SiGAW in the News: US solon asked to help in release of Morong 43


02/26/2010 | 01:38 AM

Concerned leaders and human rights advocates representing various communities in Los Angeles, California sent a delegation to speak with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s office to seek intervention on the case of the 43 health workers detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on suspicion of being New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

In a release, the groups said the delegation met with Senator Boxer’s office to deliver petitions signed by over 500 people and organizations to seek support for the demand to immediately release the health workers, who claim they have been illegally arrested and tortured by the AFP.

The workers, who insisted they were conducting a health training in Morong town, Rizal province, were arrested on February 6 on suspicion of being NPA “explosives trainees.”

Earlier Thursday, the group filed a human rights complaint through their lawyers before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (See: ‘Morong 43’ files human rights complaint vs AFP)

Representatives of the delegation urged Senator Boxer to continue her commitment to human rights by supporting the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 and to stop human rights violations in the Philippines.

The delegation included community leaders Reverend David Farley and Reverend Sandra Richards of the United Methodist Church; Melissa Roxas, who has her own harrowing tale of abduction and torture in the Philippines; Chito Quijano of California Nurses’ Association; Kuusela Hilo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan–USA and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA); as well as representatives from Anakbayan Los Angeles, Habi Arts, Sisters of GABRIELA, and Awaken!

In 2008, following a hearing in the US Senate on the human rights situation in the Philippines convened by Sen. Boxer, the US Congress voted to withhold $2 million of 2009 military aid until the Philippine government complied with certain human rights conditions, according to the groups.

They noted, however, that the Philippine government has not made any significant efforts to improve the human rights situation in their country, citing the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao, which claimed the lives of at least 58 people.

Rev. Richards, Rev. Farley, and Hilo took part in the United Methodist Church California Pacific Pastoral and Solidarity visit to the Philippines last week, as well as in the delegation that visited the medical personnel currently detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

Richards said she shared firsthand accounts with Senator Boxer’s office, including the conversations with the families of the detained workers and the forum with CHR chair Leila de Lima.

“Regardless of whether one believes that the 43 health workers are innocent of the charges, it is a fact beyond doubt that their civil and human rights have been violated. They were forced to sit handcuffed and blindfolded for 36 straight hours, were not told with what they were being charged, were not allowed to lie down or sleep, and were fed and toileted by strangers,” Richards said.

Roxas, who accused military agents as the culprits in her abduction and torture while she was with a medical mission in the Philippines in May last year, meanwhile said no human being should have to be detained and tortured for filling in the people’s need for medical assistance in the absence of government efforts.

“The situation is critical. Every day that the 43 health workers are not released, it is one more day they have to endure of pain, fear, and torture,” Roxas stated.—JV, GMANews.TV