By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – One of the doctors belonging to the so-called Morong 43 filed a formal opposition to the promotion of two military officers allegedly involved in the torture of the health workers.
Dr. Alexis Montes filed May 17 his opposition to the promotion of Gen. Jorge Segovia and Col. Aurelio Baladad before the Commission on Appointments. Montes is one of the 43 health workers arrested by combined elements of the military and police on February 6, 2010 and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Most of them were released in December of the same year after President Benigno Aquino III was compelled to order the withdrawal of charges due to mounting protests.
Segovia, then commander of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, is set to replace Lieutenant General Arthur Tabaquero as Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief. The new post promotes him into the next higher rank of lieutenant general. Then colonel Baladad, meanwhile, has been promoted to brigadier general.
In his letter, Montes asked the Commission on Appointments to reject the promotion of Segovia and Baladad, citing the pending cases against them with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 226 and the Department of Justice.
Members of the Morong 43 filed the complaint with the CHR against military and police elements for various forms of human rights violations weeks after the arrest. Six of the Morong 43 also filed a civil suit in April 2011. On May 4, eight health workers filed charges of torture, Violation of Republic Act 7438 (Rights of Persons Arrested etc.) and robbery.
Montes was joined by Dr. Eleanor Jara of the Council for Health and Development (CHD), the group that sponsored the training when the 43 were taken, and Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairwoman of Karapatan.
Mercy Castro, one of the Morong 43, citing newspaper articles, said Segovia himself admitted that military personnel under his command blindfolded and committed other acts that are considered torture under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.
Montes criticized the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for denying acts of torture. In a report, five of the Morong 43 who have remained under military custody claimed their rights were not violated.
Montes said the fact that the five continue to be in military custody speak volumes about the kind of pressure the military is employing on them.
Castro also revealed that sworn statements were executed by Valentino Paulino, John Mark Barrientos, Eleanor Carandang and Cherylyn Tawagon and Jenelyn Pizarro detailing the torture they underwent in the hands of their military captors. The sworn statements were executed in the early days of their detention before the five sided with the military. These sworn statements were part of the letter-complaint submitted before the Commission on Human Rights.