December 7, 2010

For reference: FR. DIONITO CABILLAS, Secretary General, SELDA (09175965859)

The Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of former political prisoners in the country, today announced the solidarity protests conducted in jails and detention centers all over the country for the immediate release of the Morong 43 and all 371 political prisoners.

Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA Secretary General and a convenor of the Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance, said ninety nine (99) political prisoners conducted and have continuing solidarity actions with the illegally arrested and detained health workers.

Five of them are on hunger strike in detentions centers in Cagayan Valley and Metro Manila, while the rest are on solidarity fasting, including National Democratic Front consultants Ed Serrano and Ed Sarmiento and Sandino Esguerra who have been detained for eleven years now. The solidarity actions, which were conducted starting December 3, include hunger strikes, fasting, mass, rallies and programs inside the detention facilities participated in by political prisoners and other inmates. (Please see attached matrix of political prisoners who are participating in the solidarity actions)

“We salute the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the Philippines in their hunger strike which started on December 3, 2010. The hunger strike and solidarity actions are strong political statements of strength and unity amid efforts of the Aquino government to impede the release of the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the country. Thus, the hunger strike of the Morong 43 and the solidarity fast of political prisoners are not only legitimate, these actions are most justified. Pres. Aquino should immediately release the Morong 43 and all political prisoners now,” Cabillas said.

According to SELDA and Karapatan, there were 2, 059 victims of illegal arrest under the Arroyo government, 579 of them are human rights defenders. 333 of them are women and 112 of them are minors at the time of their arrest. Among these victims are the Morong 43. While Pres. Aquino has called their arrest and the warrant used for their arrest as “fruits of the poisonous tree,” he has not pursued the withdrawal of charges against them and their unconditional release because of his apparent amiable relations with the so-called “security sector” of the state, which includes the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Security Council. In the first four months of the new Aquino government, there are already thirteen (13) political prisoners, among the 23 victims of illegal arrest and detention. Sixteen out of the 23 were victims of torture.

“SELDA attributes this directly to Aquino’s continued implementation of the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), Arroyo’s former counter-insurgency policy which has spawned the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and trumped up charges against activists and supporters. Aquino’s upcoming counter-insurgency policy can only result to more victims of illegal arrests and arbitrary detention, EJKs, enforced disappearances and thousands of more human rights violations,” he ended.

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