sa mga puti, talagang shocked sila sa mga eksena ng torture, sa mga pagpatay. 'Tsaka dun sa kabuuan ng istorya ng pelikula,” said Mondelo.

 

He added: “Ang sabi nila, malayo sa karanasan nila. Hindi nila matanggap na sa bansang kagaya ng Pilipinas, nangyayari pa ang mga iyon.”
 
Walk-outs

 

He said there were walk-outs in the audience during showings in Brussels, Amsterdam and the Hague in the Netherlands, and in major cities in Austria and Italy.

 

This writer saw a woman walk out during the showing in Bern, while others in the audience covered their faces or looked down during the torture scenes.

 

A sobbing Swiss man also rushed out of the Reithalle cinema here after the showing.

 

True picture

 

But Migrante Europe and the International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines said they would continue to sponsor showings of “Dukot”.

 

The film received an “R” rating in the Philippines but has already been shown abroad, including in the United States, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong.

 

Mondelo said “Dukot” is a pioneer film of sorts.

 

“Wala pang pelikulang sa panahon ni Gloria Arroyo at ngayon kay Presidente Aquino na nagpapakita ng tunay na nangyayari sa human rights situation sa Pilipinas,” said Mondelo.

 

“Ito ang pinakamalapit na pagpapakita sa medium ng pelikula ng tunay na human rights situation sa Pilipinas, yung mag pagpapatayan, yung mga pagdukot,” he said.
 
Reality

 

Anny Hefti of the Samahang Pilipina Bern also welcomed the showing of the film in Bern. 

 

“We are just too comfortable here. It’s about time that Filipinos get active because it’s really happening. People in the Philippines are getting kidnapped and killed. It’s good that other Filipinos will be made aware of this reality,” Hefti said in the open forum after the showing.

 

“We are trying to convey to the world that in the Philippines, political killings, disappearances and violations of human rights are still being committed,” added Jake Clemencio, a Migrante member in Bern.

 

Signatures collected

 

After the showing, audiences were asked to sign a petition letter asking for the release of the “Morong 43” and other political prisoners in the Philippines.

 

The collected signatures were handed over the next day to the Philippine embassy here in Bern.

 

Mondelo said that he tells audiences in Europe that they can do something even if they are far away.

 

“I tell them, think of the power of signatures when it reaches the powers that be. They can probably ignore a hundred signatures, but not thousands of signatures,” he said. (12/16/2010)

 

 
 
   
     

Vancouver, Canada

Photos courtesy of JR Guerrero and Paco Tejeros

           
Setting up in front of the Philippine Consulate General, Dec 10th, 2010   The trills of the bagpipes help to draw the attention of the passersby to our presence and to our signs

Our Iranian friends come to support our picket for the Morong 43 and other political prisoners

 

 

The Free the 43 Committee Visits the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver

Vancouver. — The Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada) personally delivered its letter of concern to the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver early this afternoon, November 8, 2010. The Free the 43 Committee was represented by Yvon and Valerie Raoul, both members of the 2010 International Observers Mission to the Philippines, Atty. Gail Davidson, Founder and Executive Director of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Aiyanas Ormond of the Alliance for People’s Health and Erie Maestro of the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights. Vice-Consul Melanie Balisi Diano invited the group to her office, received the letters from the Committee and from Lawyers Rights Watch Canada and promised that the letters would be forwarded to President Aquino.

Aiyanas Ormond said that he and his family personally know Dr. Merry Clamor and Reynaldo Macabenta when they stayed in the Philippines in 2005 and know of the good community and medical service that they do. Valerie and Yvon Raoul shared that they visited the detainees when they went to the Philippines as independent observers of the 2010 National Elections. Atty. Gail Davidson who attended the Conference of Lawyers in the Asia Pacific in September went with other lawyers to visit the Morong 43 and met and talked with the detained health workers. All have been closely monitoring the developments (or lack of progress) in the case of the Morong 43. Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is still waiting for a response from the Philippine Government for the two letters that it had sent out.[ http://www.lrwc.org/letters2.php?aid=335]

“We want the Philippine government to know that the detained health workers have friends in Vancouver who are concerned about their situation and who are committed to helping secure their release,” said Yvon Raoul, a retired school teacher and a human rights advocate.

The group specifically made mention of the two nursing mothers, Carina Oliveros and Mercy Castro, and their two new babies who were both born in detention– and are still waiting for their release.

