Various lawyers groups joined an unprecedented march to the foot of the presidential palace in Manila together with doctors, nurses, community health workers and law and medical students yesterday morning to renew their call for the immediate release of the detained Filipino health workers as well as other political prisoners all over the country.
The groups were led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) which is the co-counsel of the Morong 43 together with the Public Interest Law Center (PILC). The NUPL marched together with their colleagues from the mandatory national bar association, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Local members of the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) as well as the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) also joined the protest march.
NUPL spokesperson Atty. Julius Matibag said that as people’s lawyers, the NUPL pursues the case and issue of the Morong 43 not only in the courtroom but also in the streets. “The fight for the rights of the Morong 43 as well as of the hundreds of political prisoners cannot be waged only in the confines of the courtrooms. The struggle for human rights is ultimately won before and through the bar of public opinion,” he said.
The 50,000 strong IBP said in the recent Resolution of its Board of Governors that “we join local and international health organizations, human rights groups and lawyers alliances in the call for the immediate release of the Morong 43 and urge the Department of Justice and the courts to drop the charges against those detained in order that they can be immediately released and enjoy the liberty that was deprived unjustly from them.” Governors Roan Libarios and Jose Cabrera and National Director for Legal Aid Rosario Setias-Reyes led the IBP delegation.
NUPL Secretary General Atty. Edre U. Olalia challenged the present administration to go beyond its rhetoric and do something decisive to free the Morong 43. “It is time to stop the populist mumbo-jumbo and time to use its power to bring justice. The issue of their release is not a matter of favor but a matter of principle and justice. It must right a wrong that the previous administration has foisted,“ Olalia said.
“President Aquino and his close legal advisers should not speak in cryptic messages. His sincerity can be measured concretely when he orders forthwith the Justice Department to categorically and unconditionally withdraw the false charges against our clients. He should not wash its hands off the issue and conveniently pass on the burden when he knows he can already do something to effect the release from his end. He must not succumb to those who would prevent him from doing so, tie it up with other irrelevant conditions or use it as a bargaining chip for a quid pro quo,” Atty. Olalia added.
Atty. Olalia said that the lawyers groups vow to even escalate the campaign until the Morong 43 are released. He reiterated their commitment to stand by their clients and supporters in whatever action they will legitimately pursue.#
ATTY. EDRE U. OLALIA
Secretary-General, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
Contact Number: 09175113373