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statements February 18, 2009
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Not Another Day of Torture, Not Another Day of Detention! Release the 43 Health Workers!


We stand in solidarity with the 43 health workers detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal as they bear the Arroyo government’s political persecution against those who tread areas where there are no or very limited government health services to provide service to the people.  We stand by them and their families and call for the Arroyo government to unconditionally grant their freedom and to respect their rights. 

The 43 were participants of the First Responders Training sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD).  Two of them are indigenous peoples – Angela Manogan Doloricon – a Kankanaey of Sagada, Mountain Province and Ray-om Among, a Mangyan. They were abducted last February 6, 2010 at the residential compound of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal by about 300 joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Rizal Philippine National Police (PNP) headed by Colonel Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanay, Rizal and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong of the Rizal PNP.  They were arrested on a defective warrant and later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The State security forces have attempted to malign the identities of the 43 to justify the abduction, illegal arrest, illegal detention and torture they perpetrated.  The AFP and the PNP claim that these people are not healthworkers but are, in fact, members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) as if citing so means that State forces are allowed to demean the rights of these individuals.  The AFP even held a press conference last week where one of those arrested, Valentin Paulino was asked to testify to this claim. By accounts of those abducted, we believe that he might have agreed to tow the line of the AFP and PNP because he was coerced and tortured.

We denounce these human rights violations and the display of arrogance by the AFP  as shown by their defiance and disrespect of court orders and procedures after the Supreme Court granted the writ of habeas corpus for the 43 last February 12 . 

The abduction, illegal arrest and continuing illegal detention of the 43 came some weeks after Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Norberto Gonzales issued a statement vowing to wipe out communist insurgency by June 2010, at the end of Arroyo’s rule through Operation Plan Bantay Laya (Freedomwatch).  It is this national internal security policy that has unjustly labeled progressive people’s organizations such as the CHD and COMMED as sectoral fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and which led to the violation of human rights of the 43.  It is this same national internal security policy which laid the framework behind the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and assault on legal progressive people’s organizations since 2001. 

An earlier attack on a member of the health sector in the region was the ambush of the Claver family in July 30, 2006, in Tabuk, Kalinga.  Dr. Constancio Claver, Chairperson of Bayan Muna Kalinga and his family was ambushed by state security forces after being surveilled, threatened for their being outspoken on human rights issues such as the extrajudicial killing of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) leader Markus Bangit, and labeled as members of the CPP, NPA and NDFP.  Dr. Claver and his then nine year old daughter survived the incident, although he suffered from serious gunshot wounds but Alyce Claver, his wife, also a member of the CPA, was killed during the incident.  No one has been convicted of this case to this day.   

Healthworkers are not the only ones targeted in Oplan Bantay Laya but also members and leaders of peoples organizations like James Balao, founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, victim of enforced disappearance since September 17, 2008, whom we continue to search for to this day.  Anybody who is critical of government policies is declared as an enemy of the State.  The policy allows state security forces to assault people’s organizations and tramples on the very limited democratic space allowed by the government.  This should be immediately put to an end and those behind it especially President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Department of National Defense (DND) Norberto Gonzales be held  highly accountable for all these human rights violations.

Today would be the 12th day of the illegal detention of the 43.  As servants of the people they do not deserve to spend another day in Camp Capinpin to be subjected to torture and for their freedom and rights to be curtailed but should be home with their families and the noble work that they have chosen.

We therefore urge the public, especially the members of the health sector, to join us in raising our voices in protest against the human rights violations and hold accountable the State which should strongly be compelled to respect its obligations to its citizens.




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