Posts Tagged ‘43 health workers’

1. The whole thing with the 43 health workers is the PNP’s fault, if we believe the AFP. It was the PNP who applied for the warrant, led the raid and had operational command. The AFP only played a supporting role.

2. For its supporting role, the AFP mobilized some 90 heavily armed troops.

3. Some 50 plus PNP personnel were involved in the operation.

4. The target of the combined 140 armed elements from the government was a lone gunman going by the name of Mario Condes.

5. For playing a minor and supporting role, the AFP’s Col. Baladad and Lt. Col. Abawag were given medals while no one from the PNP who supposedly led the operation were given any awards or recognition.

6. No one from the PNP has apparently seen Mario Condes… ever.

7. No one from the PNP knows anything about Mario Condes other than that he has guns and that he accosted a neighbor last January 3, based on an unverified complaint. No records (blotter) exist of this complaint.

8. Despite not knowing anything about Mario Condes, the PNP believes he is an influential person, who has influence even with the Rizal courts. This is supposedly the reason why the PNP applied for a warrant in Cavite, which is far away from the influence of the mysterious Mario Condes.

9. Did I mention the PNP knows nothing about Condes, except that he has unlicensed guns and that he’s influential?

10. The PNP says that the target of the search operation was Condes and not any NPA members.

11. The AFP’s Baladad says he did not see the search warrant bearing Condes’ name and that there were intel reports of NPA presence in the area. Baladad did not know that Condes was the target.

12. The PNP’s Supt. Marion Balonglong who applied for the warrant was not the one who served the warrant. Some other PNP guy did that.

13. The PNP was sure of the location of Condes, but apparently did not know his exact address so they could not indicate it in the warrant. They only knew his “exact” location, which was this rest house/resort in Maybangcal, Morong Rizal. To affirm this, the PNP conducted what they called “social investigation” on the said house.

14. The PNP was sure that the house they were raiding belonged to Condes, even if overwhelming evidence pointed the house belonged to Dr. Melecia Velmonte.

15. After arresting the 43, none of whom was Mario Condes, the PNP considered the operation a resounding success.

16. The PNP is no longer looking for Condes who remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.

17. Despite not having operational command of the raid, Balonglong was the one who requested that the AFP take custody of the 43. The Morong PNP did not have the necessary bed space for such a huge catch. Quick thinking, Balonglong!

18. Supt. Balonglong still does not have any award or commendation despite his role in identifying the supposed whereabouts of Condes. Meanwhile, AFP best supporting actors Baladad and Abawag have been given Bronze Stars.

19. The AFP has such modest officers who refuse to take credit for a “successful’ operation, preferring to give it entirely to the PNP. The AFP officers though will take the medal anytime. The PNP national leadership under Gen. Versoza meanwhile would rather have the AFP get all the credit and/or blame as well as the custody of the 43 detainees.

20. Somebody better find this Mario Condes fast. As long as he’s out there, everyone is in danger. Yours could be the next house that might be raided because the AFP and PNP just might think Mario Condes lives there.

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Despite the setback faced by the 43 before the Court of Appeals (when the petition for habeas corpus was denied by a vote of 3-2), the Commission on Human Rights has announced that it will pursue its own investigation into the complaints of rights abuses filed by the 43 health workers who were arrested last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The CHR is set to hear the complaint of the 43 health workers on March 18 at 9am. It is not yet clear if the Armed Forces of the Philippines will comply with the CHR order to present the 43 on the said date. It is also not clear if the officials summoned to attend the hearing, Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Prosecutor Senson and Judge Mangrobang will attend.

There should be no reason for them not to attend since there is ample time for them to prepare all the necessary logistics for the 43. We surely don’t want a repeat of what they did last February 12 when the AFP defied a Supreme Court order.

Let’s show our support for the 43 by joining the mass action on March 18. Let’s show the 43 that the number of advocates is growing everyday . See you at the CHR at 8am.

