Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Information Office is hoodwinking the public when he says that AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado is ordering the transfer of the 43 health workers collectively known as the Morong 43 to a Philippine National Police (PNP) facility, even as they have supposedly communicated their desire to remain at the military’s Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, where they are now detained. He is trying to make the AFP and its chief of staff appear more magnanimous than they actually are.
Brawner may be interested to know that yesterday afternoon, the Morong 43, through their lawyers led by Romeo Capulong of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), filed a manifestation with urgent motion to transfer detention before the Court of Appeals. This, as Capulong said in a statement to the media, is because the detainees “are being held by the same people who have violated and are still violating their rights.”
When they were arrested last Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal on the basis of what their lawyers describe as a “patently defective” warrant, the 43 health workers were conducting a Community First Responders’ Health Training sponsored by the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD). They were detained for more than 36 hours without charges and, according to their lawyers, were not made to go through proper inquest proceedings. They are facing charges of violation of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban and illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which their lawyers say are all based on planted evidence.
The military and the police have accused the 43 of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who, at the time of their arrest, were conducting a “bomb-making seminar.”
The detainees’ families and friends, the doctors from Commed and CHD, and even their lawyers have complained that the officers at Camp Capinpin have made visits to them difficult.
Those who have visited the 43 say they have all told of having undergone mental and psychological torture in the hands of their custodians. Four have told of having been physically tortured. Several female detainees said they were subjected to sexual harassment while undergoing interrogation.
The harassment and torture of the 43 health workers continue, according to their relatives and lawyers. They are taken out of their cells, usually very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, to be subjected to interrogation. They are being coerced into recanting the affidavits that their lawyers filed in their behalf before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) last Feb. 25. Some are still held in solitary confinement.
With these, it is quite unthinkable that the Morong 43 would prefer to remain at Camp Capinpin than be transferred to a regular detention facility. Thus, the manifestation with urgent motion for transfer of detention that their lawyers filed today.
Brawner is clearly trying his best to win pogi points for the AFP by making it appear magnanimous toward the high-profile political detainees. His best, however, is not good enough.