‘Morong 43′ Cry Torture; Satur Denounces ‘Grandslam
Day for Impunity’
Published on February 9, 2010
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The 43 health workers who were arrested Saturday morning in
Morong, Rizal province have been subjected to physical and psychological
torture, colleagues said.
After three days, relatives and colleagues were finally able to visit the
43 detainees in Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, Rizal, through the intervention
of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima, who earlier
denounced the military for refusing access to those detained.
The military and the police arrested the 43 health workers, including
doctors, nurses and midwives on Saturday morning. Colleagues and relatives
said the 43 were holding a health training and seminar but the military
insisted that they were NPA members and were caught in the act of making
explosives. On Tuesday, the military announced that several of those
arrested had pending cases in courts and that at least one of them
allegedly took part in a failed plot to assassinated then general and now
congressman Jovito Palparan.
Supporters and relatives of the “Morong 43″ rally in front of Camp
Capinpin on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of PCPR)
Some of the relatives were not able to see their loved ones, though. “The
security was tight. Upon entry, we were subjected to body search twice.
The soldiers also took photographs and videos of us,” said Roneo Clamor,
deputy secretary-general of Karapatan and husband of Merry, a medical
doctor who was among those detained. Clamor told Bulatlat that the health
workers were arrested “at gun point, they were blindfolded, handcuffed and
made to kneel down.”
In fact, the detainees were blindfolded for 36 hours, said Dr. Geneve
Rivera, secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (Head).
“Their blindfolds were only removed at 8 a.m. today, before CHR Chair de
Lima was allowed entry to the camp,” Clamor said on Monday.
Clamor said de Lima talked to the military officers and stayed at the camp
for more than three hours. “She made sure that we would be allowed to see
our loved ones.”
In the Facebook page “Release Thehealthworkers,” de Lima is quoted as
saying: “They are continuously handcuffed and blindfolded… they are not
allowed to sleep, somebody else feeds food into their mouths, even when
they urinate — somebody else pulls down their underwear.”
On Sunday, the CHR-National Capital Region (NCR) team was prevented from
entering the camp. They waited at Camp Capinpin from 11 a.m. until the
afternoon, to no avail. Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato, civil-military
operations chief of the brigade, defended the refusal to allow entry,
saying it was caused by concerns over a possible “jailbreak.”
Bulatlat tried to reach de Lima on her mobile phone but got no answer.
Clamor said all of the detainees were subjected to relentless
interrogation and were deprived of sleep. “They were made to sit the whole
time,” he said. “They [interrogators] played good cop and bad cop. They
asked all the personal details and some tried to force the detainees to
admit that they are NPA [New People's Army] members.” On Monday, military
officials said some of those arrested had confessed to being communist
guerrillas and that they were willing to testify in court against the
Clamor said Dr. Alex Montes of the Community Medicine Development
Foundation (Commed) was forced to admit that he is an NPA guerrilla. The
NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has
been waging a Maoist revolution for more than four decades.
Rivera told Bulatlat that the detainees are heavily guarded, with a
military officer — a lieutenant colonel as the lowest ranking officer —
assigned to each of them. “They are being guarded even to the comfort
rooms,” Rivera said. The 43 have been separated in different detention
cells, added Rivera.
At 9:15 pm last night, the arrested health workers were subjected to
inquest proceedings by a certain Romeo Samson of the Department of Justice
(DOJ), according to Clamor. “Again, no counsel for the victims was present
during the proceedings.”
“The military said they will file charges of illegal possession of
firearms and explosives. They issued a defective warrant and planted
evidence against the health workers,” said Clamor.
Lawyer Julius Garcia Matibag, one of the legal counsels, pointed out the
illegality and unconstitutionality of the warrant. During the raid, the
owner of the farmhouse, Dr. Melecia Velmonte, protested the illegal search
and arrests; she was ignored. Upon the intervention of Velmonte’s son, the
soldiers presented a search warrant against a certain Mario Condes.
“Condes is neither a resident of the house nor known to the Velmontes and
to the participants of the training,” Matibag said.
He said the warrant does not describe with particularity the place to be
searchef as it only indicates the address as “Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong,
Rizal.” Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states
that a search warrant or a warrant of arrest must specify the place to be
searched or the persons or things to be seized.
Matibag also said the arresting team violated Section 8, Rule 126 of the
Rules of Criminal Procedure when they searched the premises without the
presence of the owner of the house or witnesses. According to the rules,
no search shall be made except with the presence of the lawful occupant or
any member of the family or in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of
sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.
After the raid, the military alleged they found bomb-making materials,
guns, and even a claymore mine under the beds of the health workers.
Matibag said they will file a petition for habeas corpus Tuesday morning
at the Supreme Court. Clamor said the detainees are determined to file
counter charges against their captors.
In a separate statement, the party list group Bayan Muna said that it will
file the necessary criminal and administrative charges against those who
led the raid.
The military presented as evidence supposed Bayan Muna election
paraphernalia. “This is another attempt to harass Bayan Muna and feed
government propaganda to link the organization with the New People’s Army.
It is nothing more than a partisan political act by the Arroyo government
aimed at ensuring the electoral defeat of Bayan Muna, a prohibited act
under election laws,” the group said.
It also said the authorities violated the Anti-Torture Act, which provides
under Section 4 (b) for the imprisonment of military and police elements
who “prohibit the victims from communicating with members of his/her
family” and who blindfold those in their custody.
Disservice to the Poor
Meanwhile, the Council for Health and Development (CHD) criticized the
Arroyo government for “terrorizing health professionals who have chosen to
stay to serve the country.”
The CHD is the national organization of more than 50 community-based
health programs in the entire Philippines. Its staff members were among
Dr. Eleanor Jara, CHD executive director, lamented that the abducted
health professionals and CHWs are among those that serve far-flung
villages where government personnel and services are lacking or are simply
absent. “Because of their passion and dedication to serve their fellow
Filipinos, these health professionals and CHWs brave difficult work
environments and meager salaries just so they could be of service where
they are most needed,” Jara added.
“Instead of supporting and lauding their efforts and sacrifices, what does
Mrs. Arroyo’s government do? Her military and police abduct these health
professionals and CHWs and violate their rights. In effect, the delivery
of health services in the poorest communities is derailed,” Jara said.
The ratio of doctor to patient in the Philippines is pegged by the
Department of Health at 1:30,000.
“The military has done it again, this condemnable incident adds up to the
long list of human-rights violation against health workers and
community-based health practitioners,” Jara said.
Martial Law, Counter-Insurgency
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Makabayan senatorial bet Satur
Ocampo called the incident “a classic throwback to the martial law era.”
“This governmment already has a lot to answer for attacking the human
rights of the Filipino people… Now we have the AFP abducting and harassing
health professionals and personnel,” Ocampo said, adding “It’s a grandslam
day for impunity.”
Clamor, of Karapatan, said the incident was part of the implementation of
the Oplan Bantay Laya II, the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo
government. “Once again, this proves that the Arroyo government has not
adhered to [UN Special Rapporteur Philip] Alston’s recommendations. Even
with the abolition of the IALAG [Inter-Agency Legal Action Group], the
filing of trumped-up charges continues.”
Alston, who visited the country in February 2007, linked the extrajudicial
killings and other rights abuses to the counter-insurgency program of the
Arroyo government. One of his recommendations is the abolition of IALAG, a
group created by virtue of Arroyo’s executive order and tasked to build up
cases against so-called enemies of the state. (Bulatlat.com)