Human rights group urges Aquino to free all other political prisoners- Vera Files
On Political Prisoners
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 17:32


A HUMAN rights organization on Saturday welcomed President Benigno Aquino III’s order to drop charges against the “Morong 43” and urged him to free some 300 other remaining political prisoners as well.

The President’s directive to withdraw charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the health workers was announced on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.

It was made following months of protest waged by human rights and health organizations who said the evidence used against the accused had been planted by their captors.

The health workers were arrested on Feb. 6 during a raid conducted by police and military agents in Morong, Rizal. The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines had claimed they were communist rebels, but the group, which includes two doctors, a nurse, a midwife and health volunteers, denied this.

Emmanuel Amistad,  Task Force Detainees of the Philippines executive director, said  while Aquino’s move was “a step toward reconciliation and peace, this should pave the way for the review of all cases and the release of all political prisoners in the country.”

Amistad said the remaining political prisoners “include Muslims who are wrongfully accused and jailed for crimes of terrorism, bombings and killings” as well as suspected rebels who have been charged with common crimes. Also in detention are farmers, workers, students, human rights defenders and alleged sympathizers of rebel groups.

After his election in May, Aquino ordered the Department of Justice to review the case against the group that came to be known as the “Morong 43.” Two of the prisoners had given birth while in detention while the others were held in Camp Bagong Diwas in Bicutan, Taguig and in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

In his statement ordering the withdrawal of the charges, Aquino said, “The medical workers were arrested in the waning days of the Arroyo administration on the suspicion that they were aiding NPA (New People’s Army) insurgents. These are valid concerns. Nevertheless, we recognize that their right to due process was denied them.”

“As a government that is committed to the rule of law and the rights of man, this cannot stand,” he said.

The motion to withdraw the information against the Morong 43 will be filed Monday.  Six of the detainees, however, reportedly had other charges filed against them by the military. The DOJ said it will verify these other cases.

With the dropping of charges, the political prisoners are expected to be united with their families by Christmas.

The announcement to withdraw the charges against the health workers came following reports that the government and the National Democratic Front will be resuming peace talks.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 December 2010 17:39

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