On International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2010, Filipino President H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III ordered the release of medical doctors Merry Mia-Clamor
and Alexis Montes
, nurse Gary Liberal
, and 40 other community health workers, who had been held in pre-trial detention since February 6, 2010. President Aquino also ordered the Filipino Department of Justice to withdraw the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against the 43 individuals before the Morong Regional Trial Court (Branch 78). Dr. Mia-Clamor and the other female detainees in the group were released from Camp Bangong Diwa in Taguig City on December 17, 2010. Dr. Montes, Mr. Liberal, and the other men in the group were released the following day.
At the time of their detention, the group of 43 individuals (referred to as the Morong 43) were participating in a week-long First Responders Training co-sponsored by two non-governmental organizations—the Community Medicine Development Foundation and the Council for Health and Development—at the farm of Dr. Melicia Velmonte in Morong in the province of Rizal. Dr. Velmonte reportedly is a respected infectious disease specialist and a consultant at the Philippines General Hospital. Her farm is a regular venue for medical health training that attracts community workers, hospital staff, and academicians. The group was detained during an early morning raid conducted jointly by approximately 300 heavily armed men from the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. The military had alleged that the detainees were rebel medics of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who were undergoing training in “combat life-saving techniques and bomb-making.”
The CHR wrote to President Aquino, expressing appreciation for his decision to order charges dropped against the health professionals and the hope that they would be released expeditiously.