Military tortured detained health workers: group

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2010 12:34 PM | Updated as of Feb 09 2010 08:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A health workers organization on Tuesday accused the military of torturing several doctors and health workers who were among the 43 arrested by the military in Morong, Rizal last Saturday.

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, Health Alliance for Democracy secretary-general, said several of the detainees revealed that they were subjected to various forms of torture and sexual harassment after being accused of being members of the New People's Army.

Rivera said the illegally detained health personnel were handcuffed and blindfolded for more than 36 hours after being forcibly brought to Camp Capinpin, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade. They were also denied food and even bathroom privileges, she said.

“They were not allowed to go to the bathrooms on their own, and their custodians were the ones who removed their underwear every time they had to urinate,” she said in a statement.

“A female health worker complained that a female custodian was even the one who washed her genitals after she used the bathroom.”

Rivera said the detainees including some pregnant women were subjected to hours of interrogation despite their demands for legal counsel.

She said the detainees were confined in dark cells and forced to listen to sounds of gunfire and were slapped several times during the night. They were allegedly forced to admit that they were NPA guerillas and were not allowed to speak to each other, she added.

She said Dr. Alex Montes, who is already 60, was electrocuted and repeatedly hit on the chest while being questioned.

“The mental and physical torture inflicted by the AFP is inhumane and criminal. That they can do this to the very people who care for our lives and well-being speaks volumes as to the kind of soldiers and officers the military establishment employs,” Rivera said.

Kin seeks habeas writ


Relatives of the 43 health workers petitioned the Supreme Court on Tuesday to issue a writ of habeas corpus to present the suspected rebels in court.

The relatives were led by Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor, whose wife Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor is one of the doctors forcibly taken by the joint military and police forces last Saturday, February 6.
 
The health workers were held incommunicado for almost three days in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal, and were denied their right to see their relatives and lawyers. It was only Monday afternoon when some of the relatives, along with Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima, were allowed inside the camp to talk to the victims.

Dr. Belen dela Paz, vice-president of the Health Action for Human Rights, said the law enforcers committted several violations in the arrest of the 43 volunteers last Saturday. She said the military and police used an arrest warrant with a different name, forcibly entered the house and even planted weapons inside the house after ordering everyone out.

She said the volunteer workers were also denied access to legal counsel and a doctor when they were detained.

Dela Paz said the arrests are part of the administration's ongoing harassment of community organizations.