Next week, we also hope for some positive updates in the appeal filed by lawyers before the Court of Appeals. The CA is supposed to elevate the appeal to the Supreme Court. This should get the ball rolling in our quest to free the 43 and have the Martial Law relic known as the Ilagan doctrine forever removed from our jurisprudence.

CHR orders AFP to answer complaint, present 43 health workers on March 18

The Commission on Human Rights has issued an order directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to explain the legal basis of the continued detention of the 43 health workers nabbed in Morong , Rizal last February 6. The AFP is also directed, under pain of contempt, to present the 43 at a hearing scheduled on March 18, 9am.

The order was issued on February 26, a day after lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers filed a complaint alleging human rights abuses in the arrest and detention of the 43.

The CHR ordered the respondents including AFP chief of staff Victor Ibrado, PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa, to answer the allegations within an non-extendable 10 days upon receipt of the Order. The respondents from the AFP and PNP were ordered to explain, under pain of contempt, why the 43 remain in a military camp instead of a PNP detention facility. The CHR also asked for a detailed inventory of the items seized from the 43.

Also directed to explain in his answer was State Prosecutor Romeo Senson, who was alleged to have denied the 43 counsel during the inquest proceedings. Judge Cesar Mangrobang of Cavite was also directed to explain his answer the circumstances surrounding the issuance of a search warrant which lawyers have assailed as being constitutionally defective.

The CHR asked the AFP to strictly and unconditionally observe, follow and implement provisions of RA 7438 which allows detainees access to counsel, relatives, doctors and priests or religious ministers at all hours of the day and night.

Those being ordered to appear before the hearing are the 2nd Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, 202nd Infantry Brigade chief Col. Aurelio Baladad as well as Judge Mangrobang, Prosecutor Senson, and resort owners Dr. Melecia Velmonte and Mr. Jose Manuel Velmonte.

The CHR has ordered the custodians of the 43 to present them at the hearing so they may affirm under oath the contents of their affidavits and answer clarificatory questions from the Commission.

From now until March 18, no harm must come to the 43 health workers. The AFP should immediately cease the interrogation, sleep deprivation and harassment being done to the detainees on an almost daily basis. There has been no let-up in the illegal acts of the AFP inside Camp Capinpin.

The 43 detained health workers went on the offensive today as they filed a complaint before the CHR, asking the commission to look into gross human rights violations in the arrest and detention of the 43 health workers last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The counsels for the 43, the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of People’s lawyers submitted a letter complaint and the affidavits of the 43 which detail the various rights violations and accounts of torture during detention.

Among those being held responsible were Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, commander-in-chief of the AFP who did not do anything will the violations were ongoing, AFP chief of staff Victor Ibrado, 2nd ID Chief Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, 202nd IB chief Col. Aurelio Baladad and other officers who were involved in the military operation against the 43. The lawyers were also joined by the relatives of the 43 and the various groups supporting the campaign.

For her part, CHR chair Leila de Lima said that the Commission was already preparing an order for the AFP to explain the various allegations of torture, ill-treatment and violations of human rights.

The CHR will also ask the Department of Justice in particular why the 43 were denied counsel during the inquest proceedings held in Camp Capinpin on February 7. Based on the testimonies of the 43, it was only on the day of inquest that their blindfolds and handcuffs were removed. They were asked to line up and their names called. They were then informed of the charges against them. After this, the DOJ prosecutor Romeo Senson left the camp. The 43 were not allowed counsel during the inquest proceedings.

This seems to be the first time a prosecutor of the DOJ is being investigated for human rights violations. This is should serve as a warning to other prosecutors who will undertake similar legal short-cuts, denial of rights and denial of due process.

Atty. Romeo Capulong, lead counsel for the 43, said that the lawyers will also file a motion to transfer the detention of the 43 from Camp Capinpin to Camp Aguinaldo. Both lawyers and doctors contend that the continued stay of the 43 in the military camp places them at risk of torture.

Families of the 43 were also allowed to air their concerns to CHR chair de Lima. Doctors also complained that those of them identified with any of the cause-oriented groups are barred from entering the Camp.

The CHR hopes to schedule a hearing once the necessary papers are submitted.

