House leader appeals to DOJ to withdraw case vs 'Morong 43' PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 11:08

A leader of the House of Representatives appealed on Monday to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw the charges against the 43 health workers known as the "Morong 43" and prove that "this is a government that adheres to human rights."

Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, in an interview with reporters after visiting 38 of the 43 detainees at the Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ) in Bicutan, Taguig City, said that the continued detention of the Morong 43 "really remains a puzzle."

"I'm making a personal appeal to the DOJ to finally act on this case with compassion, especially if we are to join the world in commemorating the International Human Rights Day on December 10," he said.

Of the 43 detainees, only 38 are in the MMDJ facility. The five other health workers are left in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal after they allegedly admitted having links to the New People's Army (NPA).

The 23 female detainees are together in one cell, while the 15 male detainees are confined in a separate building.

The health workers have been detained since February this year following a raid while they were allegedly attending a health training seminar in Morong, Rizal. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives under Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by Republic Act No. 9516.

They were detained first in Camp Capinpin before they were transferred to the Taguig jail in May.

"It has been more than nine months since these 43 health workers were arrested and detained using a defective search warrant. They were also interrogated without the assistance of a lawyer. On those counts alone, their case should be withdrawn," Tanada lamented.

The Deputy Speaker had earlier filed proposed House Resolution No. 703 directing the House committee on human rights to exercise its oversight function and inquire into how two recently enacted laws -- R.A. 9851, otherwise known as the International Humanitarian Law, and R.A. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law -- are being observed and adhered to by the institutions involved.

There were reports that some of the 43 detainees were tortured into admitting that they were members of the New People’s Army.

Tanada said he has been in touch with DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima about the case of the health workers and hopes that positive development would follow soon.

"We continue to coordinate with Secretary De Lima, hopefully something may happen before December or before Christmas. It would be a nice gift for the Morong 43 to spend Christmas at home," he said.