CHR, Military in Standoff on Morong 43 Case


MANILA — For the third time, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) refused to comply with the order of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) to present the 43 health workers who were arrested in a raid at a farm house in Morong, Rizal last February 6. Not surprisingly, the military officials who are named respondents to the complaint were also a no-show during the hearing.

The subject of the CHR hearing? A complaint for human rights violations filed by the 43 health workers dubbed as the Morong 43.

This time, the CHR found it offensive. CHR Chairwoman Leila de Lima said the non-appearance of the military respondents and their non-compliance to the order should be included in the contempt proceedings.

Assistant Chief Prosecutor Severino Gana becomes speechless when asked why he did not notice the defects in the warrant used in the Feb. 6 raid. (Photo by Raymund B. Villanueva /

To buttress its argument that to participate in the CHR hearings would cause it to violate the sub judice rule, the AFP filed a petition before the Court of Appeals to stop the CHR from conducting its hearings on the complaint.

Cavite City Regional Trial Court Judge Cesar Mangrobang who issued the search warrant used in the Feb. 6 raid and Cyrus Jurado who introduced himself as the counsel of five detainees from among the Morong 43 also filed separate petitions insisting that the CHR has no jurisdiction over the case as charges have already been filed at the Regional Trial Court of Morong, Rizal.

Who is Responsible?

Contradicting the statement of Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of 16th Infantry Battalion and Col. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Army Brigade, during the first hearing, Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the Feb. 6 raid was an internal security operation and they just provided support.

“The AFP takes the lead role in counterinsurgency operations,” Espina said, citing Executive Order 546.

Abawag and Baladad said earlier that the raid was a police operation and it is the AFP that played the supporting role.

When asked to explain by Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag why the PNP possessed the warrant if it was only supporting the military operations, Espina said he does not know the details of the raid.

P/Supt. Jonathan Ferdinand Miano, PNP-Rizal provincial commander, concurred with Espina’s statement.

Adoracion Paulino, mother of Valentino who is among the five detainees taken by the military, weeps as she narrates how soldiers attempted to abduct her other children in Bulacan. (Photo by Raymund B. Villanueva /

Miano said that the raid became an internal security operation because of the alleged presence of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. At first, Miano said, they just intended to serve the search warrant against Mario Condes.

“Who was the ground commander?” de Lima asked Miano. The police officer said he assumed that it was Abawag.

Wrong Name in the Warrant?

Miano admitted that they probably got the name wrong when asked by De Lima why the warrant was in Mario Condes’ name.

“I was informed that the operation was successful but there was no Mario Condes among those arrested,” he told the CHR.

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