Thursday, March 4, 2010

Three of Morong 43 detainees ‘secretly transferred’—Karapatan


Three of the 43 health workers arrested in Morong town in Rizal have reportedly been taken from their detention cells in Camp Capinpin in Tanay on March 1 and transferred to a yet unknown location, a human rights group said Tuesday.

In a statement, Karapatan said Ellen Carandang, Cherrielyn Tawagon and Valentin Paulino were first taken out of their cells during the wee hours of March 1, sent back in the morning and finally taken out again at around 2 p.m. of the same day with their belongings.

Neither the relatives nor lawyers of the three health workers were informed that the three would be transferred to another detention facility, according to the statement.

"The swiftness and secrecy in ‘transferring’ the three victims show that the military is set on further violating the laws and the rights of the detained health workers to ensure that the victims will not have access to their relatives and legal counsel of their choice. While detained by the military, the victims are being tortured to implicate themselves," Karapatan chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.

Romeo Capulong, the detained medical personnel’s lawyer, said in a separate interview they are not sure if the three have already returned to Camp Capinpin as access to the health workers continue to be restricted by the military.

“Inaalok sila ng pera, tinatakot para bumaligtad (They are being offered money and threatened to recant)," Capulong said.

In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report posted on Wednesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. said Carandang, Tawagon and Paulino have requested for a new counsel after refusing to sign the affidavit prepared by Capulong.

Capulong said, however, that the three had earlier signed the petition he prepared, which details the abuse they were subjected to allegedly to force them to admit that they are members of the rebel group New People’s Army.

Hilao-Enriquez demanded that the whereabouts of Carandang, Tawagon and Paulino be disclosed so that the relatives and lawyers can visit them and ensure their safety, and that they be brought back to Camp Capinpin.

It has been more than three weeks since the 43 have been detained on suspicions of being members of the rebel group New People’s Army as “rebel trainees".

The health workers, however, maintain they were attending a health skills training when they were arrested at a farmhouse owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte in the village of Maybangcal in Morong.

Capulong said the military still restricts visits by lawyers, relatives and groups to the detainees, with only one detainee at a time being allowed to consult with his or her counsel.

The military has also “banned" Karapatan and women’s rights group Gabriela, including lawyers associated with these organizations, from visiting the health workers.

As this developed, the Commission on Human Rights has ordered military and police officials to answer allegations of human rights violations committed against the 43 in a hearing scheduled on March 18. (See: CHR summons AFP, PNP officers involved in ‘Morong 43’ arrest)

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