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CHR: RIGHTS OF MORONG 43 VIOLATED
AFP SHOW CONTEMPT OF COURT'S ORDER FOR HABEAS CORPUS. FAIL TO SURFACE MORONG 43 FOR COURT HEARING.
Philippines, February 14, 2010 -The Chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Philippines today confirmed the military’s use of mental and psychological torture and the illegal arrest of 43 people, who were attending a health care training in Morong, Rizal Province, Philippines last February 6.
CHR Chair Leila M. De Lima said the documented report submitted by a team of doctors and lawyers confirmed the abducted community health care practitioners, doctors and nurses were subjected to the military’s use of mental and psychological torture. They also reported that the military handcuffed and blindfolded the health care practitioners for prolonged periods.
The abducted health care community workers, doctors and nurses composed of 26 women and 17 men are still being held in custody in a military camp. The CHR chief further disclosed that military officials continue to show contempt of the court's order for Habeas Corpus.
De Lima led the team that visited the detainees last Thursday. The team disclosed that they examined all the detainees and their findings confirmed that some underwent prolonged interrogation without the presence of counsel.
"There’s one though who claims that during interrogation, he felt some twitching of his thighs, which he attributed to some form of electric shock. He also claims to have smelled a gas-like substance. Some male detainees have injuries in their wrists due to tight handcuffs. About two of them have injuries surrounding the eye area due to tight blindfolding," de Lima disclosed.
"Our initial findings of mental and psychological torture remain, i.e., continuously being blindfolded and handcuffed for 36 hours, the resultant indignities (somebody else feeding them or removing their underwear, forced to wear pampers), repeated interrogations using scare tactics like making them believe that they can be killed or disappear anytime or that something will happen to their families if they don’t cooperate," she said.
De Lima’s report also confirmed the repeated denial by the military authorities of the health care practitioners’ right to counsel at the time of the arrest, during interrogations and inquest.
"We also learned that interrogations at odd hours of midnight continued even after our first visit last February 8. I immediately called the attention of General Segovia about that. He said he would look into it," the CHR head said.
De Lima explained that the search warrant is patently defective “on its face”. “Based on our team’s interview with two barangay kagawads (village council members) who accompanied the raiding team and witnessed the search, there appears to be no indication of planting of firearms or other evidence. I hasten to add, though, that we’re not prepared at this point to completely rule out such planting of evidence. A futher probe is needed on this. I also agree with the detainees’ counsel."
The failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to produce the 43 detainees at the habeas corpus hearing at the Court of Appeals (CA) on Friday "is really a dangerous precedent in our justice system," the CHR chief said. “The military should be sanctioned,” she added. (Source – Manila Bulletin. Culled from the report of MARVYN N. BENANING)