“He mentioned about the poison tree. He knew the arrest was wrong from the start. What else is the President waiting for? Release the Morong 43 now,” Evelyn Montes, wife of Dr. Alexis Montes, said.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – For the first time, President Benigno S. Aquino III was forced to speak on the case of the Morong 43 and he admitted there were errors related to the arrest.
The 43 health workers were arrested during a health skills training on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal. They were labeled as members of the New People’s Army and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and detained for three months at Camp Capinpin. Thirty-eight have been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa since May while five have remained under military custody.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has submitted a review on the case of the Morong 43 to Aquino. When asked by a reporter regarding the case, Aquino said: “…[w]hen you ask for a warrant, there are certain specifics that you have to put in—what do you hope to find? When do you hope to find it? The review basically stated that there was a person that they were serving a warrant against. That person was not in the resort that was raided. The firearms in particular would fall only in a general classification. ‘Yung [The] explosives were not part of the warrant. So I emphasized to both the Chief of Staff, the Undersecretary representing the Secretary of DND and director-general Bacalzo that we, who are upholders of the law, must be different from those who are beyond the pale of the law, who are outlaws. So it is a generally accepted principle that…the concept of lawyers is called the fruit of the poison tree. The evidence that are wrongly gotten cannot be used, therefore, it cannot prosper.”
The search warrant used in the raid was against a certain Mario Condes. Condes was not among the 43 health workers arrested. During the public hearings conducted by the Commission on Human Rights, then chaired by de Lima, military and police officials admitted they had not found and have stopped looking for Condes. No one with such a name lives within the village where the raid was conducted.
Aquino added: “However, the matter is before the courts. Again, nasa jurisdiction nila [It is under their jurisdiction]. So ‘yung courses of action and we would want to rectify that situation but that will have to undergo sanction by the courts that have already taken cognizance of the case.”
“He mentioned about the poison tree. He knew the arrest was wrong from the start. What else is the President waiting for? Release the Morong 43 now,” Evelyn Montes, wife of Dr. Alexis Montes, said when asked for comment. “He has the power to call for the release of the Morong 43, why course it to the courts?” Mrs. Montes added.
“The President himself recognized there were irregularities. We are hoping for the immediate withdrawal of the case against the Morong 43,” Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor and acting secretary general of Karapatan, said.
Clamor admitted they had hoped Aquino would call for the release of the Morong 43. “Nevertheless, we hope that his statement will expedite the process for their release,” he said.
“Beyond the court, such as explicit admission by the President himself and as the Commander –in- chief of the Armed Forces, of the irregularities is paramount to the innocence of the Morong 43 and unlawfulness of their continued detention,” said Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokeswoman of the Free The 43 Health Workers Alliance.
Caguiat said the Aquino government has a direct and significant role because it has the authority to order the withdrawal of the case since the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the executive branch was the agency involved in filing of wrongful charges against the Morong 43.
Clamor said it is not enough that Aquino recognized the irregularities. “The perpetrators in the illegal arrest of the Morong 43 must be prosecuted. We want to remind everyone that the Morong 43 were also tortured,” he said.
Clamor said they are resolved to file cases against the police and military involved in the raid and that they will deal with it as soon as the Morong 43 are released.
The Free The 43 Health Workers Alliance said that by addressing the case of the Morong 43, the Aquino government could not only rectify the historic injustices of the Arroyo administration but could also show how committed it is to protect human rights.
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