The Free the 43 Committee‘s letter comes in the wake of the recent Presidential order of release for some 300 soldiers and officers who were involved in uprisings against the former President Gloria Arroyo.

Vice Consul Deano promised to get back to the group on any feedback on their letter. The group responded in turn that they are willing to meet again with the Consulate General’s office to discuss the case of the detained health workers.
-30-

8 November 2010

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III President of the Republic of the Philippines Malacañang Palace, JP Laurel St., San Miguel Manila, Philippines

Cc: Atty. Leila De Lima Secretary, Department of Justice Padre Faura St., Manila

Dear Mr. President,

We, the Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada), are concerned about the continued detention of the detained 43 health workers who were arrested nine months ago, on February 6, 2010. We are especially worried about the situation of the two nursing mothers, Carina Oliveros and Mercy Castro, and their babies who were born in detention.

As President and as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, you have commented that the search warrant used by the arresting military officers and soldiers was defective. The tainted evidence as a result of this defective search warrant and the questionable search process that happened, on which basis the 43 health workers have been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives surely cannot be used in any court of law. Likewise, the forced confessions obtained by the military from the detainees by the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other violations of their constitutional, civil and political rights surely cannot be used in any court of law.

We urge your Excellency to take the decisive step and order the Department of Justice, who has already made recommendations on the case of the “Morong 43,” to file a motion before the courts to withdraw these charges. We also ask that the military officers and soldiers responsible for the torture and other violations of human rights of the detainees be held accountable for what they did and are duly punished.

We are aware of your order for the immediate release of some 300 soldiers and officers involved in military uprisings against your predecessor. Can we expect the same decisiveness and the same compassion for the detained health workers, most especially the nursing mothers and their new babies?

We ask that the charges against the “Morong 43” be withdrawn. We ask that the “Morong 43” be immediately and unconditionally released.

We will be monitoring the developments in the case of the detained health workers.

Respectfully yours,

Yvon Raoul and Valerie Raoul

On behalf of the Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada) 1230 East 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC Canada Tel: 604.224.3723 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 604.224.3723

 

 The Free the 43 Committee goes back to the Philippine Consulate General on the early evening of Dec 10th to highlight the political prisoners in the Philippines, particularly the Morong 43. On this day, the Committee learns the President Aquino has ordered the withdrawal of charges against the Morong 43 and the detainees plans to lift their hunger strike. Cognizant that this is just an order to withdraw the charges, the Committee keeps up the pressure until the detainees go out the prison doors to the welcoming embrace of their families, friends, lawyers and supporters.

 

Determined to keep the pressure on till the 43 detainees are released!

     

Yvon explaining to passersby about the Morong 43

     

Valerie Raoul  and Friends from the Iranian Centre for Peace, Freedom and Social Justice

     

Valerie Raoul of the Free the 43 Committee in Vancouver holding the sign and lighted candle

   

 

PRESS RELEASE

Reference:

Valerie Raoul

Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada)

1230 East 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC Tel: 604.224.3723

 

SET THEM FREE: A Candlelight Vigil at the Philippine Consulate General for the Detained Health Workers (Morong 43) -On Their First Day of Hunger Strike

 

Vancouver, B.C. – Around 78 people came out in the rain and the cold to support the early evening vigil for the release of the Filipino detained health workers, or the Morong 43 last December 2nd.  It started off with rousing songs of freedom and hope. The Solidarity Notes Labour Choir, composed of activists led by choir director Earle Peach, came to sing for the release of the 43. Yvon Raoul played the bagpipes, music which drowned the sound of traffic from cars and buses.  Jim Edmondson from the Vancouver-Kensington Community Singers played his guitar and sang the songs for the Morong 43, including one that he had memorized, “Bayan Ko.”

 

The crowd at the Philippine Consulate General in downtown Vancouver included members, friends and supporters of the Vancouver Free the 43 Committee, the Alliance for People’s Health, Migrante B.C., the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, the Social Justice Class contingent of the Lord Byng Secondary and other human rights advocates. Candles were lit, “Free the 43” signs held onto and the photos of the detained health workers held high or taped on the glass panels of the building.

