Church Leaders Bewail Continuing Detention of 43 Health Workers

Church Leaders Bewail Continuing Detention of 43 Health Workers

The ecumenical delegates led by 9 bishops of the United Church of
Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) waited patiently forty-five minutes after the
appointed time hoping to have an audience with President Benigno C. Aquino,
III.  In the end, the delegation was met by the Senior Deputy Executive
Secretary and the Officer-In-Charge of the Office of the Deputy Secretary for
Legal Affairs (DSLA).

The audience
supposedly with the President was initiated by the UCCP through its General
Secretary, Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, to appeal to the President to order the
release of the 43 health workers now entering their 10-month in detention at
Camp Bagong Diwa.  One of the detainees is Dr. Alex Montes, a member of the

The delegation
cited the earlier calls of President Aquino for a review of the case. 
Eventually, the Secretary of the Department of Justice sent her confidential
report to the President.  They also revisited the earlier comment of the
President who, reacting to the arrest of the health workers said:  “It is a
generally accepted principle that what the lawyers call the fruit of the
poisoned tree (or) evidence wrongly gotten cannot be

For their part,
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado and DESLA OIC Ronaldo Geron
said the President has already read the confidential report of the Secretary of
Justice.  But they maintained that the President has left the matter to the

Bishop Emeritus
Jesse Suarez, referring to the President’s “tuwid na daan” said “the most
upright of righteous thing that President Aquino can do now is to release the 43
health workers.”  He added that “we shall always support the President as long
as he does the right thing and we will oppose him when he treads the wrong path
in his leadership.

Mr. Nardy Sabino,
General Secretary of the Promotion of Church People’s Response expressed
bafflement that the executive seemed helpless in the arrest and detention of the
health workers despite the infirmities of the arrest.  “This is the best
opportunity to straighten a wrong.” Sabino said.

“We hope to see a
speedy resolution of the case if not the unconditional and immediate release of
the health workers as their continued detention has become a constant source of
embarrassment before international community,” said Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., General
Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, who was with
the delegation.

Commenting on the
dialogue later, Bishop Marigza welcomed the dialogue as an opportunity for the
church people to be heard.  “The ecumenical delegation will monitor and keep an
eye on the case as it strongly believes that justice delayed is justice denied. 
The longer they are in detention, the more the Aquino government is exposed as
incapable of dispensing justice,”  Marigza said.

Other members of
the delegation were a bishop from the United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic
priests and the Religious of the Good Shepherd.  The UCCP bishops represented
their constituency in seven Episcopal jurisdictions spread out nationwide.  Also
present were some of the relatives of the detained health

Earlier, on
November 19, a full paid advertisement signed by Christian leaders in the
Philippines, legislators and the international community landed in the pages of
one national daily.  The advertisement urged President Aquino to order the
release of the health workers.  ##

Justice, Peace & Human Rights

United Church of Christ in the