On December 3, 6am, the Morong 43 began their hunger strike for freedom. The center of the protest was the BJMP facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. The hunger strike comes after almost 10 months in detention for the health workers. Their full statement can be read here.
Families and supporters of the 43 gathered in front of the Department of Justice to signal the start of the protest. Among those who joined the action were Mrs. Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos and former airforce Capt. Jonel Pogoy, who was himself detained for two years for exposing corruption in the AFP.
Within the first few hours of the hunger strike, Malacanang and the Department of Justice issued separate statements. Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte admitted they were caught by surprise and that they are “listening” to the Morong 43. DOJ secretary Leila de Lima on the other hand said she will submit to the president new memorandum on the Morong 43. De Lima said that the case will be resolved “within the bounds of the law”.
Other political prisoners nationwide also expressed sympathy for the Morong 43 by fasting or holding their own hunger strike.
From the DOJ, the supporters of the 43 set up a hunger strike center at the gates of the Philippine Independence Church cathedral along Taft Ave in Manila.
Meanwhile at the BJMP facility in Bicutan, the warden for the male detainees attempted to dissuade the Morong detainees from holding a hunger strike. The detainees refused. Our doctors were able to check up on the male detainees but were not allowed to check up on the female detainees. This problem would continue till Saturday. It was only on Sunday that our doctors were able to check up on the female detainees.
On Saturday, some 50 people picketed Camp Bagong Diwa to show support for the hunger strikers. Also on Saturday, Dr. Merry Mia, one of the detainees, reported that Jane Balleta, another detainee, had an epileptic seizure around 9pm. She has since stabilized.
Doctors monitoring the hunger strikers will release an initial report on their medical conditions in a press conference on Monday.
Over the weekend, President Aquino again reiterated the government’s position that the case of the Morong 43 was up to the courts. He did not specify what move would trigger the courts to act on the case of the 43. There was no mention of any specific step which would make the court decide in favor fo the detained health workers.
Also, idiotic statements from the AFP were again heard over the weekend. An Army spokesman said that NDFP Chief Negotiator Luis Jalandoni’s statement calling for the release of health workers is [an] affirmation that they are members of the NPA”. The statement is obviously non-sequitur inasmuch as Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada’s call to free the 43 does not make them members of the Liberal Party. Neither does it make Tanada a communist sympathizer as the military would like to portray supporters and even lawyers of the 43. Remember how in the beginning the Army also tried the same red-baiting when it said that the 43 were communists because they were represented by Atty. Romeo Capulong, who was also legal counsel for the NDFP during the peace talks?
Monday December 6 marks the 10th month in detention for the 43. During this period, the DOJ has submitted two memoranda to the President, two pregnant detainess gave birth while in detention, two full-page ads were released and countless appeals were made for the release of the 43.
The ball is in the hands of the President. We call on all friends and supporters of the detained health workers to support the hunger strike their are waging.