THE SUPREME COURT on Thursday ordered the military and police to present Friday to the Court of Appeals the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal.
The high court?s First Division issued the resolution in response to the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed on Monday by the relatives and colleagues of the health workers, who were taken at gunpoint from a health training seminar and detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.
The hearing, scheduled at 2:30 p.m., is to be conducted by the appellate court?s First Division led by acting Presiding Justice Portia Hormachuelos.
The health workers were arrested for suspected links with the communist New People?s Army (NPA). The military and police held a press conference yesterday in Taytay, Rizal, to back this suspicion.
The Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeals to provide an appropriate venue in view of the big number of persons to be presented.
It also required the respondent officers led by Gen. Victor Ibrado, the Armed Forces chief of staff, and Director General Jesus Verzosa of the Philippine National Police to explain the detention of the health workers.
?The court finds that the requisites for the application of the writ are present,? the tribunal?s First Division said in its resolution.
?The petition was signed and verified by relatives and the secretary of the Community Medicine Development Foundation on behalf of the 43 who are restrained of their liberty,? it added.
Among the arrested health workers detained at Camp Capinpin are two doctors?Alex Montes and Merry Mia Clamor.
In the press conference at Camp Geronimo in Taytay, a man claiming to be an NPA member in Bulacan said he and the 42 others arrested in Morong were part of the guerrilla movement, and a police officer identified two of them as among the rebels who abducted and held him hostage for almost three months in 2009.
Valentino Paulino?or ?Ka Beloy,? as he introduced himself?and Insp. Rex Cuntapay were among the witnesses presented by the military and police to justify the detention of the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6.
?My comrades are still detained in the camp ... so I would like to ask your assistance to help them return to the fold of the law,? Paulino told reporters.
Cuntapay said he and his team were ambushed at noon on Jan. 3, 2009, in Barangay Macabud, Rodriguez town, by a group of NPA rebels, killing PO1 Erickson Aquino.
Among the arrested health workers, he pinpointed two women?Linda Otańez and Pearl Irene Martinez?as part of the NPA group that held him captive for 83 days.
?Our patrol vehicle ran over a land mine last year... Our driver was killed, two others were seriously wounded,? Cuntapay said.
He said Police Officers 1 Alberto dela Cruz and Marvin Agasen were also held hostage for nearly three months.
Police personnel assigned to the municipal station in San Narciso in the Bondoc Peninsula also took turns in naming the purported guerrillas who posed as journalists before raiding the police post on Dec. 20, 2009.
Among those identified were Otanez, Aldrin Garcia, Edwin Detera, Antonio de Dios, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mark Escartin.
Relatives and colleagues said the 43 arrested health workers were tortured and kept in handcuffs and blindfolds for more than 36 hours at Camp Capinpin.
Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, chief of the 2nd Infantry Division, told reporters that these claims were ?the first salvo of propaganda? meant to discredit the Feb. 6 operation.
He said it was expected that the NPA would not ?take it sitting down? as it was the biggest arrest of communist guerrillas by security forces in recent history.
?This is a big blow to them, so they will concoct every kind of story,? Segovia said.
A joint team from the military and police arrested the 43 health workers during a raid on a rest house owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, an expert in infectious diseases, in Morong.
The raiding team claimed to find a number of firearms and explosives in the rest house.
Seven criminal cases were yesterday filed in court against the 43, State Prosecutor Romeo Senson said.
Senson said 40 were charged with illegal possession of explosives with no bail recommended.
He said the rest, who purportedly acted as guards, were slapped with bailable charges of violation of the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections, and illegal possession of firearms.
As for Velmonte, Senson surmised that the doctor was outside her rest house when the arrests were made, which was why she could not be charged with any of the three crimes.
?Although, of course, that is still under investigation,? he said.