Int’l Rights Group to Aquino: Probe Mistreatment of Detainees

“Aquino should promptly order a criminal investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment in military custody.” – Human Rights Watch


MANILA – While New York-based Human Rights Watch lauded the order of President Benigno S. Aquino III to withdraw the charges against the 43 health workers, the group also called on Aquino to investigate mistreatment of detainees.

“By ordering the release of the ‘Morong 43,’ President Aquino is telling security forces to uphold the law for arrests and detention,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is a step toward meeting Aquino’s promises to tackle injustice and impunity.”

The Morong 43 refers to the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal by at least 300 combined elements of the police and military. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms. On Dec. 10, Aquino ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop the charges against the 43 because they were based on illegally obtained evidence.

The Morong 43 told the Human Rights Watch that at the time of their arrest, the authorities did not provide them the reasons for their arrest or inform them of their rights to remain silent or to obtain legal counsel. “Such rights are guaranteed under the Philippine constitution. Some detainees described ill-treatment in military detention, such as being blindfolded and interrogated on and off for as long as 36 hours,” the group said.

The Morong 43 have filed complaints with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against the military and police for alleged torture and ill-treatment.

“The mistreatment of detainees will only end if the abuses are also investigated and prosecuted,” Pearson said.

On Dec. 12, Aquino however stated that the military need not issue an apology to the Morong 43. “I think that’s already too much,” he said of the demand of some Morong 43 relatives that the military publicly apologize for their detention.

Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43 said that the Morong 43 are ready to file counter charges against the military. Soon after the release of the health workers, Pastores said they would talk with their clients about filing administrative, criminal or civil cases against the perpetrators of the raid, arrest and torture. (

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