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International concern on Morong 43 mounts as Palace takes hands-off stance/拘束中の43名への国際的な関心高まる


International attention to the 43 health workers arrested by the Army as alleged rebels continued to mount, with an international humanitarian organization set to check on the detainees’ conditions later this week while Christian groups abroad voiced alarm about possible abuses.

 「私たちは、拘留中の人々が置かれている状況をチェックするために行きたいと思っている」と同委員会代表団団長のJean-Daniel Tauxe氏は、記者会見で述べた。同氏は、この件に関しては政治的な意図はなく、何らかの判断を下すつもりはないとしている。
 2名の医師を含む医療関係従事者は、2月6日、国軍と警察により、NPA(新人民軍)のメンバーであるとの疑いで、リサール州で逮捕された。しかし、この43名は、伝染病の専門医として有名なMelecia Velmonte氏が所有する別荘にて、保健に関する指導を受けていたところだった。
 ジュネーブに本部を置く世界学生キリスト教連盟 (WSCF) 総幹事のMichael Wallace司祭も、逮捕に関して警告を表明している。Wallace司祭とWSCF代表のHoracio Mesones氏は、今回の事件やこれに似たケースは、「人権を求めて闘う人々をおびえさせ、周縁化された人々の苦痛を散らしてしまうために脅す作戦」と見ている。
 エドゥアルド・エルミタ官房長官は記者会見の中で、国軍と防衛庁によってこの問題は「注意深く取り扱われている」と述べた。「大統領府が干渉する必要はない」という。Ricardo Saludo大統領副報道官は、エルミタ官房長官に同意し、人身保護令の令状はすでに発行されていると述べ、「すでに裁判所の管轄下にあり、私たちはそれらの経緯を見守る必要がある」と指摘した。

International attention to the 43 health workers arrested by the Army as alleged rebels continued to mount, with an international humanitarian organization set to check on the detainees’ conditions later this week while Christian groups abroad voiced alarm about possible abuses.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday it has asked military officials to grant its representatives access to the workers currently detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal province, to look at Philippine prison conditions and make recommendations for improvement.

“We want to go there to check on the treatment and status of the detainees," said Jean-Daniel Tauxe, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, in a media briefing.

Tauxe, however, said they would not make their findings public, adding the organization is “non-political" and is not acting as a judge on the issue. 

The health workers, including two doctors, a nurse and a midwife, were arrested on February 6 in Morong town in Rizal by a combined Army and police operatives on the suspicion of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The 43, however, insisted that they were attending a health training in a farmhouse owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a renowned infectious disease specialist.

Military officials on Wednesday welcomed ICRC’s move, saying they expect its representatives to visit the detainees either Thursday or Friday. 

As this developed, international pressure to release the health workers, who have been detained for almost two weeks now, also continued to grow.

In a letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Switzerland-based World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit asked that the 43 be immediately released, saying he is dismayed that they were arrested “while they were involved in legitimate activities of humanitarian services as part of their Christian witness."

Geneva-based World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) general secretary Rev. Michael Wallace also expressed alarm at the arrests.

Wallace and WSCF chairman Horacio Mesones said they believe such actions and similar other incidents in the Philippines are "intimidation tactics to frighten and weaken those who struggle for human rights and to alleviate the sufferings of the marginalized."

Meanwhile, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States has written Mrs. Arroyo to express its alarm over the abduction of the health workers. 

“We urge you to ensure the safety of those who are being held in this incident. We ask that full disclosure be made of the charges on which they are being held. If the evidence for these charges is not forthcoming and compelling, then they should be released immediately," the letter read. 

Objection from EU president’s sister 

As this developed, a sister of the European Union's recently-elected President Herman Van Rompuy has added her voice to the growing international protest.

In a statement issued from Belgium, Christine Van Rompuy, who is also a nurse, called on Mrs. Arroyo for the health workers’ immediate release as she expressed “strong objection to their illegal arrest and detention without warrant."

"As a nurse who has visited the Philippines, I personally know and note that the organizations of these detained health workers do an excellent job. They provide primary health care in the poorest areas of the Philippines. They are brave men and women who defy very difficult circumstances to help their fellow citizens," said Van Rompuy.

Various groups in New Zealand also reminded Mrs. Arroyo of Republic 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, as they expressed “shock and outrage" over the mental and other forms of torture allegedly undergone by the detainees to force them to admit that they are NPA members. 

Organizations and individuals in Canada likewise expressed concern about the increase in the number of abductions and violence in the country in light of the coming national elections.

Chapters of the migrants’ rights group Migrante International in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and the Middle East have also issued separate statements condemning the arrest and detention of the health workers.

Despite the outcry, Malacañang has so far distanced itself from the Army’s arrest and detention of the health workers, saying that cases have already been filed and it is now up to the courts to resolve them.

At a press briefing, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the issue is already "being handled carefully" by the Armed Forces and the Defense department.

“Hindi na kailangang manghimasok ang Malacañang (Malacañang need not intervene)," he said.

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo agreed with Ermita, saying a writ of habeas corpus has already been issued and that the case is already pending before the court.

“Since this is already in the courts, we need to respect the process," he said, adding the legal process may be affected if the President made a comment.
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