On February 6, 2010, military forces in Morong, in the Rizal province of the Philippines, arrested 26 women and 17 men for the possession of illegal firearms and explosives. The 43 people detained were mostly health care workers attending a medical training program, but police accused them of being members of the rebel New People's Army.
The "Morong 43", as the detainees became known, were held for 10 months without access to any counsel. Members of the group say they were "blindfolded, subjected to physical and psychological torture, abused and interrogated." Eventually, Philippine President Benigno Aquino ordered that charges against the 43 be dropped, due to insufficient evidence.
Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor was one of the 43 health care workers taken into custody in Morong that day. Since her release, she has been part of a campaign to raise awareness about the frequency of human rights violations in the Philippines, and to make her captors face justice. She and some fellow activists will be on a speaking tour of Canada for the next two weeks, to inform Canadians about the "climate of impunity" that currently exists in the Philippines.
Called "Our Voices Will Not Be Silenced: Risking Life And Liberty In Defence Of Human Rights In The Philippines", the information sessions will feature Mia-Clamor, along with Angelina Bisuña Ipong, a former political prisoner and the co-ordinator of the Association of Ex-Detainees Against Detention And Arrest, and Bishop Reuel Norman Margiza, the General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
Starting in Toronto, the tour will pass through Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Victoria before arriving in Vancouver on April 14. (See bottom of post for details.)
When President Aquino took office in June, 2010, he vowed to uncover the "hidden wrongdoings" of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and to end serious violations of human rights in the Philippines.
Since that time, according to Human Rights Watch, the country's leadership has "not fulfilled its promises of reform and made little progress in ending impunity for abuses by state security forces."
To learn more about efforts to protect human rights in the Philippines, you can hear from people with first-hand experience of the situation at the following events:
Toronto: Saturday, March 31, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, Rm. 5-250, 252 Bloor St. W.
Ottawa: Sunday, April 1, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Assumption Church, 320 Olmstead St.
Montreal: Saturday, April 7, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Mont Royal United Church, 1800 Graham Blvd., Town of Mont Royal
Winnipeg: Wednesday April 11, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Sam's Place, 159 Henderson Hwy.
Victoria: Friday, April 13, 5:00--7:00 p.m., Philippine Bayanihan Community Centre, 1709 Blanshard St.
Vancouver: Saturday, April 14, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Simon Fraser University - Harbour Centre, Rm. 2270, Sauder Industries Policy Room
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