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 and 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.

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.

Joey Calugay

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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. ###

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