MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has confirmed that torture was committed against members of the “Morong 43” following their arrest in 2010 for allegedly being members of the revolutionary New People’s Army.
In a 26-page resolution, the CHR said the rights of the medical workers were violated when they were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal on Feb. 6, 2010 based on a search warrant issued by a judge from a local court in Imus. The arrest of the Morong 43 was unlawful as there was no valid arrest warrant issued against any of them.
The CHR said its investigation showed that some of the medical workers arrested had “abrasions and contusions in the different parts of their bodies, like wrists, forearms and head, which corroborated their account that they were blindfolded and handcuffed tightly for a long period.”
“The complainants/detainees were deprived of their right against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” added the resolution dated April 15 and released by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) yesterday.
The investigation was initiated by then CHR chief and now Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The resolution was signed by former CHR chairman Loretta Ann Rosales and former commissioners Ma. Victoria Cardona, Norberto de la Cruz and Jose Manuel Mamauag. It was released a day after new CHR chairman Chito Gascon took his oath of office.
The CHR said the Morong 43 were arrested based on the explosives and firearms that were allegedly found in their possession.
However, the CHR noted that the search warrant was issued by a judge in Imus, Cavite even as the subject was known to be residing in Morong.
“It was Mario Condes who was particularly named in the warrant,” read resolution. “Complainants, at the time of their arrest, were not… in the act of committing an offense. They were not found in an overt act of having committed, are committing or about to commit a crime.
“It was highly irregular for (then Rizal police provincial commander) P/Supt. (Marion) Balolong to have applied for a search warrant in Imus, Cavite and for Judge Mangrobang to have issued the same, when the crime of illegal possession of firearms happened in Morong,” said the CHR.
The CHR recommended the filing of criminal charges for violating Sec. 4 of Republic Act 7438 (Pertaining to Rights of Persons Arrested) against all arresting, detaining and investigating officers.
It also recommended the filing of torture charges against several Philippine Army personnel based in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal where the incident happened.
“The CHR recognizes the rights of the victims to seek redress against the violation committed on their persons and recommends the granting of financial assistance to each and all of the victims, the same not to prejudice their right to file other civil and administrative charges in court,” the CHR added.
The Army was mum on the CHR’s recommendations but vowed to comply with the requirements set by the law.
“We will reserve our comments until we get hold of the copies of the case to be filed. Rest assured, the Philippine Army will always abide by the rule of law,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said in a text message to The STAR.
CHR’s five-year delay slammed
While the NUPL welcomes the recommendation of the CHR, the lawyers who represent the Morong 43 noted that it came too late to provide the health workers with the much-needed relief during the time that they needed it most.
The CHR resolution had languished for five years before it was released.
“This Resolution – a legal document that could have been written all in a day’s work and coming after all the evidence was already in place five years back – tardily validated what every sensible person already knew even at that time,” the NUPL said in a statement.
“The Morong 43 community doctors, nurses, midwives and health volunteers were brazenly illegally arrested, illegally detained, viciously tortured and routinely denied their basic constitutional rights while in military and police custody,” they stressed.
Human rights group Karapatan also slammed the CHR’s delay in issuing a resolution, saying it only reinforced the perpetuation of injustice and impunity.
“The resolution is five years delayed. It had already resulted in the promotion, and not in the prosecution, of generals such as Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia and Col. Aurelio Baladad, who became more brazen in sowing terror and in violating human rights using their high posts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.
“The CHR led by former chair Loretta Rosales may have also been liable in promoting these generals if they issued a clearance certificate for these generals as required by the Commission on Appointments (CA).”
She recounted that on Sept. 12, 2012 or after the CA hearings, Karapatan wrote a letter to Rosales to request for copies of the certificates, if indeed the agency issued them. After a month, the CHR replied through a letter that such documents are “only available for the applicant or their authorized representative.”
“This practice does not only exhibit a blatant disregard of the people’s right to have access to public documents and information but also points to a very crucial fact that the CHR may have a role in extolling torturers and human-rights violators. The CHR was sorely remiss in their duty to provide much needed remedy for the tortured health workers at the time it was most needed,” Palabay pointed out. – With Rhodina Villanueva, Alexis Romero
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