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Release the “Morong 43”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some of the relatives of the detained health workers at a press conference on Sunday. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao /

Over the weekend, on Saturday, the military stormed the house of Dr. Melecia Velmonte and arrested 43 healthcare workers who provide important services to the vast majority of people within the area.  Bayan released a press statement stating:

This mass arrest of health professionals and health workers is unprecedented and is reminiscent of the Martial Law tactics of the Marcos Dictatorship. The so-called counter-insurgency program of the government has made everyone open targets for repression.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is also desperately trying the worn-out tactic of linking progressive partylist groups with the armed revolutionary movement. The AFP floats the blatant lie that along with guns and explosives, campaign paraphernalia of the partylist group Bayan Muna were also recovered from the site. This is obviously a vain attempt to discredit the widely-supported Bayan Muna in the upcoming May elections.

As narrated by Dr. Velmonte, those arrested were “health workers attending a training course organized by the nongovernment organization Council for Health Development (CHD).”

In line with what has been going on the past either or so years under the U.S. backed regime of president Gloria Arroyo the military accused the health workers of being members of the communist insurgency New People’s Army, illegally stormed the premises of a fellow doctor, detained them in a military center, denied access (until recently) of family members from seeing their loved ones, denied access of a team from the government sponsored Commission on Human Rights, and tortured and interrogated the health workers.

Bulatlat reported:

Clamor said all of the detainees were subjected to relentless interrogation and were deprived of sleep. “They were made to sit the whole time,” he said. “They [interrogators] played good cop and bad cop. They asked all the personal details and some tried to force the detainees to admit that they are NPA [New People’s Army] members.” On Monday, military officials said some of those arrested had confessed to being communist guerrillas and that they were willing to testify in court against the others.

Clamor said Dr. Alex Montes of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed) was forced to admit that he is an NPA guerrilla.

On Monday morning, along with Karapatan (a human rights organization) chairperson Marie Hilo, a contingent of folks affiliated with Bayan-USA and NAFCON protested in front of the Philippine Consulate and were able to have a twenty-minute meeting with the vice consul general demanding the release of the health care workers and that all there rights be respected.  Ms. Hilo was also able to give her concerns that cases like these would continue to increase and intensify as the government seeks to “completely destroy” the insurgency by the end of 2010.

Along with trying to have complete victory over the New People’s Army the government is also lumping legal political, human rights, and healthcare organizations that engage in human rights work along side of the communist insurgency.  The only crime that these healthcare workers did was providing genuine care for the people and in trying to stand up for true democracy and for human rights within their country.  Unfortunately, it seems that this won’t be the last incident of human rights abuses by the U.S. backed Philippine government during the year of 2010.

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