 

Friends of the Morong 43 spoke to the crowd, the pedestrians and people waiting for their buses on why the Morong 43 must be released immediately and unconditionally.  They spoke of the illegality of their arrest and detention, the defective search warrant used by the military, the torture and other human rights violations committed on the detainees.  Valerie and Yvon Raoul who went to observe the last Philippine elections told their personal stories of meeting the detainees and their families. Aiyanas Ormond and Martha Roberts spoke of the great work done by community health workers in the poor and rural communities, and the personal friendships they made with Rey Macabenta and Dr. Clamor who they met in the Philippines.  A Lord Byng Secondary student spoke on behalf of her Social Justice class and was later joined by her teacher, Alain Raoul, who then described the “Write-a-thon” his students would be doing on December 10th. A young student from Tupper Secondary led the crowd into another round of chanting “Free, free, free the 43!” 

 

Aiyanas Ormond from the Alliance of People’s Health broke the news to everyone that the Morong 43 had just declared that they were on hunger strike – the hunger strike started at 6:30 a.m., December 3, Philippine time. That day would have marked their 300 days in detention since their arrest last February. December 3 also marks the International Day in Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

 

 The Morong 43 is made up of 2 doctors, 2 midwives, 1 nurse and 38 community health workers. There are two nursing mothers, Judilyn Oliveros and Mercy Castro; both delivered their babies in detention. There are the sick. Dr. Merry Clamor suffers from uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and infected skin wounds aggravated by poor jail conditions. Jane Balleta is epileptic and has had seizures in prison.  Both have been taken to the hospital by the military in the recent past. There are the elderly. Dr. Alex Montes and community health worker Lydia Obera are both in their sixties.

 

Free the 43 Committee members Valerie Raoul delivered a letter for Philippine President Aquino to the staff of the Philippine Consulate General.   (Please see attached letter). It had one message: Release the Morong 43 NOW!

Photo credits: JR Guerrero and Paco Tejeros

 

2 December 2010

Free the 43 Committee (B.C. Canada)

1230 East 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC Tel: 604.224.3723

The Free the Morong 43 Committee (B.C. Canada) is made up of Alliance for Peoples' Health, the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Migrante-B.C., the Vancouver Delegates from the Philippines International Observers Mission 2010, Migrante-B.C. Youth and friends and supporters of the Morong 43.

 

http://www.mediacoop.ca/video/continued-support-and-solidarity-morong-43-health-workers/5436

 

 
Yvon playing Beethoven's Ode to Joy!
Explaining to passersby who the Morong 43 are and why they are still in detention!

"Free the 43!" "Free the Political Prisoners" Paper Signs plastered at the entrance to the Philippine Consulate General

 
   
  A light moment with Mariton Pacheco of Balitang Vancouver and the Raouls

Streetwise
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Free all political prisoners!

Pundits, activists and civil libertarians alike are still speculating on what actually led to last week’s order by President Aquino, auspiciously announced on Human Rights Day, for the Justice Department to withdraw all charges against the Morong 43, a move expected to lead to the court’s ordering their immediate release from prison.
 
Mr. Aquino had hemmed and hawed interminably about what he would do about the 43 health workers arrested in Morong, Rizal just months before the end of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s term of office. They stood accused of being members of the New People’s Army who were undergoing training to make bombs. They were subsequently charged with the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of explosives and firearms.

In time Mr. Aquino publicly acknowledged that the arrest of the Morong 43 was illegal and therefore all the so-called evidence being brandished by the military were next to useless in pursuing a case in court.
Still he insisted that the matter was out of his hands and only the courts could order the detainees’ release. 

This pronouncement sat quite well with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  The AFP spokesmen continued to harp on the guilt of the 43 and to deny any illegality in the raid on the Morong seminar house and the rounding up of the health workers.  But they were in complete agreement with Mr. Aquino that only the courts should decide the fate of the 43.

Facing the government’s intransigence, the detainees undertook their ultimate weapon: they began an indefinite hunger strike.  This was accompanied by sympathy hunger strikes and fasting by their supporters including other political prisoners. 

Still, Mr. Aquino was unmoved. As late as three days before his order to the DOJ to withdraw the charges against the 43, he was quoted by media as saying “with finality” that he would leave the decision to the courts.
 
What allowed the Morong 43 to eventually prevail?  Undeniably it was their courage; the refusal of the majority to be cowed in the face of torture, threats and cajolement by their captors; and their steadfast struggle to prove their innocence that made this astounding victory possible.

