BAYAN Canada condemns the illegal arrest of 43 health workers in Philippines

News Release
February 7, 2009

BAYAN Canada condemns the illegal arrest of 43 health workers in Rizal, Philippines; calls on Canadians and the Canadian government to demand for their immediate release

BAYAN-Canada, an alliance of Filipino progressive organizations across the country, strongly condemns the illegal arrest of 43 community health workers and professionals in the province of Rizal, Philippines. The community health workers, nurses and doctors were attending a training course as part of an initiative by the non-government organization Council for Health and Development (CHD). The CHD has been at the forefront of relief efforts during the typhoons that devastated many parts of the Philippines, deploying doctors and health volunteers in flood-stricken areas.

Initial reports say that about 300 security forces, military and police, swooped down on the home of Dr. Melicia Velmonte, a consultant for the Philippine General Hospital. Dr. Velmonte was hosting the training course that started on February 1st and was supposed to end this Sunday. Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist who regularly opened up her farmhouse as a venue for health training with participants coming from both the communities and the academe.

The arresting officials used bogus arrest warrants and are continuing to hold in detention the 43 health workers and professionals. Dr. Velmonte is adamant that her guests did nothing wrong and that the so called evidence (grenade, fire arms, etc…) found on her premises were planted by the military to justify the illegal arrest. While military officials are falsely charging that the arrested group were known New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, they also pointed to the Bayan Muna (a progressive party-list running in the May 2010 elections) literature found at the farmhouse. This is pure red-baiting and propaganda meant to discredit popularly supported party-list groups critical of the current regime. President Arroyo (whose term ends this year), together with her military and state agents, must be held accountable for these violations of civil and political rights. President Arroyo stands to profit from the silencing of opposition with no less than 100 days before the May presidential elections.

This affair is reminiscent of the abduction, torture and interrogation of US citizen, Melissa Roxas, early last year. Melissa and her companions were on a medical mission in the Philippines when they were abducted in May 2009. While Melissa was released after six days, she can attest to the cruel interrogation tactics that may await the detained medical team. Melissa was also accused of being a member of the NPA in an effort to discredit her while she valiantly campaigned for justice against the cruel state that victimized her and many others. While the climate of impunity reigns supreme under the Arroyo administration, the perpetrators remain untouched and the human rights violations against the people continue.

BAYAN-Canada demands the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 health workers and professionals. We ask all our Canadian allies in government positions, unions, health associations and churches to apply pressure on the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa and to raise their concerns in order to ensure that the 43 individuals are safe and their rights are upheld. We are also directing our member organizations across Canada to take necessary actions on behalf of the 43 arrested in the Philippines and to hold protests where they can against the Philippine consulates and the Embassy in Ottawa

Reference: Joey Calugay, Bayan Canada, cell (514) 947-3662, email bayan.canada.noc@gmail.com

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Send letters of concern and your protest to:

Jose Brillantes, Philippine Ambassador to Canada
130 Albert Street, Suite 606
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Phone: 1-(613)-233-1121
Fax: 1-(613)-233-4165
E-mail: ambassador@philippineembassy.ca

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

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Partial list of illegally detained community health workers and professionals:

· Dr. Merry Mia, Health Education and Training Services coordinator for Council for Health and Development (CHD)
· Dr. Alexis Montes
· Gary Liberal, Registered Nurse (Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center
· Teresa Quinawayan, Midwife
· Lydia Ubera, health worker
· Reynaldo Makabenta, health worker
· Delia Ocasla, health worker
· Jane Balleta, health worker
· Janice Javier, health worker
· Franco Remoroso, health worker
· Ailene Monasteryo, health worker
· Pearl Irene Martinez, health worker
· Elen Carandang, health worker
· Dany Panero, health worker
· Rayom Among, health worker
· Emily Marquez, health worker

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