February 27, Saturday, will mark three weeks since the 43 health workers were arrested and detained. We must press on with the campaign to FREE THE 43.

Last Wednesday was the deadline for the submission of memorandum ordered by the Court of Appeals in the petition for the writ of habeas corpus. The decision can come out on or before Wednesday next week. We must be ready.

Doctors have found it increasingly difficult to access the detainees at Camp Capinpin. Families have also complained of delays during visits to the detainees. These restrictions come at a time when the AFP is desperately trying to cover up allegations of torture and ill-treatment against the 43.

Members of the United Methodist Church Cal-Pacific delegation from the United States were first hand witnesses to the suffering of families trying to visit their relatives in Camp Capinpin.

The UMC delegation is just the latest among many international formations that have expressed support for the 43. International pressure continues to snowball with protestant churches, health workers associations, and recently, the sister of the president of the European Union adding their voices to the growing clamor for the release of the 43. The campaign to free the 43 is now global.

Local political leaders have also crossed party lines on the issue of the 43. Almost all candidates for president and vice-president have spoken out on the issue of the health workers. Senator and vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda has called on President Arroyo to speak out on the issue. Malacanang has responded that the president does not need to speak on the issue because it is already in the courts.

Senatorial candidate and former justice secretary Frank Drilon has also given the opinion that mere membership in the NPA cannot a be basis for arrests, and that an overt act or crime must first be committed to justify the arrests of the 43. That is why the AFP has repeatedly said that they caught the 43 “in the act” of making bombs (despite the fact that the arrests were done at 6am.)

Protests have also been held the past week. Last Saturday, relatives and supporters of the 43 witnessed firsthand state fascism when they were hosed down at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo. The protesters which included the human rights group Hustisya, Health Alliance for Democracy, Bayan, Katribu and Bayan Muna merely wanted to post paper doves with the names of the 43 on the walls of Camp Aguinaldo. The disproportionate use of force was indeed condemnable.

Later that day, different artists converged in Kamuning, Quezon City for a solidarity night and fund raising for the campaign to free the 43. “Taumbayan” was the venue for Hilom, a cultural event which gathered poets, musicians and other advocates to lend their talents for the campaign. The place was packed and folks spilled over in the sidewalks. We did a re-worked version of “The Forty-Three”, a song written by Carl Lopez of Cebu, which was among the new works that have come out because of the campaign. Also look out for the new poems by Stum Casia and Kislap Alitaptap. More artists are expressing their support, through their works, for the 43.

Let’s keep those support statements, mass actions and contributions coming. On the third week of the campaign to free the 43, we thank all those who have given their all-out support. We give recognition to the families of the 43 who have been patient and unwavering through all the difficulties of this struggle. They need our support more than ever.

When the 43 arrested health workers were brought to the auditorium of the Court of Appeals, each was handcuffed to a soldier. If they were going to the rest room, they would be accompanied by the soldier assigned to them. Only when they enter the rest room would their handcuffs be removed. This went on for some time, before lawyers asserted that the handcuffs be removed and the detainees allowed to confer with their lawyers and family members.

It was almost 3pm when the hearing started. Atty. Romeo Capulong raised his objection to the handcuffs on the detainees even while inside the court room and the inability of the lawyers to properly confer with their clients. He asked the justices not to allow Martial Law to be imposed inside the court.

As they entered, some detainees managed to smile and raise their clenched fists to the family members and supporters inside the court room.  I saw one detainee try to hug his wife, even while he was seated and handcuffed to a soldier. As they hugged, the soldier was right there beside them.

Atty. Capulong also moved that the detainees be transferred from Camp Capinpin to Camp Crame because of the many cases of ill-treatment and difficulty of lawyers to access their clients. The Court said it would deliberate on the motion at the appropriate time.

Thus the hearing for the petition of the writ of habeas corpus began. The presiding justice asked if the 43 were present inside the court room. Another justice asked that all detainees stand so that they may be counted. The 43 stood, all of them accounted for.

