By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — After reading Beth Frondoso’s article Morong 5: The lost brigade in Newsbreak, I wonder why the author did not even bother to at least cite the “other side.” As James Cordova rightfully puts it, Frondoso’s piece is a kiss-ass story favoring the military.
As a journalist who has been covering the Morong 43 from the day of their arrest, I know that the five, like the rest of the 43 health workers, are victims of torture and ill-treatment.
I have read the handwritten affidavits of Eleanor Carandang, Cherelyn Tawagon, Valentino Paulino, Jenilyn Pizarro and John Mark Barrientos that they executed before they were separated from the rest. The five signed the complaint against the military filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
One by one, the five were forcibly taken out of their cell inside Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, home of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. In the first place, the 43 should not have been detained in a military camp where they could be interrogated and tortured by the soldiers.
Paulino was the first to be taken out. He was presented by the military as a member of the New People’s Army in a press conference on Feb. 11, 2010. Tawagon and Carandang were taken out of the detention facility on March 1, Pizarro on March 4 and Barrientos on March 5 of 2010.
Interviews with relatives of Paulino, Carandang and Pizarro reveal stories of harassment and threats.
Paulino’s mother Adoracion told then CHR chairwoman Leila de Lima on February 25 what her son had told her: “Mother, I am afraid for our family. They beat me repeatedly that is why I was forced to tell a lie… I did what the soldiers instructed me to do because they told me that they already deployed men to our place.”
In an interview with Carandang’s mother Norma Orgena in March 2010, Orgena said that three of Carandang’s four children had been missing. A neighbor, she said, told her that a van fetched her grandchildren together with Carandang’s sister Grace from their house in Lopez, Quezon, on March 8. The children were later seen inside Camp Capinpin.
Pizarro’s brother Junie told Bulatlat.com that he last saw his sister on March 4, 2010. “She was separated from the rest. She told me that me that many had been talking to her, forcing her to turn against her companions,” he said.
Are these manifestations of so-called willful changing of the heart? How come the whereabouts of the five detainees had not been disclosed to their relatives and lawyers until they saw the five on March 20, 2010, being interviewed by a media outfit at a safe house inside Camp Capinpin?
While Frondoso asserts that there is no hint of torture or coercion in turning the Morong 5, she did mention that the five receive a “very modest” monthly stipend, even saying that the children were at Jollibee under the watch of military nannies. If these do not pass as psy-war tactics, what else would?