June 29, 2010

President Benigno Aquino III
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street
San Miguel, Manila
NCR 1005 Philippines

cc: Ambassador Jose S. Brillantes (Philippines Embassy, Ottawa)
Ruth Morales Prado (Philippines Consulate, Vancouver)

Dear President Aquino,

As you assume the Presidency of the Philippines, we are writing as international observers to urge you to break from the gross human rights violations that characterized the Arroyo regime; the extrajudicial killings, disappearances and political imprisonments that were all too prevalent during the Arroyo decade must be stopped!  Further, the legacy of these repressive political policies must be dealt with if the Philippines is to move forward into a new era of respect for human rights and social justice.

As an organization of health workers, health care professionals, and community health promoters we are particularly concerned about the plight of the Morong 43, a group of Community Health Workers, Physicians, Midwives, and allied health care professionals abducted by Philippine security forces in February.  As their unjustified imprisonment reaches the sixth month, the abduction, detention, and torture of these generous and committed health care workers has become a symbol of the dismal state of human rights in the Philippines.

As members of a Canadian non-profit organization providing volunteer health care services and education to rural and urban poor communities in the Philippines in partnership with the Council for Health and Development, we have firsthand experience of the work of a number of the Morong 43.  Several of those who are currently languishing in detention centres were hosts, educators, guides, translators, and friends to three members of our organization who travelled in the Philippines in 2008 as volunteers, spanning a period of over 7 months. We found our colleagues at the Council for Health and Development to be skilled, dedicated and caring health care practitioners, who in many cases have forgone more lucrative careers in the Philippines or abroad to work with poor communities who are suffer grossly inadequate access to public health care services.

Our shock and dismay at the ongoing detention of our colleagues from the Council for Health and Development cannot be overstated.  We continue to be gravely concerned about their situation and the progress on their completely unjustified case.  We call on you as the President of the Philippines to assure us of their situation and to demand an end to this travesty – the detention of some of the bravest, most dedicated members of Filipino society.

The case of the Morong 43 will continue to serve as an international symbol of a regime more intent on stifling dissent than improving the health of its people.  Freeing these political prisoners is an important first step in moving towards a new era of respect for human rights in the Philippines.

Martha Roberts, Registered Midwife
On Behalf of the Alliance for People’s Health