The Haldane Society notes with concern the case of 43 health and community workers – known as ‘the Morong 43’ – currently being detained in the Philippines. The Morong 43 detainees were arrested whilst attending a training camp for health workers on 6 February 2010 when the premises were stormed by almost 300 army and police personnel. The search warrant presented by the police, which was not until presented until after they had entered the premises, was patently defective: it was not specific to the premises being searched, it was issued in a different district to where the search was to be carried out – that alone making it invalid under Filipino law – and, most egregiously of all, was made out in the name of someone who neither lived at the premises nor was present there at the time. No arrest warrants were presented which, in conjunction with the invalid search warrant, makes the detainees arrests flagrantly illegal.
The detainees are accused of being communist rebels and are charged with various offences relating to possession of firearms and explosives supposedly found at the scene. The detainees were transferred to a military compound where they remained until 1 May 2010, at which stage they were transferred to a jail just outside of Manila. Over the period when they were detained in the military compound, the detainees were beaten, intimidated, subjected to mock executions, offered bribes and had threats made against themselves and their family in an attempt to force them to confess or give evidence against their fellow detainees. It is also alleged that the evidence supposedly found during the search was planted by the police, as the search was carried out unsupervised.
The progress of the case through the Filipino courts has been protracted. A habeas corpus petition was unsuccessful at the Court of Appeal and was appealed to the Supreme Court. However at this point, seven months after the case was referred to it, the Supreme Court has still not heard any evidence and the detainees continue to languish in prison.
Haldane Society members were part of a delegation of lawyers from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers that met with the Filipino Justice Secretary, Leila de Lima, in mid September. The delegation was encouraged to hear that Secretary de Lima shared many of our concerns regarding injustices apparent in the case, and that she intended to review the case. Secretary de Lima has since given a report on the case to President Aquino. The Haldane Society hopes that President Aquino considers the report and moves to repair the injustices committed against the Morong 43, and break away from the previous administration’s dire record on protecting human rights, by doing everything within his power to have them released.
by Mike Goold