Atty. Capulong then asked the court if he can begin the presentation of evidence and witnesses. This was objected to by the Assistant Solicitor General who said that the habeas corpus hearing was not the proper venue to hear evidence pertaining to the conditions of confinement or if there were improprieties in the arrest.

The judge eventually ruled in favor of the petitioners and allowed the presentation of one witness, upon the request of Atty . Capulong. The 43 were also allowed to submit their affidavits detailing their arrest and detention.

The Assistant Sol-Gen asked for a “concession” from the court by asking the media to leave the room and to hold the hearing under executive session. The presiding judge ruled that the hearing was a public hearing and that the media is allowed to cover the event, minus cameras.

Dr. Alex Montes, 62-year old surgeon and one of the trainers in the health seminar was called to the witness stand. He gave an account of his arrest and the events since he was brought to Camp Capinpin.

He said that at around 6am, an undetermined number of soldiers barged into the resort owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte. They were taken by the armed men but were not informed of their offense. The armed men proceeded to the conference room, he said. He described the situation as disorganized, with people running all over the resort. He was later handcuffed and blindfolded and led to vehicle. The arresting officers did not inform his of why he was being taken or where we was being taken. He said they traveled for an hour and a half.

Atty. Capulong asked him what the effects of the handcuffs and blindfolds were on Dr. Montes. He said that he could not walk alone, and had to suffer the indignity of having someone else lower his pants and underwear for him to be able to pee.

Among other things, Dr. Montes related that he was handcuffed and blindfolded until early evening of February 7 (nearly 36 hours) when he and the others were subjected to inquest proceedings. The inquest appeared to be a farce since they were only called out one by one, informed that they were being charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and afterwards, the prosecutor from the Department of Justice left.

Dr. Montes said during interrogation, he was brought outdoors to what appeared to be some cliff or inclined plane. He was repeatedly asked questions about his alleged affiliation with the NPA. During several sessions, he was asked if he knew Tirso Alcantara or Ka Bart. His interrogators said they saw him in Luneta, meeting with two other people, talking about military strategy. They said he was part of the Military Commission of the NPA.

Dr. Montes did not eat from the time he was arrested (Feb.6), up to the time his blindfold and handcuffs were removed (Feb.7) .  He believed that the drinks given to him were laced with some substance because he could feel them around the mouth of the cup.

When Atty. Capulong asked him of his current detention status, Dr. Montes said that he remains under solitary confinement, only getting some 15 minutes of sun the past two days. He does not get news from the outside world, and visits have certain restrictions.

Finally, Atty. Capulong asked Dr. Montes how this whole ordeal has affected him. It was at this point that Dr. Montes looked up and appeared unable to continue, almost on the brink of crying. He was assisted back to his seat.

The counsels for petitioners and respondents were given 48 hours to file their respective memorandums and then the case is considered submitted for decision within a week.

At the hearing, most of the 43 were in high spirits. When they left the room, some of them waved goodbye then raised their clenched fists, a sign of their continuing defiance. As they left the CA compound, they were greeted by a noise barrage from the protesters outside. The grounds of the CA was turned into a virtual garrison with troops carrying long firearms scattered all over the place.

The police had to push back the rushing mob who wanted to get a glimpse of the 43 health workers. It took some time for the buses to be able to leave the CA compound as protesters were gathered outside.

We ended the rally outside after I gave some updates on what transpired inside the court room. Right now, our lawyers have their work cut out for them. The next 48 hours will be very important for the case. In the next nine days or so, we will know if the petitioners will get the relief that they petitioned for.

We call on our friends here and abroad to intensify the calls for the release of the 43. We hope that the CA will issue a favorable ruling so that in the near future, the 43 will regain their freedom, be reunited with their families and continue with their work.

P.S.

In a statement to the media, General Jorge Segovia of the 2nd Infantry Division now says that the 43 are indeed health workers, but that they belonged to the NPA and are part of the “health bureau”. He described this as a “superbody” that is the equivalent of the Department of Health in the revolutionary movement. This after the AFP insisted that the 43 were being trained to build bombs instead of undergoing a health seminar.

The AFP is now caught up in its own lies.