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Issue #1443      17 February 2010

“Stop the torture! Free the 43 now!”

The torture and interrogation of the 43 detained doctors and health workers by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continues even after the visit of Commission on Human Rights chair, Leila de Lima.

According to reports gathered by the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), the daily physical and mental torture had intensified, especially on male detainees.

“Aside from sleep deprivation, there is daily tactical interrogation in the early hours of the morning, which can be heard by the other detainees,” said Dr Geneve E Rivera, secretary-general of HEAD.

One male community health worker could barely walk and had bruises and a swollen right arm when his relative saw him last week. Another male detainee had a swollen right ear and could barely hear his visiting mother.

The female detainees were not much better. One community health worker was about to show her mother the bruises on her chest but was immediately removed by the custodian, abruptly ending the visit.

“This is unacceptable! These abuses must stop immediately!” declared Dr Rivera. “This is even more reason to demand for their immediate release and hospitalisation, if necessary.

“There is no basis for the continued detention of these people. The layers and layers of lies being peddled by the AFP against them are now unravelling!”

HEAD notes that after being caught flagrantly violating basic rules of due process and human rights, the AFP leadership is now making inconsistent excuses and pronouncements, including claiming it was a case of national security.

“The military cannot explain why they had to lie regarding the conduct of their raid in the first place, why their so-called ‘A1 intelligence information’ and ‘star witness’ came as an afterthought, and why they continue to deny the full rights of those they are detaining illegally.”

HEAD is concerned that the military may eventually come up with trumped-up charges, more fabricated evidences, and forced confessions in order to justify their continued illegal detention of these health workers.

“This is the kind of democracy under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, where the perversion of the criminal justice system is part and parcel of political exigency. This is Oplan Bantay Laya, where state security forces like the AFP are given a blanket authority to be the judge, jury, and executioner of the Filipino people,” said Dr Rivera. “This must stop now. We must begin by protecting the innocents. Free the 43!” 

Next article –  The privatisation struggle and Brisbane’s urban transport

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