Monday, April 12, 2010

Rights Body to Initiate Contempt Raps vs Military for Failing to Produce Morong 43

By Ronalyn V. Olea and Anne Marxze D. Umil
Bulatlat.com

For the second time, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) failed to produce the 43 health workers at a hearing conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The 43 health workers or the Morong 43 were arrested February 6 in Morong, Rizal. They are detained at Camp Capinpin. The Morong 43 filed charges of human rights violations against soldiers and policemen involved in their arrest and detention.

Ser-men Ayuyao of Judge Advocate General’s Office (Jago) insisted during the CHR hearing today April 12 that they need to secure an order from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Morong to bring the 43 health workers to the CHR hearing. Ayuyao said that since the court ordered the transfer of the Morong 43 to Camp Crame, the AFP was not able to ask clearance from the RTC.

“We do not need any prior authority to compel the appearance of detainees in CHR’s hearings,” CHR Chairwoman Leila de Lima said.

De Lima said the directive to produce the Morong 43 is directed to the AFP or the Philippine National Police and with or without a court order, the institutions must comply.

Romeo T. Capulong, lead counsel of the Morong 43, said the authorization from civil courts is totally unnecessary given the mandate of the CHR.

Contempt

“There is no earnest effort on the part of the AFP to comply with the order,” de Lima said.

The respondents filed petitions with the Court of Appeals to stop the CHR from further proceeding with its hearings on the arrest of Morong 43. The AFP claimed that the CHR has no jurisdiction to proceed with the case, citing the subjudice rule. The rule states that when a legal matter or controversy is under the jurisdiction of a court (subjudice), nobody, including the press should interfere by publishing statements or commentaries regarding the court’s handling of the proceedings.

“The CHR will not renege on its mandate under the Constitution. You have been testing our patience,” de Lima said. “We will initiate the appropriate contempt orders,” the CHR chairwoman added.

De Lima said that the March 19 order of the CHR is also directed to the high-ranking officers of both the AFP and PNP. “We can also hold them accountable,” she said.

Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing said the decision to cite the AFP and PNP in contempt would be made by the Commission en banc.

No Show

Even the respondents to the complaint did not show up at the hearing. Only the lawyers of the AFP and PNP were present.

Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Balabad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade and Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, P/Supt. Marion Balonglong of the Rizal Provincial Police were among the respondents.

Arthur Llamas, counsel of the PNP, said Balonglong has another appointment. When asked what appointment it was, Llamas said he did not know.

State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson who subjected the Morong 43 to inquest proceedings without the presence of lawyers also did not attend the hearing.

Judge Cesar Mangrobang who issued the search warrant also did not show up. Cyrus Jurado who claims to represent the five of the 43 health workers, was also not present. Both Mangrobang and Jurado submitted a manifestation that they will not comply with the CHR order.

No Ground Commander?

P/Supt. Allan Nubleza, chief of the Rizal Provincial Intelligence Branch, appeared before the hearing. He told the CHR that he would leave tomorrow for United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Nubleza denied he was the ground commander of the Feb. 6 operations that led to the arrest of the 43 health workers, contrary to what Balonglong said during the first hearing of the CHR. He said he was there together with his team to evaluate the suspects and verify who among them have standing warrants of arrest. Nubleza admitted that it was only later that he found out that one of the Morong 43 has a standing warrant of arrest. He said the AFP informed him that two of the Morong 43 were involved in a January 2009 ambush in Bgy. Macabud, Rodriguez, Rizal.

“Who was in charge?” asked de Lima. Nubleza said the PNP was in charge of the search warrant. As for the arrest, Nubleza said he did not know. He also said he was only there in his capacity as head of the provincial police intelligence branch.

Still No Mario Condes, ‘Dubious Firearms’

Dr. Melecia Velmonte, owner of the farmhouse that was raided and her son Jose Manuel testified before the CHR and said they knew no one by the name of Mario Condes.

Mario Condes is the name written in the search warrant.

Jose Manuel said they have a neighbor by the name of Masikat Condez who has a property 300 or 400 meters away from their farmhouse.

Dr. Velmonte recalled the incident on Feb. 6 and said the armed men who did the raid never approached her.

“The improvised landmine appeared to be an improvised trash can,” Jose Manuel told the CHR.

Jose Manuel also noted that grenades were allegedly found on top of a bed, on top of the table and other places which he described as conspicuous, adding that he would not know if these were real.

Jose Manuel also said their LCD projector, which was used during the training is missing. He also said that he noticed one soldier carrying a bag containing laptops after the official search.

Statement from Prison

“We are the victims of gross human rights violations wrought by the AFP, Norberto Gonzales, and the Arroyo administration’s political desperation and fanatic goal of ending the insurgency at all costs even to the extent of trampling civilian rights and the rule of law,” the Morong 43 said in a statement from detention.

They said further that five of their companions were “deceitfully and forcefully removed from the detention center and are being forced to cooperate with the military for the latter’s propaganda purposes and to testify against us.”

“Questioning, threatening and deceitful offers of house and lot, money and freedom in exchange for military “cooperation” by our military captors continued at the detention center anytime of the day until the last week of February,” they said.

The detainees said they were photographed by the military captors when going to court hearings and are videotaped when government officials visit them.

The CHR set the next hearing next week.

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