Groups demand release not only of Morong 43 but all political prisoners

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 Dec) – Militant groups here said they are happy over the decision to release the Morong 43 but said President Aquino should not only release the health workers, but also all political prisoners languishing for years in different jails throughout the country.

“We consider this the fruit of the just struggle for human rights,” said Fe Salino, president of Selda-Southern Mindanao, after hearing President Aquino’s order to withdraw all charges against the Morong 43. “But still our call is to free all political prisoners throughout the country,” she added.

Salino said the release of the 43 will bring down to 326 the total number of political detainees in the country, 23 of them in Southern Mindanao.

Selda and the women’s group Gabriela have been demanding the release of 65-year-old Angelita Ipong, arrested for alleged trumped up charges in Misamis Occidental in 2005. Gabriela said Ipong, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the oldest political detainee in jail, has been tortured and sexually abused.

Selda has also been demanding the transfer of Zaldy Canete, a New People’s Army (NPA) combatant known as Kumander Jinggoy, to the Southern Philippines Medical Hospital because he needed a colostomy operation. “We call for the transfer of Canete to the medical hospital for humanitarian reason,” said Salino.

Canete has been held in the military hospital at Camp Panacan after he was captured by government soldiers early this year.

In a speech he gave during the international human rights day and amidst mounting national and international pressures, President Aquino ordered all information filed before the court against Morong 43 be withdrawn.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said the search warrant soldiers used during the raid of the Morong 43 has been proven defective. “The shortcut they resorted made the whole operation questionable,” De Lima said over an interview with ANC. “The AFP leadership has been cognizant of the circumstances surrounding the whole incident,” she added.

“The release of the Morong 43 is a victory of the people. But they shouldn’t have waited for 10 months before doing it,” said Hanimay Suazo, acting deputy secretary-general of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao.

“The detainees’ hunger strike, the unity and support by the broad people’s movement and staunch advocates in the international community finally convinced President Aquino to take the necessary step to effect the release of the Morong 43,” Salino said.

“We salute the health workers and all political prisoners,” she added.

The groups also challenged President Aquino to punish the perpetrators, particularly Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, allegedly responsible for the “illegal arrest, detention and torture of the Morong 43.”

President Aquino was earlier criticized for failure to act on the illegal arrest of the Morong 43 and for his failure to make the Arroyo administration accountable for the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations during her term. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews).