In Supplemental Complaint Before CHR, Morong 43 Reveal Military Attempts to Gain their Cooperation

News Release
March 21, 2010

The 43 health workers arrested in Morong, Rizal last Feb. 6 who are now detained at the military’s Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal while facing trumped-up charges have revealed attempts by their soldier-custodians to have them cooperate with the military.

Their accounts are contained in affidavits attached to a complaint filed in their behalf March 12 before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by their lawyers from the Public Interest law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL). The complaint is supplemental to the one they filed Feb. 25, also before the CHR.

Named as respondents in the supplemental complaint were Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, Maj. Manuel Tabion, Captain Ramos, Colonel Calleja, Lieutenant Escudero, Lieutenant Guillermo, Lt. Juvy Cabading, soldier-guards Aggabao, Casillan, Pader, Ramos, Anga-Angan, Mangabang, Bulaklak, Calaoagan, Cea, Idloy and Ba?aga, Matthew Fernandez of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, and Attys. Cyrus Jurado and Hilda Sacay-Clave.

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The attempts, the detainees say, have included harassment, coercions and outright threats to bribe offers.

Several of them saw Miann Oseo being forcibly taken out of her cell. They say she resisted by embracing the bars as soldiers were trying to drag her, resulting in bruises on her arms.

Jaqueline Gonzales, who is in solitary confinement, was interrogated about her personal circumstances on March 1. When she refused to answer, she was threatened with electrocution.

Reynaldo Macabenta was interrogated four to five times within one week, and was also given a cell phone number by his interrogator to contact to as an “assurance” for his protection and his family’s. He was being forced to write his life story, again, for supposed “assurance” of protection for his family.

Franco Romeroso was interrogated by two men, one of whom he identified as Oscar Dirain, who was using his uncle’s name to force him to cooperate with the military. “He said if I still loved my uncle, I should cooperate with them,” he said. He was also offered an initial P20,000 from the government’s Social Integration Program for rbeel returnees, and another P50,000 if he would surrender a gun.

Maria Elena Serato was asked by soldier-guard Anga-Angan to leave her cell to meet a visitor. She refused as she was not expecting any visitor at that hour. The soldier-guard then brought outside her cell a certain “Ka Regine.” She told that person, “I don’t know you. Talk to my lawyer.”

The incidents took place from Feb. 25 to March 6. During the same period, the detainees say, they saw fellow detainees Valentino Paulino, Cherilyn Tawagon, Elenor Carandang, Jenilyn Pizarro, and John Mark Barrientos being taken out of their cells. The five would not be seen in the same detention facilities with the other 38 again, and would meet their fellow detainees again during the attempted arraignment last March 5 at the Morong Regional Trial Court.

The lawyers, in the March 12 complaint, also told of incidents in which they visited Camp Capinpin to confer with the 43, but in one incident only 40 were presented to them, and in a subsequent occurrence only 38 were presented.

Paulino, Tawagon, Carandang, Pizarro, and Barrientos were interviewed by ABS-CBN’s Jay Ruiz in the presence of soldier-guards on March 19. In that interview, they “admitted” that all 43 of them are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who were undergoing health training.

When they were arrested last Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal on the basis of a 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 hauled off to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, where they were held in custody for more than 36 hours without charges, and where they are still detained. They were not made to go through proper inquest proceedings.

Last Feb. 11, two days after the filing of the petition for habeas corpus, 40 of the “Morong 43” were charged before the Morong Regional Trial Court with illegal possession of explosives, while three were charged with illegal possession of firearms. The charges are based on planted evidence.

They were held incommunicado, and some were held in solitary confinement. They were subjected to prolonged tactical interrogation and physical and psychological torture, and denied access to their relatives, lawyers and doctors days after their warrantless arrest. They are still being held in the military camp where the 43 victims continue to suffer violations of their constitutional rights.

The military and the police have made the sweeping accusation that the 43 health workers are NPA members.

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