The Morong 43, the group of health workers arrested more than 300 days ago by the Philippine government, alleging that they were communist rebels, have gone on hunger strike beginning Dec. 3, to press for their freedom.
The jailed health workers have gone to great lengths to try to convince President Benigno S. Aquino III to release them but the president, despite his own belief that their arrest was illegal and improper, has not done so, obviously because he is under pressure from the military, which would lose face if the president released the political prisoners. A release would be a repudiation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which had stood pat on its claim that the arrest was legal and that the health workers were training how to make bombs, not heal the sick.
But it is precisely because of the legal infirmity of the case that President Aquino will be tested, whether he will uphold what is right no matter who gets politically hurt. The Morong 43 now have no choice but to take the extreme measure of going on hunger strike.
Below is the statement the Morong 43 released earlier today.
STATEMENT OF THE MORONG 43 ON DAY 1 OF THEIR HUNGER STRIKE
December 3, 2010
/>Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan
Today we begin our hunger strike. This is the only course of action left us to end our continued illegal detention, there being no clear action by the government for our unconditional release.
On December 6, we will be on our 10th month in detention. We were arrested last February 6 by a joint AFP-PNP operation based on a defective warrant. We were tortured physically and psychologically, deprived of sleep, subjected to various indignities, threatened with harm, denied legal counsel for several days and illegally detained until now. Planted evidence was used and false charges were filed against us. Our human rights continue to be violated. Every day in jail is an injustice to us.
For the last 10 months, our families and friends from different sectors have never stopped working for our release. Even the international community was alarmed over our illegal arrest and continued detention. Various human rights advocates here and abroad have been unceasing in staging activities and protest actions calling on the President Benigno Aquino III to withdraw the charges against us.
The Department of Justice has conducted a review of our case. The findings have been submitted to President Aquino. The president himself has admitted that our arrest was based on a defective warrant and that “evidence wrongly gotten cannot be used.” Yet despite these findings, there are no clear indications that the charges against us will be withdrawn anytime soon.
Our action today and in the succeeding days is a call to President Aquino to simply order the withdrawal of the case against us forthwith so that we may be immediately and unconditionally released. We believe it is only fitting that we stage this hunger strike as the world observes Human Rights Week. We fight not only for our freedom but for the freedom of all political prisoners nationwide.
FREE THE MORONG 43!
/>FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!