Original Post: Morong 43 health workers on the hunt for former defense sec, military camp warden
Hide and seek with the military and police, as Court affirms GMA still in suit
Morong 43 health workers on the hunt for former defense sec, military camp warden
“Nagtatago o itinatago?”
The counsels of the Morong 43 health workers today challenged President Noynoy Aquino and Armed Forces chief Jessie Dellosa to disclose the latest address of former Defense Secretary Norberto B. Gonzales and Camp Capinpin warden Manuel Tabion, in a show of good faith and in a bid for accountability.
“If this administration says it is sincere in seeking justice for victims of human rights violations, then it should help us in the proper administration of law. Otherwise, it may be fated to follow in the footsteps of the Arroyo administration – to make the same mistakes and find itself hauled before the courts as well,” said Atty. Ephraim Cortez, handling lawyer from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
The Morong 43 are suing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other top officials for P15 million worth of damages over the workers’ illegal arrest and detention through eight months in 2010. Gonzales and Tabion have not replied to any communication from the court, meaning the justice system cannot proceed as to claims against them.
Six health workers, led by Dr. Merry Mia Clamor and Dr. Alexis Montes, today asked the court’s permission to send the summons for the “missing” two to be published instead of handed over personally. The Office of the Provost Marshall of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Directorate for Personnel of the Philippine National Police have declared that they have no forwarding address for either, and refused to accept correspondences.
“We are forced to resort to summons by publication because we cannot locate the two defendants. To date, Gonzales and Tabion have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the court, and the military establishment has refused to provide assistance to our clients to ascertain their whereabouts,” said Atty. Cortez.
Gonzales is the former Defense Secretary who is being sued for his acquiesence, if not active involvement in the illegal arrest and detention of the health workers over eight months in 2010. Tabion was the commanding officer and warden of the Army’s Camp Capinpin, and accused of leading the physical and psychological torture on members of the group.
Branding the Army’s stance ludicrous, the NUPL scored the obvious refusal to cooperate especially since Tabion is reportedly still in active service. “The military and police want us to believe that they have no access to or contact with them. It’s either they are incompetent at keeping tabs on their people, or they are trying to hide them from us. Maybe they are all cavorting together someplace with former Gen. Palparan, Col. Oscar Legaspi, and the like,” said Atty. Cortez. The group alluded to two other top-ranked military officials wanted for the abduction of two UP students, and the murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia, respectively, who have been both at large for several years.
On the other hand, Arroyo and retired generals Victor Ibrado and Delfin Bangit have actively participated in the civil case. They have repeatedly asked the suit be dismissed, citing their personal non-involvement in the arrest, detention and torture of the Morong 43. Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 96 Judge Afable Cajigal today junked their petitions for dismissal again and ordered the case to proceed.
The multi-million damage suit was filed in April by Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, nurse Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mercy Castro. It is anchored on four causes of action: the illegal arrest, detention, and other violations of their constitutional rights; the alleged physical, verbal and psychological abuses; and the divesting of the plaintiffs’ personal belongings.
The separate criminal case filed against Arroyo’s top military officials, filed May earlier this year, is still pending before the Ombudsman.
Atty. Ephraim Cortez,
NUPL Assistant Secretary General for Legal Services
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