Equally important, the health workers strength of spirit arose from their not giving in to selfish impulses, i.e. each going their own way and trying to save his or her neck regardless of the rest.  Perhaps being health workers, they were wont not to think only of their own well being; they were also fighting for the rights of others.

Underlying their fortitude is the reality that truth has always been on the Morong 43’s side.  The facts and circumstances of the their arrest pieced together from their own accounts and from the investigation and public hearings conducted by the Commission on Human Rights provided incontrovertible proof that, at the very least, their rights against unreasonable search and seizure had been grossly violated.

What aroused local and international outrage was the way the 43 were blindfolded, manacled, tortured and subjected to all sorts of threats and indignities the whole time that they were in military custody, all in the name of “national security”.
 
The campaign to vilify and demonize the 43 as “communist terrorists” who constituted a “threat to society” utterly failed when it became obvious that this was part and parcel of the military’s squid tactics   to cover up their human rights fiasco. 

No longer would reckless accusations that one is an NPA so easily justify the military and police practice of egregiously violating basic human rights as part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign.

The government also grossly underestimated public sympathy for these doctors, nurses and community health workers ministering to the health needs of poor and underserved communities.  The head of the Philippine Medical Association asserted that it mattered little if in the course of their humanitarian work these health workers actually treated members of the NPA since theirs is not to discriminate against patients on the basis of political beliefs.

Perhaps the case of the Morong 43 had dragged on for far too long with no indications of going away.

Perhaps, Mr. Aquino’s advisers were able to convince him that the political cost of his continuing to wash his hands of the military’s blunder was already too high while the legal remedies were quite simple and straightforward. 

After all, objectively speaking, it was the unsavory leadership of Mrs. Arroyo over the military that was on the line not that of the new commander-in-chief.

With Human Rights Day coming up, it seemed most propitious that Mr. Aquino should make the much-waited announcement that his administration was taking the necessary steps to bring about freedom for the 43.
 
Whatever and whoever convinced Mr. Aquino to do the right thing, it is entirely to his credit that he finally did so, for he could have chosen to tread the same crooked path as his predecessor.

Perhaps the more important question at this time is what Mr. Aquino’s action on the Morong 43 signifies for other victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo regime.

Of immediate concern are the more than 350 detained all over the country on politically-motivated charges, i.e. like the Morong 43, illegally arrested and charged for crimes they did not commit or alleged officials and members of the CPP/NPA charged with common crimes like murder, kidnapping, arson and robbery, instead of with the appropriate crime of rebellion. 

There are also the special cases of individuals designated as consultants of the National Democratic Front in the GRP-NDFP peace talks who are either languishing in jail or who have been forced to go underground to avoid arrest on persecutory charges invented by the Arroyo regime’s now defunct Inter-Agency Legal Action Group.  The latter include Messrs. Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and Vic Ladlad.

Not only do these cases highlight blatant violations of safety and immunity guarantees jointly agreed upon by the two parties, these constitute continuing stumbling blocks to the progress of the peace negotiations.

It can only be hoped that the impending resumption of the formal GRP-NDF peace talks may provide forthwith the favorable conditions for granting freedom to all political prisoners. #

Published in Business World
17-18 December 2010

 

 
 
 

Valerie Raoul being interviewed by Mariton Pacheco, Balitang Vancouver, and Hector, Cameraman

 
Valerie Raoul of the Free the 43 Committee
   
   
  In front of the Philippine Consulate General, Dec 10th  

 

November 11, 2010
Take two on the Morong 43

One would wish that at least part of then presidential candidate “Noynoy” Aquino’s campaign line were unequivocally true - that having been a victim of oppression under martial rule when his father “Ninoy” was kept in solitary confinement by his arch enemy, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, he knows what injustice means.

If so, then he would have empathy with the plight of the Morong 43, health professionals and workers all, who have been detained unjustly for nine months now on the basis of spurious charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The military had raided a seminar house in Morong, Rizal owned by a well-respected infectious disease expert from the Philippine General Hospital, using a faulty warrant of arrest for a person whose existence, nobody, not even the authorities, has verified up to this time

They rounded up all the participants in a health training course being given under the auspices of the non-government organization, Council for Health and Development, known for its pioneering work in community-based primary health care.

They produced firearms and alleged bomb-making paraphernalia as evidence; since these were garnered without benefit of independent witnesses such as baranggay officials, there are grounds to believe that these were planted by the raiders themselves.

