Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Military told to explain 'Morong 43' detention

MANILA -- The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has issued an order asking military and government officials to explain the legal basis of the continued detention of 43 health workers suspected to be communist rebels.

In an order dated February 26, CHR Chairperson Leila de Lima has directed the following officials to attend the March 18 public hearing on the incident: Major General Jorge Segovia, chief of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division; Colonel Aurelio Baladad, chief of the 202nd Army’s Brigade; Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Abawag; Superintendent Marion Balonglong; Judge Cesar Mangrobang, and State Prosecutor Romeo Senson.

The CHR also ordered the custodians of the 43 to present them at the hearing so they may affirm under oath the contents of their affidavits and answer clarificatory questions from the commission.

“The detainees’ allegations and the CHR’s initial findings call for a probe of respondents’ acts, which involve violation of the human rights of the detained health workers to be secure from unreasonable seizure and arrest, illegal and incommunicado detention and torture (physical and mental/psychological) and their right to counsel and visitors,” de Lima said in the order.

The CHR also asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other high-ranking officials to comment on the complaint of the health workers.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said the agency is “always open to any investigation.”

“Our legal service is preparing the necessary answer as directed by the CHR. The PNP is always open to any investigation,” Espina told Sun.Star in a text message.

Sun.Star tried to contact Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr. for comment but to no avail.

Groups supporting the “Morong 43,” meanwhile, welcomed CHR’s action.

“From now until March 18, no harm must come to the 43 health workers. The AFP should immediately cease the interrogation, sleep deprivation and harassment being done to the detainees on an almost daily basis. There has been no let-up in the illegal acts of the AFP inside Camp Capinpin,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

For her part, Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) secretary-general Dr. Geneve Rivera thanked CHR for the “quick response” on the complaint.

The order stemmed from a complaint filed through the Public Interest Law Center and NUPL before the CHR against the AFP for the group’s illegal detention at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

Of the 43, three were held for illegal possession of firearms, while the 40 are facing the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of explosive devices before the Morong Regional Trial Court.

The military and police claim the health workers are New People’s Army (NPA) members who were undergoing explosives training.
The “Morong 43”, supported by health groups and civil society across the globe, reiterated that they were neither supporters nor members of the NPA. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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Justice for the 43!