By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for deciding to confer awards on two officers who led the military operation against the 43 health workers suspected of being communist rebels.
Madrigal, an independent presidential candidate, joined on Tuesday militant groups and legislators in criticizing the military's allegedly “arrogant behavior” towards the so-called "Morong 43."
“It is an insult to human rights victims and a clear case of arrogant conduct on the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Madrigal said.
Madrigal pointed out “the arrest of the 43 health workers is still being questioned in the Court of Appeals. It is also being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Red Cross and other international groups.”
Madrigal said, “This is what happens when the military considers itself above civilian jurisdiction and even our courts of law.”
The senator has scheduled a visit to the health workers at Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, Rizal, on Tuesday.
Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general, described as “self-serving” the AFP move, which he said was “meant to cover up the AFP's liability" in the illegal arrest and detention, as well as the torture of the "Morong 43.”
Reyes called the awards "a hollow counter-move to the snowballing public opinion in support of the 43 health workers.”
“We vow to block any future promotions for these officers, including Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Balalad (commander of the Army's 202nd Brigade) and Col. Jaime Abawag (commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion). Complaints of human rights abuses will also be filed against them this week before the CHR,” Reyes added.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said "The arresting team was accused of illegal arrest and torture, among others. Is the military honor an attempt to legitimize, justify and reward illegal acts?”
For the young legislator, “It should be the 43 health workers who should be honored by government for choosing to stay in the country and for volunteering in communities.”
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo noted “despite clear evidence that the Morong 43 are genuine health workers, the AFP insists they are New People's Army members and alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders at that.”
“It isn't surprising that they claim the arrests as a major military gain to defeat the NPA this year. Hence, awarding medals to the officers who led the (Morong, Rizal) operations is aimed at projecting this fake feat,” Ocampo said.
Meanwhile, the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based OFW group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) said the AFP move was “not surprising at all.”
“The Arroyo regime has been giving rewards to its faithful violators of human rights and civil liberties, like General Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan,” said M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.
Monterona added such “dishonorable awards” only promote the prevailing culture of impunity that may even escalate into violence in the coming nationals elections.
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