A group of former political prisoners, Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), today welcomed the directive of Pres. Benigno Aquino III to Justice Sec. Leila de Lima for the review of the case of the forty three health workers, collectively known as the Morong 43, who were illegally arrested last February 6, 2010.
“The directive is a welcomed move. It is high time for Pres. Aquino to give due attention to the plight of the Morong 43 who are on their almost eighth month of detention. Their arrest was based on a defective warrant, they were subjected to torture, and they are being illegally detained. We emphasize the urgency of the review as well as their immediate release, for every day of detention is an added injustice and violation of their rights,” Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA Secretary General said.
The 43 health workers are among the 388 political prisoners who still languishing in jail despite the illegality of their arrests. Three hundred sixty one were arrested and detained during the Arroyo administration.
SELDA said the review of the case of the Morong 43 should be followed by the subsequent review of all the cases of political prisoners. SELDA cited the case of Myrna Cruz, a former teacher and consultant of peasant organizations in Cagayan Valley, who was illegally arrested last March 2010. Cruz is still under detention despite provincial state prosecutors’ orders to release her and to dismiss charges against her.
“The cases of Morong 43, Cruz and other political prisoners are emblematic of the continuing human rights violations perpetuated through the Arroyo government’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program. Addressing these issues, including the withdrawal of Oplan Bantay Laya, should be Aquino’s top priority ,” Cabillas ended.