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Freed Morong 43, boycotted Liu Xiaobo

By CARLO OSI

WASHINGTON DC, United States – Terribly inconsistent. These are the best words to describe the recent decisions of the Philippine government.

On December 10, 2010, it decided to free the Morong 43, that group of 43 health workers who have been wrongly incarcerated by the military on suspicion of being communist sympathizers or trainees. But on the same day, the Philippine government deliberately snubbed and boycotted the ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize award to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo because of pressures from China.

There is no plausible way to reconcile the two decisions. They are contradictory.

The first decision freed a group of health workers because, on account of their human rights, there is no legal basis for their continued detention. The second decision, despite Chinese professor and activist Liu Xiaobo’s lifelong advocacy for human rights, resulted to the Philippines boycotting an important international human rights event.

The government frees the 43 wrongly accused Filipino health workers because it involves domestic human rights, but at the same time it unashamedly snubs the Chinese dissident’s Nobel award because it involves international human rights? Is this the government’s logic?

When was there ever an iron divide between domestic human rights and international human rights?

Human rights, whether violated within these shores or abroad, will be the same violations of the fundamental freedoms of people. There should be no preference for one or the other. There should be no discrimination between domestic activists and international activists.

Freeing Morong 43: Correct

There is no question that freeing the Morong 43 was the correct decision. Presented with the same circumstances, former Presidents Gloria Arroyo and Joseph Estrada would probably not have freed them. But President Aquino did, and this was a right and just decision.

Aquino reasoned that he will not allow “shortcuts”–or violations of the Bill of Rights–in the implementation of the law of the land.

Aquino instructed the Department of Justice to withdraw the information against the health workers. Most of them have since been released.

The Morong 43 recounted that when they were arrested, they were not informed of their Miranda rights, they were deprived of the right to counsel, and their right to remain silent was not respected.

Some of them alleged that the military blindfolded them, questioned them for 36 hours straight on several occasions, maltreated them and tortured them.

These are clear and unequivocal abuses of human rights and violations of their constitutional Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Watch praised Aquino’s release of the Morong 43 as a positive step in the right direction of tackling injustice and impunity.

The Morong 43 health workers were arrested in February 2010 in Morong, Rizal province, during the waning days of the Arroyo administration on suspicion that they were insurgents. No procedural or substantive due process was ever applied, or was made available, to them.

Liu Xiaobo Boycott: Wrong

The Liu Xiaobo Boycott is a step in the wrong, clearly opposite, direction. It not only sent the wrong message around the world but it is in stark contrast to the freeing of the Morong 43. Not only was the boycott decision wrong but the government even did its best to present a “scheduling conflict” as the official reason for the country’s absence in Oslo.

If Aquino and his spokesmen thought that they can simply explain away the absence of the Philippine Ambassador in the Oslo awarding because of schedule problems, they are mightily mistaken. It is downright ridiculous.

If they think that using the subterfuge that the government is pleading for mercy for 5 Filipinos on death row in China for alleged drug-trafficking is good enough, they have underestimated and maligned the public.

This reasoning is infuriating. It sounds more like an afterthought that was hurriedly conceived just to come up with an acceptable justification for the boycott.

Well, it’s not acceptable.  Lousy, really lousy.

Aquino literally allowed China to bully us into a position that we would never have taken given our proud history of democracy and bloodless people power revolts. It was indubitably a wrong decision on the part of the President.

No amount of explaining, covering up or diversionary tactics can ever mask the very obvious fact that the country kowtowed to the wishes of Beijing.

Beijing warned that countries which sent representatives to the Oslo ceremony would face “consequences”. One implication is that if a country does not send an emissary, then it will receive benefits. These are all vague, speculative and uncertain. Unfortunately, Aquino fell for it.

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  1. Let us be one and strong country though we’re free to criticize anybody! The President represents our country and the entire Filipino people whom he serves with priority in case of conflict with international ideals. His decision disregarding the chinese nobel prize winner ceremony in Oslo, Norway while putting utmost importance to the tarnished image of our govt before the eyes of the whole world due to the irrepairable bungled hostage-taking in Manila, now adversely affecting our tourism industry; the ongoing territorial conflict in the Spratly islands which dwarfed other claimants including the Philippines against the new world power (China), saving the lives of our kababayans in Chinese death row, the enourmous Chinese economic package earlier pledged, and many others could be properly addressed without adding fire to the sentiments of China! Let us all support the President’s decision in this critical moments, please!

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