A Statement of the ECP Council of Bishops seeking the release of the Morong 43

I’d like to share a statement released by our Council of Bishops regarding the Morong 43. I think my mom drafted this 🙂
Freedom for the 43 Health Workers

A month ago, some 300 elements of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police forcibly took into custody forty-three health workers from the rest house of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist, a consultant at the Philippine General Hospital and a professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. For a few days, they were denied visits of relatives and friends until after the intervention of the Commission on Human Rights. It is our understanding that the group was at the resort attending a health skills training sponsored by the Council for Health and Development (CHD), a non-government organization. Most of the participants were members of the CHD and of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed), also a non-government organization. Amongst those arrested, we are specifically concerned over the conditions of Dr. Alex Montes, a member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and a former coordinator of their health ministries, and of Ms. Angela Dolorico, an Episcopalian who hails from Sagada, Mountain Province where most of our congregations are.

While the legality of their arrest is now being questioned in court, the 43 health workers have alleged that they have been abused physically and mentally and their basic rights deprived of them. We are aware that the Commission on Human Rights has intervened and has scheduled a hearing on these allegations on March 18th. We are also aware, however, of how the poor and the marginalized have long suffered from the lack of accessible health care services. It is non-government organizations that have filled-in this gap and who have engaged in the training of community health workers who work directly with communities in providing health education and care in far-flung communities or even in urban poor communities.

Health care and healing, which is the main concern of those in any form of medical practice, is a service that Jesus Christ Himself performed. It was, in a sense, a constant part of his teaching and preaching. In most cases, when we speak of miracles, it is usually in reference to an incident or occasion where healing is performed on one who had been regarded to be inflicted with an incurable disease. In fact, healing is one of the first services that the Episcopal Church established when it started its mission in the Philippines.

But the church’s concern goes beyond the healing of the sick and of those in discomfort. Jeremiah 33:6 says “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”(NIV) Indeed, here are the 43 health workers now themselves in a situation that requires healing – the healing of a nation that continues to allow the desecration of the rights of its people.

It is for this reason what we appeal to the authorities for the immediate release of these health workers. There is no place for injustice in any society, especially when such injustice is inflicted on those who seek to serve the least of our brethren.

For the Council of Bishops
Episcopal Church in the Philippines

Prime Bishop