(NUPL HR lawyers in front of the women's detention center.)

A few days ago, members of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers visited the Morong 43 in their prisons in Bicutan. Their collective morale was impressively high even as they echoed what everybody asks: Why are they still in jail when their arrest was illegal? Foreign journalists covered and exposed their case to the international community. Several international organizations condemned their arrest. Even the President conceded that their arrest and subsequent incarceration were devoid of any legal foundation being the "fruit of the poisonous tree." Never mind the moral (or immoral) dimension of what happened. All we mortals in this corner of the world hope for at the maximum is for the Philippine justice system to understand the language of the law. But it seems to find justice strange. Perhaps that Lady whose statue is in every hall of justice in this country should take off her blindfold so that the system will see her face.

I was personally touched by the Morong 43's lack of self-pity. The spokesperson for the 15 male detainees said: "We understand that we are not the only political detainees you are representing. There are many of us in the country. You ask us to be strong. Yes, we are strong. Together, let us struggle against injustice."

In the women's detention facility, there were 26 of them who greeted us in their yellow shirts (You'd think they are part of Noynoy Aquino's campaign team- except that it has been almost seven months since election day.). Two were in a government hospital because they just gave birth. I looked at their faces. Some of them are mothers. I knew in my heart of hearts that they were missing their children so much. It did not show. Instead they spoke and sang of their dreams for a just society.

Today, they will begin a hunger strike for their freedom and those of other political detainees. Here is their statement:

December 3, 2010, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan

Today we begin our hunger strike. This is the only course of action left us to end our continued illegal detention, there being no clear action by the government for our unconditional release.

On December 6, we will be on our 10th month in detention. We were arrested last February 6 by a joint AFP-PNP operation based on a defective warrant. We were tortured physically and psychologically, deprived of sleep, subjected to various indignities, threatened with harm, denied legal counsel for several days and illegally detained until now. Planted evidence was used and false charges were filed against us. Our human rights continue to be violated. Every day in jail is an injustice to us.

For the last 10 months, our families and friends from different sectors have never stopped working for our release. Even the international community was alarmed over our illegal arrest and continued detention. Various human rights advocates here and abroad have been unceasing in staging activities and protest actions calling on the President Benigno Aquino III to withdraw the charges against us.

The Department of Justice has conducted a review of our case. The findings have been submitted to President Aquino. The president himself has admitted that our arrest was based on a defective warrant and that “evidence wrongly gotten cannot be used.” Yet despite these findings, there are no clear indications that the charges against us will be withdrawn anytime soon.

Our action today and in the succeeding days is a call to President Aquino to simply order the withdrawal of the case against us forthwith so that we may be immediately and unconditionally released. We believe it is only fitting that we stage this hunger strike as the world observes Human Rights Week. We fight not only for our freedom but for the freedom of all political prisoners nationwide.



(Photo credit:Pistong Melliza)