23 August 2010
We, the 43 health workers (Morong 43), are on a protest fast since August 21. We denounce the continuing gross violation of our human rights and the denial of the rule of law on our case. We protest the inhumane and unjust decision of the lower court to bring Judilyn Oliveros and her baby back to prison.
We were arrested last February 6 2010 while undergoing community health training. The arrest was based on a defective warrant. In detention, we were subjected to physical and psychological torture while kept blindfolded and handcuffed in the hands of the military. We had experienced prolonged torture and solitary confinement. We were denied counsel during our arrest and after 36 hours of torture. We are languishing in jail for seven months now.
Recently, the lower court denied the motion for release on recognizance for Judilyn and her baby. The decision of the lower court is utterly inhumane. Prison conditions for a baby and mother are very harsh. Aside from 23 female inmates jampacked in one detention cell, all kinds of infectious diseases including tuberculosis are afflicting us like plague. Big rats have already bitten some inmates.
We demand the immediate release of Judilyn and her baby. We ask Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III to emulate his mother, the late Pres. Corazon Aquino, to release all political prisoners as a democratic and goodwill measure.
[Below is our open letter to President Aquino.]
Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes
Carlos Montemayor, RN
For the Free the 43 Health Workers! Alliance
An Open Letter to President Benigno C. Aquino III
On the Inhumane Justice Based on the Illegal Arrest and Detention of the 43 Community Health Workers
We are the 43 accused community health workers also known as the Morong 43. We were conducting a week long First Responders Training Program co-sponsored by two non-government organizations, the Community Medicine Foundation Incorporated (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD), at the training venue of Dr. Melicia Velmonte. Among us are two medical doctors, a registered nurse, two midwives, two health educators and 36 volunteer community health workers. This training was an offshoot of the two NGO’s participation in medical and relief mission during the calamity brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.
At 6am of February 6, some 300 military men in full battle gear composed of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Rizal Provincial Police raided the venue. They blindfolded and handcuffed most of us and brought us to Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal without even showing a search or arrest warrant, nor did they wait for our lawyers. There our ordeal began and violations of our human rights continued.
We were illegally arrested based on a defective warrant. We only came to know during our first appearance that a search warrant was issued under the name of a certain Mario Condes who was unknown to the owner of the venue and their neighborhood.
We were not informed of the case charged against us by the military until after 36 hours of torture. Worse, we were denied access to legal counsel while State Prosecutor Senson in the presence of the military charged us of illegal possession of fire arms and explosives. It was only on February 11, five days after our arrest did they file the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives at the RTC Branch 78, Morong Rizal, which was a clear violation of our rights as accused.
We had been tortured psychologically and physically in the hands of the military in Camp Capinpin. We also experienced sexualized torture by the military guards by pulling down our pants and underwear when we go to the toilet. We had been kept under solitary confinement and prolonged torture.
Last March, five of our companions were forcibly taken out from their detention cells. They were threatened and cajoled offers of freedom, cash, house and lot if they cooperate with the military to be state witnesses against us. We are now on our seventh month of illegal detention with no speedy and impartial action on our filing of the writ of habeas corpus since April 2010.
In our prolonged detention, one of our pregnant companions gave birth to a baby boy. Judilyn Oliveros and her baby were brought back to prison on the basis of a denied motion for her release recognizance (for humanitarian grounds) at the RTC Branch 78 in Morong. Mercy Castro, the other pregnant detainee was not brought out for check up last July 13 or 14 even on the basis of a court order granting her check up.
We are innocent of the charges filed against us. We believe and condemn the continuing injustice and gross violation of our human rights by prolonging our detention. We are victims of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s abuse of power and her desperate egoistic drive to boost her declining credibility and power.
We strongly condemn the inhumane and unjust decision done to Judilyn by bringing her and her baby back to prison. Prison is a harsh place and unjust for a baby to get nourishment from her mother. Fever, cold, cough, and influenza and risks of being infected with tuberculosis is a continuous threat at the detention, aside from being jampacked in one cell. Big rats had bitten some of the female detainees here.
Consistent with your call for the respect for human rights, we appeal to President Benigno Aquino III for a just, humane and speedy action by releasing us unconditionally. We believe that the president understands how a violation of human rights victim feels since he and his family were witnessesn andvictims to what happened to his father by the fascist Marcos rule. We also understand how the late former President Cory Aquino had released political prisoners in the first year of her term.
Release the Morong 43! Release all prolitical prisoners!
Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor (detainee)
For the Morong 43