Morong 43 in high spirits

Manila, Philippines, November 30, 2010 – Detained community health workers collectively known as the Morong 43 are in high spirits even as they mark 10 months in jail, lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said yesterday in a statement.

“Hindi kami pinaghihinaan ng loob dahil alam namin na nasa likod namin kayo,” Eulogio Castillo, one of the detained, told lawyers who visited on Sunday, November 28, 2010.

Castillo, who considers the group as political prisoners, said they also rely on the larger social movement to secure their release. “We know that [the outcome of] our case holds implications for other political prisoners across the country,” he said in the vernacular. He also thanked the domestic and foreign groups and personalities taking up the cause of their release.

The men and women separately entertained the lawyers with songs of hope. The women also taught the lawyers their signature four claps, three stomps and chant “Free the 43”.

The Morong 43 all support the rally of lawyers and doctors set on Thursday, December 2, 2010. The legal and medical communities plan to march from Espana to Mendiola at noon, to ask the executive to drop charges against the Morong 43, on account of the illegality of their arrest and the subsequent search.

“Those of us who are concerned that fundamental rights embodied in laws whose very purpose is to protect citizens from possible abuses by the state are disregarded in such a brazen manner, must take a stand,” said NUPL secretary-general and counsel Edre Olalia.

The Morong 43 were arrested in February this year, while undergoing a health training in Morong, Rizal. A joint police-military operation, using a defective search warrant, swooped down upon the group early in the morning. The warrant did not specify the particular place to be searched.

The search allegedly yielded guns and ammunition, so the 43 were then blindfolded, handcuffed and brought to an undisclosed place where they were continuously interrogated day and night, denied their right to counsel and tortured physically and psychologically.

Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were filed against the 43 health workers five days after their arrest. The law specifies a 36-hour deadline for the filing of charges against anyone arrested without a warrant.

NUPL lawyers visited the Morong 43 after its national legal consultation on extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights cases. NUPL and the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) represent the health workers in the criminal case filed at the Morong Regional Trial Court and Metropolitan Trial Court and in the petitions they have filed in the Commission of Human Rights, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, administration ally and House Deputy Speaker Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III reiterated his appeal to release the Morong 43.

“I think that amnesty is not what they need as they are not guilty of anything.  What they need is nothing but just plain and simple respect for their basic human rights ,”  Tañada emphasized in a separate statement.

Reference:  Atty. Edre U. Olalia - Secretary General – 09175113373; Atty. Julius Garcia Matibag - 09279293089
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


KMU condemns the killing of Caloy Rodriguez, public union leader

Press Statement: 12 November 2010

We strongly condemn the killing of Caloy Rodriguez, president of the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa ng Calamba Water District or NLM-CWD, today at 5:30 in the afternoon by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Calamba, Laguna. NLM-CWD is an affiliate of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or Courage – which is a fellow member of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU – May First Movement) in the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan. Courage has been indefatigable in fighting corruption in government and militant in advancing its members’ rights and interests, thereby earning the wrath of successive regimes.

We point our fingers at the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the regime of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as the culprits behind this yet another case of extra-judicial killing in the country. The shooting and death of Caloy Rodriguez is yet another consequence of Pres. Aquino’s decision to continue implementing the murderous Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program of his predecessor and to adhere to the US Counter-insurgency Guide.

It is also a consequence of the utter failure of the Aquino regime to prosecute (former Philippine President) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her butchers, such as former General Jovito Palparan, for the grave human-rights violations that they have committed while in power. Pres. Aquino says that carrying out extra-judicial killings is not his government’s policy, but his military’s actions speak louder than his words; his military’s gunshots speak louder than his all-too soft denial.

During the Arroyo regime, we sought help from the Commission on Human Rights under Leila de Lima in condemning and investigating cases of extra-judicial killings. The current CHR chief, Akbayan’s Etta Rosales, was appointed to her post on the basis of her supposed record in defending human rights. Her refusal to fully engage with cases of human-rights violations involving activists, however, has only emboldened the military to continue carrying out the extra-judicial killings of activists under a regime that has promised “change” to the Filipino workers and people. Her statements about focusing on “lesser-known” cases of human rights violations – as compared with, for example, the case of the Morong 43 – does not at all help in the struggle to uphold human rights in the country.

Reference: Elmer “Bong” Labog, Chairperson, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU – May First Movement), +63 908-163659


CAP-CPC supports Bayan Canada rally in front of Philippine Embassy in Ottawa

Bayan Canada and supporters of the 43 illegally detained health workers held a rally in front of the Philippine Embassy on November 5, in Canada’s capital, as part of the international day of action. Representatives from the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP), and the Centre d'appui aux Philippines - Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) were also present to join in the world-wide demand for the immediate release for the Morong 43.

