Continued Illegal Detention of Morong 43 A Blackeye for RP Justice System

Continued detention of the Morong 43 Denounced by Church Leaders

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)
has issued a strong statement questioning the illegal arrest and continued detention of Morong 43 in a military facility. The CBCP said the continued detention of Morong 43 and their illegal arrest represent a “ serious threat to the civil liberties of the Filipino people.”

The Church leaders said they are gravely concerned about” the shifting accusations of the
military against the health workers, the conflicting positions of government authorities on the legitimacy of the arrest and detention, and the seeming lack of regard of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for human rights and the rule of law.”

The CBCP also said they are deeply worried about the wellbeing of the health workers in Camp Capinpin. “We share the sentiments of other human rights groups that the
presence of the detainees in a military camp makes them vulnerable to further abuses, psychological tortures, threats, and intimidation. Sustained exposure to psychosomatic strains may eventually break the fortitude and resistance of the Morong 43 into admitting under duress the accusations made against them."

The Morong 43, composed of doctors, nurses, and health care practitioners were attending a seminar-workshop on community health care in the private cottage of a university professor and prominent Filipino doctor in Morong, Rizal when a 300-strong combined army and police contingent surrounded the site. Using a fake warrant of arrest, the Morong 43, were arrested, blindfolded, brought to a military camp and were not given the benefit of counsel. There they were continuosly interrogated without the presence of counsel and were tortured physically and mentally into admitting they were members of the New People's Army, NPA. Most of the Morong 43 women reported sexual abuse in the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The CBCP statement adds “The fact that the necessary defense against torture and human rights abuses has been rendered null by Court of Appeals (CA) elevates the
concerns of the Church on the delivery of justice for the accused. Even
assuming the legal correctness of the Ilagan Doctrine invoked by CA
in denying the writ of habeas corpus to the detainees, we are still
troubled by the reality that the Court has just, in effect, sanitized and
legitimized the violations committed by the military against the health
workers.”

The statement continued that the “ CAs decision in itself does not remove the taint of an unlawful arrest and detention. The three ruling justices failed to
recognize the nature of the arrest, which is deemed illegal because of a
defective search warrant and the glaring contradictions in the military
officers statements.”

“The credibility of the inquest proceedings and the subsequent filing of charges are in doubt because the accused were denied counsel during interrogation, and the fact that statements or confession obtained during an illegal arrest are not admissible.”


“The issue is no longer about the Morong 43s involvement or
noninvolvement with the NPA nor about the veracity of torture claims of
the detainees. The issue is a fundamental one about the importance of
government institutions maintaining an objective distance and observing
the rule of law in its operations.”

“Instead of calling for an end to CHRs inquiry on human rights
violations committed against the Morong 43, the AFP should support the
initiative as concerned groups are only trying to shed light on the
unlawful activities taking place in military operations.”

“The Church acknowledges the armed forces efforts and difficulties in
putting an end to communist resistance, but under no circumstances can
state agencies deal with citizens in any manner as they please.”

“Most of the Churchs development programs and ministries are
community-based. Our clergy and laity work in rural areas and empower
far-flung communities. Now, we could not help but fear that one day our
efforts to help the poor and the marginalized will be perceived as
threats, and that we may also be branded as insurgents.”

“This is the moment to press for answers and to demonstrate that there is
a growing public demand, including from the Church, to restore the
integrity of the government institutions, the military, the police, the
civil courts, and the Department of Justice and remind them of their
mandate and fundamental principle, which is to impartially protect and
defend the human rights.”

The president of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, Bishop of Tandag, Rev. Nereo P. Odchimar signed the CBCP statement.


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