The World Student Christian Federation expresses shock and dismay at the arrest and torture of 43 doctors, nurses and community health practitioners by the Armed Forces in the Philippines and the Philippines National Police. Among the arrested Dr. Alexis Montes is a relative of our colleague, World Student Christian Federation Asia Paciϐic Regional Secretary Necta Montes. Dr. Montes, is a devoted doctor who has tirelessly served the poor and marginalized people as the longtime head of the healing and health ministry of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) and the Community Medical Foundation (COMMED), an NGO that provides medical services to community health workers and volunteers working in depressed communities in the Philippines.
The World Student Christian Federation has learnt from its partners in the Philippines that Dr. Montes and the other 42 detainees were victim of illegal arrest, detention and torture. We join our partners in the Philippines to call the government of President Gloria Arroyo for the respect of the human rights of Dr. Alex Montes and the 42 other detained health workers, including their rights to legal counsel, access to visitors, and due process.
The WSCF has learnt that the arrests were carried out in the early morning (6am) of February 6, 2010 by the 202nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Rizal Philippine National Police at a retreat center in Morong Rizal, Philippines owned by Dr. Velmonte, a renowned and respectable infectious disease specialist. The doctors and health workers were attending the First Responders Training for health workers co-sponsored by the Community Medical Foundation, Inc. (COMMED), and Council for Health and Development (CHD) beginning February 1, 2010. Dr. Merry Mia, the Education and Training Services coordinator for CHD and Dr. Alex Montes of Community Medicine Development Foundation, who were conducting the training, are dedicated proponents of community health care and worked many years with their respective NGOs. Initial reports say that more than 300 military and police raided the retreat center at gunpoint. They arrested the 43 participants before even searching the premises. They later showed a shoddy search warrant for a certain Mario Condes as supposed basis for their raid.
The unfounded claims by the military that the training during which the medical workers were arrested was in actuality on bomb-making and that the detainees were members of the New People’s Army lead us to believe that these actions are part of intimidation tactics to frighten and weaken those who struggle for human rights and to alleviate the sufferings of the marginalized and the opposition forces engaged in campaigning for the Presidential Election of May 2010, a definite political threats to those currently in power.
The World Student Christian Federation has been aware and concerned for a long times about the extra-judicial killings that have been perpetrated by factions of the military in the Philippines against young people, students, trade unionist and people opposing Ms. Arroyo’s government and continues to be extremely apprehensive about the possibility of an escalation of political violence such as the massacre in Maguindanao the run up to the upcoming elections. These abuses will infringe on the rights of Filipino citizens to vote freely and without fear of intimidation in the Presidential election.
We join the voices of our partners and many international groups in calling on President Macapagal Arroyo to immediately order the release of the 43 health care workers who are now in illegal detention.
We call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and all other government security forces and apparatus to end all forms of abuses, harassment, intimidation and violence against candidates, political parties and organizations, including party list groups, who are critical of the government.
We reiterate our call to the Philippine Government to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston, and scrap its counter-insurgency campaign, Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.
We call on all governments to condemn the arrest of the 43 health workers and call for their immediate release.
WSCF General Secretary
Dear President Macapagal-Arroyo,
We are writing to express our deepest concern for and sympathy with the forty-three doctors and health care workers, including Dr. Alexis Montes, who have been victims of a military raid, abduction and torture. The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) Europe region share in the anguish felt by those who have been repressed under this regime and sends its prayers to the victims and their families.
WSCF, a 114 year old ecumenical global community, is committed to dialogue and action for unity, equality and dignity of all human beings, peace, and social justice. We condemn the violation of human rights in all forms, every arbitrary use of power, and the exploitation of human beings and creation.
We request the following: Immediate release of health workers who have been illegally arrested and detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal; That the government ensures the safety of the victims, they are not harmed and their belongings are returned to them immediately; An immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal; The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.
We condemn the actions of the military and Philippine government and remind you that the freedom of people can’t be taken away without any reason. We stand united with our brothers and sisters of Christ.
On behalf of the European Regional Committee of the WSCF
Cc: Gen. Avelino Razon; Norberto Gonzales; Atty. Agnes Devanadera; Atty. Leila De Lima
1091 Budapest, Kálvin tér 8. HUNGARY
Tel: +188.8.131.5266, Fax: +184.108.40.20667
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St, San Miguel
RELEASE OF DR. ALEX MONTES AND OTHER HEALTH WORKERS
On 6th February 2010, Dr. Alex Montes uncle to Necta Montes (WSCF AP Regional Secretary) and other 42 health workers were illegally arrested and tortured by the Military forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. This occurred during the training session for health workers in Morong, Rizal where the Military forces reported that there was a bomb making in the training session and they claimed to have found C4 explosives and a pistol.
Due to luck of witness from the search operations, there should be an immediate formation of independent fact finding and investigation team composed of representatives from Human rights groups, the Church, local government and commission on Human rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of 43 health workers.
