Release of detained Filipino health workers
21 December 2010
Geneva, 21 December 2010
On behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC), I am writing to express our appreciation for your decision to release the forty-three health professionals and community health workers who were illegally arrested and have been imprisoned since February 6 of this year on suspicion of being cadres of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). We welcome your ordering the Justice Department to withdraw the charges against these detainees. While we consider your action as a commitment and positive gesture by the new government under your leadership to respect and protect human rights and human dignity, we now urge you to order a criminal investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the detainees while they were under military custody.
The people of the Philippines have been faced with human rights violations for many years due to increased militarization, illegal arrests, detentions and extrajudicial killings. The WCC has called on the Philippine government to end the human rights violations and also to end the military’s counter-insurgency operations. The WCC recently sent an international team of church leaders to the Philippines as part of our Living Letters programme of team visits. The members of the international team which visited the Philippines heard numerous stories of human rights violations, especially the impact of counter-insurgency operations such as the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL). We have also been informed of frequent atrocities committed by militia forces, such as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs), Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) and Police Auxiliary, all of whom are alleged to be responsible for blatant violations of human rights.
We are grateful to you for your decision to restore the health workers to their families, communities and daily occupations, and we hope that you will continue to take adequate steps to guarantee the rights and dignity all citizens in the Philippines.
I wish you God’s blessings in your ministry of serving your country and people in the coming years.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches