Health group seeks justice for Morong 43, if allegations confirmed

The Medical Action Group (MAG) welcomed the efforts of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct a public hearing on the allegations of the Morong 43 of human rights abuse. MAG is an organization of health professionals and students against torture and for the health rights of all including detainees. Members and officers of MAG attended the public hearing conducted by the CHR today March 18, 2010.

“The truth should come out. We support the efforts of the CHR to investigate the allegations of the Morong 43 health professionals and workers about violations of their rights such as torture, illegal arrest, illegal detention and deprivation of the right to counsel. The CHR is mandated by the Philippine Constitution to investigate human rights abuse, identify violators and facilitate access to remedy for victims. The Philippines is signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and even arrested and detained persons have rights,” said Ms. Edeliza Hernandez, Executive Director of Medical Action Group (MAG).

Aside from the Philippine Constitution and the human rights conventions, there are three other Philippines laws relevant to the case of the Morong 43 – the Revised Penal Code (RPC), RA 7438 (An Act defining certain rights of persons arrested, detained or under the custodial investigation as well as the duties of the arresting and detaining officers which was passed in 1992 and the new law RA 9745 (Anti-torture law passed in 2009).

“It is unfortunate that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the anti-torture law is still not in place. But even without this, the Morong 43 and their families may consider using the Revised Penal Code and RA 7438”, said Ms. Edeliza Hernandez.

By law, RA 7438 enacted in 1992 and Revised Penal Code maybe used by the Morong 43 to file complaints against alleged government officers. Maltreatment and other crimes maybe punishable under the Revised Penal Code. Furthermore, Section 4 of the RA 7438 provides that “Any person who obstructs, prevents or prohibits any lawyer, any member of the immediate family of a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation, or any medical doctor or priest or religious minister chosen by him or by any member of his immediate family or by his counsel, from visiting and conferring privately with him, or from examining and treating him, or from ministering to his spiritual needs, at any hour of the day or, in urgent cases, of the night shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than four (4) years nor more than six (6) years, and a fine of four thousand pesos (P4,000.00). “

“We would like to remind the government that the approval of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the anti-torture law are urgently needed now. Further, the time for the ratification of the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment) is now. “It is long overdue,” concluded Ms. Hernandez.