By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Three of the so-called Morong 43 were removed from their cells for nearly a week and were not presented to their relatives and lawyers until this morning. Sources told Bulatlat that the three were taken out of their cells after they signed affidavits that belied the military’s claim that they and the others were members of the communist New People’s Army.
The move, these sources said, was a ploy to pressure the three to testify against the rest of their colleagues.
The Bulatlat sources said Valentino Paulino was taken out of his cell on March 1, after executing an affidavit stating that he had been coerced to admit that he is an NPA.
Two others — Eleonor Carandang and Chenilyn Tawagon — were also taken out of their cells on Feb. 28 and March 1 — again, a few days after they signed their affidavits of complaint before the CHR on Feb. 25. This week, Paulino’s mother, Adoracion, said at a press conference that her son had been offered a bribe by the military to testify against the others.
In this Kodao Productions video, Adoracion Paulino denies her son is an NPA member. She says he was tortured into admitting he was a rebel.
Julius Garcia Matibag, one of the lawyers of the 43, told Bulatlat that Paulino, Carandang and Tawagon were surfaced today in what was to have been an arraignment. Matibag said that the three were crying and were accompanied by a new lawyer. The other detainees urged the three to remain strong, Matibag said.
Matibag also disclosed that the government prosecutors agreed to transfer the detainees to Camp Crame — except the three. “We will not allow the three detainees to remain at Camp Capinpin because we know that they will be subjected to torture and undue pressure,” Matibag said.
Human-rights groups and colleagues of the Morong 43, in a protest rally in Mendiola today, denounced the torture, intimidation and continued detention of the health workers, who were arrested by a combined force of around 300 police officers and soldiers on Feb. 6 as they were holding a health training in Morong, Rizal.
Carrying the pictures of the so-called Morong 43, supporters marched toward the foot of Chino Roces bridge (formerly Mendiola) to denounce the “deafening silence of Malacanang” over the continued detention and torture of their colleagues at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.
Wearing their uniforms, nurses, health workers and health science education students led the protest in Manila. They were joined by nuns, urban poor, students, workers and other sectors allied with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
“Many have spoken… [but] have you heard anything from Malacanang? Mother of the nation! She could not even open her mouth,” said Dr. Joseph Carabeo of the Community Medicine Practitioners and Advocates Association Inc. (Compass), referring to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In a recent order, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has directed Arroyo, her security cabinet officials and the military and police to respond to the complaint of human rights violations filed by the Morong 43.
“Arroyo herself could have issued the order for the arrest of health workers,” Carabeo said, adding that his colleagues were only “curing the diseases of poverty. “If we would not die of such diseases, the violence of this government would kill us. We shall not allow this to happen,” he added.
“The doctors and health workers who cure this wounded nation now bear the wounds inflicted by the military. The health workers who put the stethoscopes onto the chest of their patients are now the ones being beaten on the chest. They who examine the diseases are now being examined and being forced to confess,” Carabeo said.
“I thought only criminals are sent to jail. During Arroyo’s period, doctors and health workers who help the poor are now arrested and detained,” said Sister Edith Eslopor OSB, chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) of which some of the 43 are members.
As a Benedictine nun, Espolor said she has been involved in the training of health workers in rural areas. For more than 30 years, community-based health programs have existed. “Thousands have been trained as community health workers. Are they saying that there are thousands of communist-New People’s Army? I ask this because the military is claiming that our health workers are communist NPA,” Eslopor said.
“The truth is with us,” said Carabeo. “Their lies have been exposed to the whole nation and to the international community. They do not have evidence against the 43.”
Espolor noted that the detention of the 43 health workers is a violation of the Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions.
Article 9 of the Geneva Convention provides for the protection of medical and religious personnel. “Medical and religious personnel shall be respected and protected and shall be granted all available help for the performance of their duties.”
Furthermore, Article 10 provides that, “Under no circumstances shall any person be punished for having carried out medical activities compatible with medical ethics…”
Dr. Geneve Rivera, secretary-general of Health Alliance for Democracy (Head), announced to the crowd that the arraignment of the Morong 43 has been successfully blocked by the legal counsels. An arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal complaint in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her.
Rivera said that the lawyers of the Morong 43 asserted that there should not be any arraignment pending the decision of the Court of Appeals on the writ of habeas corpus filed by the relatives of the Morong 43.
The lawyers of the Morong 43 filed yesterday an urgent motion for the transfer of the health workers to Camp Crame in Quezon City, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The rules of the criminal procedure state that arrested persons must be brought to the nearest police station. (Bulatlat.com)