Ecumenical Voice Brings Morong 43 Incident to the Attention of the UN Human Rights Council; urges Council to monitor RP compliance to obligations and pledges

PRESS RELEASE – 08 JUNE 2010

GENEVA, JUNE 8 – Speaking at the general debate on matters that needed the attention of the UN Human Rights Council, a delegate of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines brought to the Council’s attention the arrest of forty three health workers in Morong, Rizal last February 6, 2010. Mr. Jigs Clamor, husband of one of the detained doctors and deputy secretary general of KARAPATAN, said the health workers were held incommunicado, deprived of sleep, denied counsel, coerced, threatened, intimidated and subjected to indignities and various forms of torture.

Facts indubitably demonstrated that evidence was planted to justify their arrest before they were then summarily and baselessly branded as armed rebels by the military. “False charges that are non-bailable under Philippine laws were leveled against them…and the military avoided or questioned any inquiry into their accountability to human rights violations before the Commission on Human Rights”, Clamor said. “Legal shortcuts were resorted to and the Philippine government used a draconian Marcos-era legal rule to deprive them of their liberty,” he continued.

Clamor enjoined the Council to look into the incident, “employ appropriate measures and to urge the Philippine government to respect its pledges and commitments made during the Universal Periodic Review and its obligations to human rights instruments.” Clamor also asked the Council to urge the Philippine government to stop the practice of filing trumped up charges “else brazen impunity shall continue.”

Clamor’s intervention was supported by the CIVICUS, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Franciscans International, Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada and the Association of American Jurists.

Earlier in the day Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, delivered an oral intervention along similar lines. Speaking at the general debate on the reports of the special rapporteurs, Reyes underscored the impunity that Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan “Freedom Watch”) has wrought on Filipinos.

He appealed to the Council “to urge our government to stop Oplan Bantay Laya …as an anti-insurgency policy (as it) makes no distinction between armed combatants and civilians”. He added that Oplan Bantay Laya’s “continued implementation has caused massive human rights violations whose victims cut across all sectors of Philippine society”.

Reyes also sought the Council’s help in seeing to it that presumptive President-elect Benigno Aquino III stands by his campaign promise to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations in the
Philippines. The presumptive president-elect should neither engage nor adopt any policy similar to Oplan Bantay Laya in the future, he said. Reyes expressed the hope that the Council will monitor how the government abides “by its pledges and commitments to international instruments and to implement the recommendations that it has accepted and committed to.”

The oral intervention of Rev. Reyes was supported by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the World Council of Churches, Franciscans International, Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, the Indian Council of South America, and the American Association of Jurists.

Aside from Rev. Reyes and Mr. Clamor the other members of the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines are Atty. Edre Olalia, acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of KARAPATAN and Dr. Angie Gonzales of the International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.

The Ecumenical Voice is in Geneva for the 14th Session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. They are set to meet selected Special Rapporteurs or their human rights officers and some major international NGOs. ##

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