Friday ∗ 10 Dec 2010

why free the morong 43?

Of course the answer must only be why the hell not? But, that’s getting ahead of this story, one that’s only tragic and nothing else, because while we insist that we hold freedom and democracy dear in this country, we will turn a blind eye to the oppression(s) of others, and will for the most part refuse all rationality because they are redder than most, they are activist of the kind that we don’t like or accept.

But also it is tragic because it can only be about Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the number of activists detained, killed and disappeared under her government. It can also only be about President Noynoy Aquino at this point, because his government will want to grant amnesty to 300 military mutineers and wish them a happy Christmas, but this same government will wash its hands of the Morong 43Let the courts decide PNoy says. When exactly did we begin trusting our courts, I ask. And when did it become acceptable for double standard to be policy?

Because that is what’s obvious if we consider the silence about the case of the Morong 43. The double standard here is so in our faces, it has become white noise on increased volume.

For it can only be double standard that keeps the fight to free the Morong 43 from being a national issue. It can only be double standard if you now want to stop reading this, because you yourself think that the Morong 43 does not deserve freedom.

Because common sense points to the fact that they do. Common sense will make you say, goodness gracious, is this martial law? Because it sure looks like it: on the early morning of February 6 2010, as 43 health workers were preparing for the last day of health training in the house of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Morong Rizal, they were raided by the military. Using a warrant with a name none of the 43 health workers had, the house was searched, phones were confiscated, and the 43 men and women we’re illegally arrested.

It took days before they were given the chance to talk to their lawyers, even longer to be seen and treated by their own doctors. When later it is revealed that they were tortured, it was no surprise given the illegal detention.

The health workers have since become known as the Morong 43. They’ve been in illegal detention for the past 10 months. Currently, two of the women are in the Philippine General Hospital after giving birth while in detention, five of them are in Camp Capinpin, 36 in Camp Bagong Diwa.

The latter is where Andal Ampatuan Jr. is on tight watch for the massacre of 57 journalists in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Only the heartless would think the health workers deserve to be in the same space as someone like him.

I could go into the details of the case, give you the SEC registration numbers of the organizations that co-sponsored the health training, give you Dr. Velmonte’s CV and each of the two doctors, one registered nurse, two midwives and 38 volunteer community health workers to prove that they are not members of the New People’s Army as the military alleges, but you can – and should –go on and read about that elsewhere.

What I will say is this: if there is a valid warrant of arrest, and there are valid charges against the Morong 43 – and any other activist from pink to red for that matter – then wouldn’t it be easiest to just file a case against them and bring them to court? Why illegally detain them? Why treat them as guilty when their arrest was not only without effective warrant, it remains as a suspicion still that the 43 are members of the NPA?

Yes, the Morong 43 has been in jail for the past 10 months based on the suspicion that they are communist guerrillas. And as the military, the rightists, the anti-Left, insist that the Morong 43 – and all activists – deserve what they get in the hands of the military, the United Nations since 2007 has insisted otherwise. And right there, you’ve got the deadlock. Or the status quo.

The burden is on us who could for all intents and purposes talk about the case of the Morong 43 and show it more compassion, give them 43 more kindness. Or are we all so scared of activists these days, do we all think them the noisy minority as the Aquinos have called them? Or are we all agreeing with the military when it says that because Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front said that the Morong 43 must be granted amnesty, that this in fact makes them members of the NPA?

Except that for this to be logical it would mean saying that everyone who has called for the freedom of the Morong 43 are suspect, too. This would include: former Department of Health secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Jaime Galvez-Tan, and Alberto Romualdez plus 100 others health workers who have signed a petition to free the 43; the University of the Philippines Manila that has put up a site for the Morong 43; the 150,000 nurse-members of the National Nurses United (NNU) in the US which has called for the release of the 43, as well as the International Association of Democratic Lawyers also based in the US which has asked PNoy to free the 43. Let’s not even begin with the senators and politicians, foreign visitors and the Catholic priests via the CBCP, who have called for the Morong 43’s release, because that would only make things more absurd.

But maybe the most absurd thing here, and the most tragic, is a general disregard for freeing the 43, one that I measure across traditional media and online journalism, blogging, social networking, tweeting and everything else in between. We will blog about the Ampatuan Massacre, type in those statuses of indignation on its anniversary, feature it on our documentaries, but we won’t do it as much – if at all – for the Morong 43. We will riddle our sites with statements and statuses, re-blog and re-tweet many other things and issues, change our profile photos as soon as we’ve got new pictures, but we will not do anything – not a word – for the 43 health workers.

You know that idiom that goes not lifting a finger? Well, in the age of the internet that un-lifted finger is heavier than it seems, because it matters more. The bombardment of words, images, opinions is the name of the game for something – anything! – to go viral. We’ve got no control, and sometimes it surprises us, doesn’t it. Like when the Pinoy female FB community kept that breast cancer awareness campaign going and going by putting the color and design of their bra on their statuses. Like when the Pinoy tweeting community forced Mai Mislang to cease and desist from tweeting.

Like now, when we can spend time to Google cartoon characters for our profile pics and not put up a status for the freedom of the Morong 43. Like now, when they’ve been on hunger strike for seven days and we’ve yet to see an outpouring of support.

We have yet to. And I say this because I have hope. I have hope in our capacity at discernment and confidence in our ability to look at the facts of this case and judge it to the advantage of the Morong 43 fight for freedom. I have hope in common sense, including the sense of compassion and kindness, given the hunger strike, given the fact that only the helpless in the face of injustice would do it, aka, Ninoy Aquino. I have hope in today, Human Rights Day, and our ability to see that the detention of the Morong 43 is nothing but a violation of the human rights we should always be celebrating and holding close to our hearts.

I have hope in Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the heavens bless her. I have hope in the Commission on Human Rights changing our minds today: because they’re calling for the release of the Morong 43.

I have hope in our capacity to see that human rights must be accorded every human being, you or me, health worker or military officer, activist of every kind.

I have hope in our collective ability to free the Morong 43. As I hope, I write.

Posted in: aktibismo, bayan, gobyerno, komentaryo, media, pulahan, pulitika, sa kalye

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