“What is more revolting is the fact that some of the perpetrators, who have been identified and charged, have been promoted. And Gloria Arroyo was re-elected as congresswoman.” – Justice for the Morong 43
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — After the signing into law the Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, do victims of torture find justice?
The Anti-Torture Law criminalizes all forms of torture — physical, mental, psychological and pharmacological (the latter is done through administering drugs). It imposes on torturers a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Other penalties range from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 12 years of imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offense.
Eight health workers who were part of the so-called Morong 43 have decided to test the law. In May 2012, they filed torture charges against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her top military officials and those involved in the detention and torture of the 43 health workers.
The health workers, collectively known as the Morong 43, were arrested on February 6, 2010 by combined elements of military and police. They were branded as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Most of the Morong 43 were released after ten months.
One year after, the first anti-torture case is still under preliminary investigation while some of the suspects in the military have been promoted.
Cases of torture and other criminal and administrative charges are pending with the Ombudsman.
Military and police officials implicated in the case are Gen. Victor Ibrado, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Delfin Bangit, former commanding general of the Philippine Army and Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, Maj. Manuel Tabion, then officers of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, P/Supt. Marion Balonglong of the Rizal Provincial Police Office, and several others.
Julian Oliva, lawyer for the Morong 43, told Bulatlat.com that immediately after the filing of the case, the accused filed a motion to suspend proceedings, which the court denied. The suspects filed their counter-affidavits. The complainants then filed reply affidavits.
“It is deemed for resolution,” Oliva, a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said. “We still do not know if the Ombudsman would call for a clarificatory hearing.”
This means that the Ombudsman is set to decide the absence or presence of probable cause to indict the suspects.
Dr. Geneve Rivera of the Justice for the Morong 43 lamented the slow judicial process. “This is another form of torture to the victims,” Rivera told Bulatlat.com. “Although they have been freed, they have yet to see the resolution of the injustice done to them.”
What is more revolting, Rivera said, is the fact that some of the perpetrators who have been identified and charged, have been promoted. “And Gloria Arroyo was re-elected as congresswoman.”
Apart from the criminal charges, members of the Morong 43 also filed a civil suit against their alleged torturers.
Segovia, former commander of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army is now Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief. The new post promoted him to the next higher rank of lieutenant general. Meanwhile, then colonel Baladad, has been promoted to brigadier general.
“Until the Anti-Torture Law is implemented, it remains a mere piece of paper. Unless torturers are punished, the law could be deemed as useless,” Rivera said.