‘Morong 43’ surprised by re-set arraignment of Army, PNP officials
SAN PEDRO CITY, Laguna — The Sandiganbayan seventh division has postponed until May 28 the arraignment of Army and Philippine National Police officials accused in the arrest and detention of 43 health workers in Morong, Rizal in 2010.
This was after the accused filed a motion to quash the charges against them, prompting the Sandiganbayan to reset the arraignment and order the prosecution to submit their comment within 30 days.
The order to re-schedule the arraignment was actually handed down on March 24.
But lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), who represents the complainants, said they only learned about the Sandiganbayan’s order on Thursday (Mar.30)
In February 2010, state forces arrested and detained 43 persons, among them doctors, a midwife, and community health workers, while conducting a medical training in a resort in Morong town. The health workers, later collectively referred to as the “Morong 43,” were accused of being members or sympathizers of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Among the 43 were Dr. Merry Mia Clamor of the Council for Health and Development, Dr. Alex Montes of the Community Medicine Development Foundation, midwife Teresa Quinawayan, nurse Gary Liberal, and health workers Reynaldo Macabenta, Mercy Castro, Lydia Obera, and Delia Ocasia, who filed cases of robbery, torture, illegal detention and human rights violations against the Army and police.
Specifically, charges of violations of the anti-torture law, and violations of the Republic Act 7438 or the rights of a person arrested, detained, or under custodial investigation, were filed against the uniformed personnel at the Department of Justice in May 2012.
In February 2016, the Ombudsman dropped the robbery and torture charges but recommended the indictment for violations of RA 7438 of at least eight army and police officials, among them retired General Jorge Segovia who formerly headed the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, Gen. Aurelio Baladad, and former intelligence officer Col. Victorino Zaragosa.
The Ombudsman, meanwhile, dismissed the complaints against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado and the late former Army chief Delfin Bangit.
In a phone interview, Olalia described the case of the “Morong 43” as significant being one of the “rare, high profile cases” that involved ranking military officers.
“This sends a message even to the lowest army sergeant that they could not get away with impunity and must answer for acts of human rights violations,” he said. SFM
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