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AFP: ‘Morong 38’ not tortured

The military on Friday said it would fight the criminal charges brought against some of its officers by eight left-leaning health workers and prove the complainants wrong.

Speaking to reporters at Camp Aguinaldo, Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., the military’s spokesperson, said the military had evidence to show that the so-called Morong 43 were not tortured while in detention.

The Morong 43 were health workers arrested in a military raid on a resort in Morong, Rizal province, on Feb. 6, 2010. The military said they were communist New People’s Army (NPA) cadres training in making bombs. President Aquino, who took over from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in June 2010, ordered the charges against them withdrawn. They were freed before Christmas that year.

Six of the Morong 43 have sued Arroyo for damages.

On Thursday, eight more accused her and 18 others, including military and police officers, of torture in a complaint filed in the Department of Justice. It was the first human rights case involving criminal charges brought against a former Philippine president.

Burgos said the military officers involved in the arrest of the Morong 43 had received commendations and promotions.

He said President Aquino recently promoted Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, the commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal province, at the time of the arrests, to commanding general of the military in Eastern Mindanao.

‘It’s Morong 38’

“We will do everything to come up with the best defense for our soldiers who were just performing their duties and responsibilities, and who have attested that there was no torture committed,” Burgos said.

“It is never a policy of the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] to commit human rights violations, more so torture. We have long condemned this practice in our ranks,” he added.

Burgos said it was wrong to continue to refer to the group as Morong 43 because five of them have admitted to being NPA rebels.

The five remain in military custody. They are treated as rebel returnees.

“It’s not Morong 43, but Morong 38. The other five have a big role in supporting the claims of our soldiers and in refuting the charges against them,” Burgos said.

Thirty-five of the health workers were released in December 2010 on orders from President Aquino following a finding by the Department of Justice that the warrant for their arrest was defective.

Three remain in detention, as they are facing other criminal charges in court.

The eight health workers who sued Arroyo claimed they were tortured and made to suffer other abuses in the Army’s Camp Capinpin in Tanay.

Sued with Arroyo were two former military chiefs, Generals Victor Ibrado and Delfin Bangit; Segovia; Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad; Army Colonels Joey Reyes and Cristobal Zaragosa; Police Superintendents Marion Balonglong and Allan Nobleza; Maj. Manuel Tabon; Lt. Jovilee Cabading; a certain Vicente Lopez; female jail guards identified only as Calaoagan, Cea and Idloy; a certain Bulaklak; a John Doe, a Jane Doe and a Mickey Doe.

Executing arrest warrant

Burgos said the military personnel involved were adamant that the health workers were never tortured.

He said the military was obliged to provide legal assistance to its accused personnel.
“It was a legitimate operation. Together with the Philippine National Police, they were only executing an arrest warrant issued by a civilian court,” Burgos said.

But Ibrado and Bangit have to get their own lawyers, as they are already retired.

Ibrado and Bangit were sued for command responsibility, Burgos said.

There was no further word Friday from the Arroyo camp about the suit. On Thursday, Arroyo’s spokesperson, Elena Bautista-Horn, said the former President would answer the charges against her at the proper time.



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