Philippine Government Orders Dropping of Charges Against Morong 43

MANILA — A hunger strike by 43 illegally detained Philippine health workers has forced the government of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III to announce, on December 10, that he has ordered the dropping of charges against the Morong 43. The Presidential order to drop the charges against the Morong 43 coincided with the International Celebration of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The health workers were illegally arrested ten months ago while conducting a health skills training last February 6 in Morong, Rizal with a defective warrant by 300 combined elements of the police and military who raided the rest house where they were staying. Under a very questionable conduct and search of the premises with no credible witnesses, the health workers were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, tagged as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and subjected to physical and psychological torture. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which has waged a protracted revolutionary armed struggle for National Democracy and Liberation against what they claimed was a succession of governments that were corrupt, inept, fascist and US-controlled puppet regimes from the time of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and now headed by President Benigno Aquino III.

The Morong 43 and their relatives and supporters had been on hunger strike since Dec. 3 when President Aquino announced his order on December 10.

Last October, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima submitted her review and recommendations on the case of the Morong 43. When asked about the said review, Aquino said the arrest of the 43 can be considered fruit of the poisonous tree and that errors should be rectified. But he said, he was leaving it to the courts to decide.

When a delegation [4] of the World Council of Churches (WCC) came to the country early December and met with de Lima, the justice secretary said she would submit another memorandum to the President on the case of the Morong 43. De Lima told the WCC that she would act to have the charges against the Morong 43 withdrawn by Dec. 10 or before Christmas.

“The Morong 43 have been detained for ten months already in two camps. Still, they had to resort to a hunger strike – the highest form of struggle they could wage – before Aquino acted on their plight,” Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, one of the 43 detained health workers, said.

Clamor also said the release of the Morong 43 should pave the way for the eventual release of all political prisoners who are victims of illegal arrest, torture, detention and human rights violations. Reports indicate that along with the Morong 43 detainees, there are 374 political prisoners languishing in dismal jails throughout the country.

Sources: Ronalyn V. Olea, Bulatlat News, Manila correspondents

 

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