Building security and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP – or Canada’s federal police force) tried to prevent the rally from happening directly in front of the embassy building but the demonstrators insisted on their right to hold the peaceful protest in front of the building. A delegation was also prevented by the RCMP and building security from going up to the offices of the Philippine Embassy to submit a petition signed by 145 health professionals so the groups insisted that embassy officials come out to meet the demonstrators. Finally the embassy’s Public Relations Officer came down and the petition was submitted.

BAYAN Canada
Press Statement
November 5, 2010


Joey Calugay
+1 514-947-3662


Rally at Philippine Embassy in Ottawa to demand freedom for Morong 43

free_the_43November 6, 2010, marks the ninth month of illegal  detention for 43 Filipino health workers, a group known as the Morong 43, which includes two nursing mothers.  The Council for Health and Development, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Health Alliance for Democracy and Bayan Philippines are calling for coordinated actions world-wide to put pressure on the Aquino government to release the 43. See their appeal statement below.

We are planning to hold actions across Canada for this event.  This Friday, November 5 in the afternoon (which will already be the Nov. 6 in the Philippines) BAYAN Canada organizations along with the Centre for Philippine Concerns and other supporters will be holding a protest rally in front of the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa between 4 pm and 5 pm.  We will be presenting petitions calling to free the 43 signed by more than 140 health professionals. Volunteers for a delegation to present the petition to the Embassy are welcomed. 

We are calling on all our member organizations, friends and solidarity groups to take half a day and to come out to support the demonstration. In Montreal, we are car pooling to Ottawa and will be leaving the city by 1 pm.  For those who wish to come along please email or call me at the number below before Thursday to reserve seats or offer to drive a group with your vehicle.

We hope to see you with us on Friday, November 5, 2010.

Joey Calugay
+1 514-947-3662

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November 6, 2010 marks the ninth month in detention of the Morong 43.

On February 6, 2010, over 300 elements of the 202 Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) raided the farmhouse of Professor Emeritus of the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines, Dr. Melecia Velmonte. The AFP and the Philippine National Police arrested 43 health workers on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The state forces used a defective warrant and planted evidence to justify the arrest of the 43. The health workers were subjected to physical and psychological torture, denied counsel and visits and subjected to various indignities will inside a military camp. They have since been known as the “Morong 43”.

Bayan is calling for an internationally – coordinated action to press Pres. Benigno Aquino

III for the immediate and unconditional release of these community health workers who are now detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, Rizal.

The Philippine Department of Justice has submitted its review and recommendations to the Philippine President. The Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary Leila de Lima has indicated that her recommendations should lead to the release of the detainees.

Aquino himself has admitted that the search warrant was defective. Furthermore, the evidence “wrongly gotten cannot be used, and therefore ( cases ) cannot prosper”. However, he said that the release of the health workers will have to be sanctioned by the courts.

Despite his admission, Aquino has yet to act on the DOJ recommendations.

The advocates of the 43 have suggested that President Aquino direct the Department of Justice to file a motion withdrawing the criminal charges against the 43 before the Morong Regional Trial Court and the Metropolitan Trial Court . The courts would have no choice but to release the 43.

Aquino’s statements on the 43 comes in the wake of his granting of amnesty to some 300 rebel soldiers who were detained by the Arroyo regime. Many have asked why the detained health workers have not been released given that there is really no case against them and that their constitutional rights were violated.

Two women detainees have already given birth during detention. Judilyn Oliveros gave birth in July 2010 while Mercy Castro gave birth this October. Both are under hospital arrest at the Philippine General Hospital. Both mothers have fought for their right to breastfeed their babies.

Various well-known international organizations have sent letters of appeals to Aquino for the release of the 43, to cite a few: World Council of Churches, World Student Christian Federation, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Japan Lawyers Intl Solidarity Association, the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Canada, and many more.

Let us continue to press the Aquino regime to act to rectify the historic injustices committed by the US – Arroyo regime and to respect all the rights of the Morong 43 as well as all political prisoners in the Philippines.

On November 6, 2010, various organizations will converge at Camp Bagong Diwa where the health workers are being detained and hold a protest action, religious service and short program. Allies and supporters of the 43 health workers are expected to attend the gathering.

We appeal to friends and organizations abroad to launch actions at the Philippine embassies and consulates to press for the release of the 43 health workers. ###