Friday, December 17, 2010

Courts order release 43 health workers freed

By Niña Calleja, Tetch Torres
Agence France-Presse,, Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) Both the Morong Regional Trial Court and the Municipal Trial Court ordered the release on Friday afternoon of 43 health workers arrested by the military last February on suspicion they were communist rebels learning how to make bombs.

Judge Gina Cenit-Escoto of the Morong RTC" Branch 78 dismissed the charges of illegal possession of explosives against 40 of the 43 detainees collectively referred to as the "Morong 43."

Municipal Trial Court Judge Rodrigo Posadas also threw out the case against three others charged with violations of the election gun ban.

The rulings came after the Department of Justice dropped the charges against all 43 on President Aquino's order last Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

The court orders were to be taken to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which would process the release papers.

"The jail wardens of Camp Bagong Diwa and Camp Capinpin are directed to release the accused from their custody immediately upon receipt of this order," Cyrus Jurado, lawyer of five of the detained health workers, quoted Escoto in her order.

Other lawyers were still awaiting their copies of the court decision.

Relatives and supporters cried and shrieked with joy upon learning of the decision.

"Ang iyak ko ay kasihayan na malaman ng mundo na walang kasalanan si Dr. Montes (I cry for joy that the world will know Dr. Montes is innocent)," Evelyn Montes, wife of detained surgeon Alexis Montes, told the Inquirer.

"Siya ang pinakamagandang regalo sa aming pasko (His release is our best Christmas present)," Montes said.

The military and police have insisted that the 43, arrested in Morong, allegedly in possession of firearms and explosives, were rebels undergoing a training session.

However, the detainees insisted they were just health workers undergoing medical training.

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Justice for the 43!