Immediately Free the Victims!
CPA Statement on the Illegal Arrest and Detention of Health Workers in Rizal Province
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance condemns in the strongest terms the illegal arrest, detention, harassment and intimidation of two doctors, one government nurse, one midwife, three non-government organization (NGO) staff members, and 36 community health workers (CHWs) in Morong, Rizal province last February 6 by elements of the 202nd Infantry Battalion. The victims were participating in the First Responders Training organized by the Community Medicine Foundation Inc. (COMMED) and hosted by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a respected infectious disease specialist and consultant at the Philippine General Hospital, in her residential compound. The arrest happened around 6 AM by at least 300 soldiers in full battle gear. The victims are known medical practitioners among their patients and the communities they serve and have served well. These communities have in fact been long denied of adequate health and medical services by government. The victims deserve respect and recognition for their service and sacrifice in practicing their profession for the people. Hence, they should not be subjected to military cowardice and State terrorism.
The 202nd Infantry Brigade unjustly accused the victims of being members of the underground New People’s Army, frisked, handcuffed and interrogated them while taking pictures and videos. The male victims were also blindfolded, and all victims’ belongings were taken. No search warrant was even presented until later, in the name of a certain Mario Condes charged with illegal possession of firearms. The warrant did not exactly indicate the Velmonte compound. Explosives were planted then allegedly recovered in the compound. To date, the victims are still at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal and not a single family member has been allowed to see them.
What has happened in Rizal is similar to the experience of our health workers, doctors, nurses and dentists working with the Community Health, Education, Training and Services in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE), NGO partner of CPA, in the interior indigenous communities in the region conducting health and medical services to the Cordillera communities long neglected by government. CPA condemns these human rights violations and calls for public support for the victims, who should instead be commended for unselfishly extending to poor communities their profession and training in the medical field. What government must be doing is to deliver these basic social services to depressed communities instead of deploying the military, who in turn only cause human rights violations. If such violations can be done to respected professionals, what more to common people? It is shameless how the AFP can stomach to do such, when government, taxing the people dry, deliberately fails to provide their medical and health needs. The Rizal incident is a clear demonstration of heightened State repression to the people, including progressive partylists and candidates in the 2010 elections.
As a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, international conventions on human rights and humanitarian law, we call the Arroyo government, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police for the immediate and unconditional and safe release of these medical professionals and victims, that their belongings be immediately be returned to them, and family members and lawyers be allowed to visit them in Camp Capinpin. The perpetrators must be punished and held accountable from the top to the lowest chain of command, including the Commander-In-Chief Gloria Arroyo.
The militarization of communities has escalated with the nearing elections. We challenge the COMELEC and government to steer clear polling precincts from military presence as early as now. The AFP and PNP are mandated by law to be impartial and neutral in civilian political affairs such as the elections, yet they have constantly violated this. We call on the public to be more vigilant and assertive of their constitutional rights and human rights against terrorism and human rights violations of the AFP and PNP, vote and support individual candidates and political parties with clear track-record and concrete electoral agenda on the defense of our human rights. #
End the culture of impunity and State terrorism.
Stop Oplan Bantay Laya and all repressive policies.