Judge denies Arroyo bid to dismiss ‘Morong 43’ damage suitBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City court has denied motions by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and two retired generals to dismiss a P15 million damage suit filed by members of the so-called “Morong 43” who claimed to have been tortured by the military in 2010.
While denying the separate motions to dismiss filed by Arroyo and retired generals Victor Ibrado and Delfin Bangit for lack of merit, Judge Ma. Luisa Q. Padilla of regional trial court Branch 226 ordered them as well as the Morong 43, a group of health workers detained by the military on suspicion of being rebels, to go through mediation proceedings before going back to court.
The order was dated May 10 but the court released only now as the parties received copies of the ruling on June 14.
In the order, Padilla, who has since been promoted to the Court of Appeals, said that the defenses of Arroyo, Ibrado and Bangit were best threshed out during the trial on the merits of the damage suit.
The parties are set to attend mediation hearings on July 6 as the court suspended proceedings in the case for a month, which may be extended if needed to give way to the mediation process.
In April last year, six members of the Morong 43 sued Arroyo et al for their allegedly illegal arrest and torture at the hands of the military in Camp Capinpin.
Aside from Arroyo, Ibrado and Bangit, also sued were: former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, Major General Jorge Segovia, Colonel Victorino Zaragoza, Major Manuel Tabion, Colonel Aurelio Baladad, Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Abawag, Superintendents Marion Balolong and Allan Nubleza.
The P15 million damage suit was filed on April 8 by Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, nurse Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mercy Castro.
The damage suit was based on four causes of action: the alleged physical, verbal and psychological abuses; the illegal arrest, detention, and other violations of their constitutional rights; and the divesting of the plaintiffs’ personal belongings.
Arroyo and Gonzales, according to suit, were in a position to stop the alleged violations of the Morong 43′s rights with the former president aware of the workers’ plight, but Arroyo did not lift a finger.
In her motion to dismiss, Arroyo, said the civil complaint failed to state a cause of action against her and that the case was one against the state.
Ibrado and Bangit, on the other hand, accused the plaintiffs of forum-shopping as there is a similar case before the Commission on Human Rights.
The court, however, ruled that the CHR was an investigating body and its actions won’t have any effect on the court proceedings.
It added that the plaintiffs’ allegations state a cause of action against the defendants.
In the same order, Padilla denied the Morong 43 members’ renewed appeal for the court to freeze assets of the defendants to the extent of P15 million.