The military should stop the labeling and targeting of Human Rights defenders as members of front organizations of the communists and enemies of the state.
Dr. Alex Monte a good health Ministries Coordinator and the other 42 health workers detained deserve the respect of the human rights. WSCF-Africa Region call for their immediate release and the government should ensure safety of the victims, they get all their belongings and they should not be tortured nor harmed.
9 March 2010
We are gathered in Calgary for the winter meeting of the Board of the Student Christian Movement of Canada. We would like to express our deepest concerns about the abduction and torture of your uncle and the other 42 health workers at the hands of the military in the Philippines.
As member of the WSCF family we are worried about the suffering that this has brought upon you and your family. Some of us have met you in person and hold you dear to our heart and suffer with you as you endure this pain. As students and senior friends concerned and active in social justice and peace we are outraged by the continued arrogance and impunity with which the military and the police defend the power and the status quo of the elites all over the world.
Some of us have just returned from the protests at the Olympic Games in Vancouver to remind the world about the raging homelessness in our cities and specifically in Vancouver where poor people’s communities have been displaced by the games preparation and will not see the economic and social benefits promised by the authorities every time such events are held.
The violence exercised by the police against those who opposed the Olympics and a world order that places profits over people was traumatizing for those of us who were there. Although the consequences of such acts are not as dire as those endured by the 43 health workers and all those who have been victimized by the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, we are aware that the intimidation of people fighting for a more just world is a common tactic all over the world to protect the interests of the few.
We continue to believe that the militarization of the North and the South at the expenses of the marginalized and those who try advocate with them affect us all in this oppressive system. We commend your uncle and the other health workers for their service to poor communities in the Philippines and we are in solidarity with you the SCM of the Philippines and the WSCF Asia-Pacific as you show such resilience in resisting the autocratic regime of the Gloria Arroyo government. We pray for the immediate release of your uncle and his colleagues and for the healing of their bodies and souls after such a harrowing experience. We pray for you and your family in this painful struggle. May God the liberator, the one who chooses to stand by the least of us, the one who cries out together with you for justice, accompany you, your family and your community in this trying time.
Yours in solidarity
The Board of the Student Christian Movement of Canada
Alongside your comrades here in Canada, I have been praying and advocating for you, your family, and for the SCM Philippines and all activists there. In gratitude for the solidarity and unity between our movements.
(David Ball, General Secretary)
Necta, my prayers are with you and your family in particular, as well as your SCM and your country. Know that you are not alone and that there are many deeply concerned about this situation.
(Sheryl Johnson, Co-Chair)
My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and all others affected by this tragedy.
(Tanner Watt, Finance & Fundraising Coordinator)
I will be praying for all those affected by this cruel atrocity.
(Ryan Tristin Chapman, Anti-Oppression Co-Coordinator)
And I pray that they may find strength and courage to endure the hardships they are facing, and that the community of Christ will work together to uphold our values of justice and mercy.
(Kristine Deisman, Western Coordinator)
May the peace of Christ and the love of friends near and far help you though this time of hardship.
(Katherine Tuck, Outreach Coordinator)
My prayer is that you and your family would know God’s justice and liberation. Peace.
(Geoff Dice, Co-Chair)
With prayers for you, for those unjustly incarcerated, and for all who work to overcome the unjust systems in this world. Godspeed.
(Chris Miller, Eastern Coordinator)
Our prayers are with you, and people of integrity everywhere are sorrowed by these atrocities and called to action.
(Lana Wilson, Communications and Resources Coordinator)
H.E. Ernesto H. De Leon
1 Moonah Pl
Yarralumla ACT 2600
3 February 2010
Dear Ambassador De Leon,
I am writing on behalf of the Australian Student Christian Movement, in solidarity with our sister organisation, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines. We wish to express our deep sadness and condemnation of the massacre of 57 people which took place in Maguindanao province, Mindanao, on November 23, 2009.
This brutal murder of civilians, including human rights lawyers and journalists, is merely the most egregious example of the deterioration of human rights in the Philippines in recent years. Although we acknowledge and applaud the lifting of martial law in Maguindanao, we remain concerned about the continued militarisation of society in that region. We urge you to curtail the use of police and national security forces by local warlords and to disband their para-military forces.
Moreover, as the trial of the perpetrators begins, we call on you to ensure a thorough investigation of the instigation of the massacre, and to protect the ongoing safety of witnesses, so that justice may be done.
In solidarity with the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, we support the following five demands:
- That your government dismantle and disarm paramilitary groups, not just in Maguindanao but on a national scale.
- That an independent and credible fact-finding mission be formed to look into the massacre and monitor the human rights situation in Maguindanao province, Mindanao.
- Martial Law having been lifted, that your government support fully the strengthening of civilian institutions, media and courts in Maguindanao.
- That the Philippine government implement the major recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
- That independent monitoring of elections in May 2010 be permitted.
Australian Student Christian Movement