The 43 were hauled off, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a military camp. They were interrogated, subjected to various forms of physical and mental torture, and kept incommunicado until their lawyers and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were able to assert their right to counsel and visitation by relatives and human rights workers.

A public prosecutor brought in by the military hastily conducted inquest proceedings (to determine if there was probable cause to charge the detainees) but did so without affording the forty-three their right to counsel.

A case was then filed with the regional trial court in Morong for which reason the Court of Appeals (CA), rejected the defense lawyers’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus, on the technicality that the filing of the case “cured” any irregularities in the arrest of the hapless forty-three.

The CA ruling is pending on appeal with the Supreme Court. Defense lawyers argue that the gross violations of the forty three’s right to due process and the flimsiness of the evidence call for the dismissal of the charges against the health workers. The defense lawyers have so far prevailed on the Morong RTC to defer arraignment of the accused in light of the SC appeal.

Meantime, despite resistance from military and police authorities, thirty eight of the forty three were transferred to a regular police detention facility. In this way, they were spared further harassment and rough treatment coupled with enticements to cooperate with their military captors.

Unfortunately, five of the detainees succumbed to the “bad cop-good cop” tactics of the military, purportedly confessed their guilt and currently remain under the custody of the military. Some of their relatives however attest to the severe pressure made to bear on them including threats made by interrogators against their family members.

Hearings conducted by the CHR under then Chair Leila de Lima were able to establish the plain truth that the case of the Morong 43 is a case of a military operation pretending to be a police action for which a patently defective arrest warrant was obtained.

Acting on raw intelligence information, the military pounced on the forty three, initially claiming that they were NPA combatants undergoing training in making bombs. Later, when it could not be denied that the forty three were indeed either medical professionals or community health workers, they amended their line saying they were NPA medics undergoing training in “combat life-saving techniques and bomb-making”.

The AFP trumpeted that the “accomplishment was the biggest victory of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign in recent years”. To underscore the point, they awarded the head of the raiding team a medal for his role in the “accomplishment”.

For the past nine months, numerous prominent groups and personalities have joined calls for the immediate release of the Morong 43. They include several former secretaries of the Department of Health; the dean and professors of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine; the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges; the Philippine Medical Association; the Philippine Nurses Association; and several lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate. International and national groups of lawyers, human rights advocates and churches have also joined the clamor.

But bottom line is the forty three are still languishing in jail. Dr. Alexis Montes, the sixty-year-old physician in the group expressed his frustration by saying that every second in jail feels like an eternity. Two pregnant mothers among the forty three have given birth. Another doctor, Dr. Mary Clamor was rushed to the hospital because of uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and infected skin wounds aggravated by poor jail conditions. The rest are straining under the weight of uncertainty and the difficult conditions they and their families are subjected to.

Justice Secretary de Lima has submitted to President Aquino her recommendations and, by all indications, these are favorable. The latter has already acknowledged that the “evidence” against the forty-three was obtained through irregular means. He rightly stated, “It is a generally accepted principle that what the lawyers call the fruit of the poisoned tree, evidence wrongly gotten, cannot be used.”

Yet Mr. Aquino chooses to drag his feet on the case arguing that it is “up to the courts” to decide.

In fact, the Executive Department can expedite the release of the Morong 43 in two ways. The Office of the Solicitor General can concur or not object to the defense petition for habeas corpus pending with the Supreme Court and thus give way to the grant of the petition. Or the justice department can order the reinvestigation and thereby reverse the erroneous filing of the case filed by its errant fiscal. The Morong court can then dismiss the case accordingly and order the instant release of the forty-three.

In contrast to Mr. Aquino’s decisive, some say precipitous, grant of amnesty to alleged military rebels, his continued inaction on the Morong 43 rankles. It is also fuelling suspicion that Mr. Aquino is hostage to the generals who object to the release in the guise of such being a setback to the government’s counterinsurgency campaign.

No ifs and buts, it’s time Mr. Aquino mustered political will on such a blatant case of injustice: Mr. President, release the Morong 43! #

Published in Business World
12-13 November 2010

For those who wish to email me their comments or queries, please use carol_araullo@yahoo.com

     
     
     
     
     
   

BONUS TRACKS

Sons and Fathersat the International Human Rights Day Rally

           
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