By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The 43 health workers arrested by the military in Morong, Rizal, on Feb. 6 filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) this morning. The affidavits of the 43 health workers and the medical records from the doctors that examined some of them narrate tales of interrogation, torture and other abuses.
“I’ve been really waiting for this,” CHR chairwoman Leila de Lima said as Romeo Capulong, lead counsel of the Morong 43, handed to her the complaint against the 2nd Infantry Division, the 202nd Infantry Brigade and the police authorities who conducted what they deem was an illegal arrest.
Relatives of the Morong 43 joined the counsels of their loved ones in filing the complaint.
De Lima told the lawyers and the relatives of the Morong 43 that the CHR had already drafted an order to be released on Monday requiring the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to formally respond to the initial findings and recommendations of the CHR. She said the CHR would include the content of the complaint and ask the AFP for comment.
De Lima said the CHR would also call the attention of the Department of Justice for violating the right of the detainees to legal counsel. “Why did the prosecutor disregard the right to counsel [of the detainees] in the course of inquest proceedings?” she asked.
The CHR team went to Camp Capinpin Feb.7 but were denied access to the detainees. That same night, the 43 were subjected to inquest proceedings and were charged with illegal possession of firearms.
Capulong presented to de Lima the case of Valentino Paulino, one of the 43 detainees, who was forced to admit that he was a member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Paulino was presented by the military in a press conference on Feb. 11.
Adoracion, Paulino’s mother, told de Lima what her son told her: “Mother, I am afraid for our family. They beat me repeatedly that is why I was forced to tell a lie.. .I did what the soldiers instructed me to do because they told me that they already deployed men to our place.”
Still quoting her son, Adoracion added: “They torture me mentally.”
De Lima noted that they requested to see Paulino that same day but was told that the detainee was not feeling well.
De Lima said the CHR team that visited the Morong 43 three times found out that the detainees were subjected to continuous interrogation up to the time they were presented in court. “Interrogation is held during odd hours… Women detainees told us they feared the night, knowing they would again be subjected to interrogation,” de Lima said.