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
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