“Colonel Reuben Espartinez is using the judicial process to pursue his caprices.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – “He is using the judicial process to scare us. But he does not want to face us now in the right venue.”
Dr. Alex Montes, one of the 43 health workers arrested in Morong, Rizal in 2010, said this of the delisted pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) retired Colonel Reuben Espartinez who did not attend the hearing of the case he filed against Montes.
Montes and his son Conner, also a doctor, are facing charges of unjust vexation, grave coercion and threat filed by Espartinez, who was nowhere to be found at the first preliminary investigation hearing held on Sept. 30 at the Quezon City Hall of Justice.
Dr. Montes jested that he is possibly afraid of their supporters, who, during the first mediation hearing, held a protest action outside the courts.
Supporters of the “Morong 43” view the charges as a continuing harassment by the military.
Montes said he was already mulling retirement until a former military chaplain filed cases against him and his son.
“Espartinez is using the judicial process to pursue his caprices. My impression is that this person merely wants to get everyone’s attention,” Dr. Montes told Bulatlat.com.
During the first mediation hearing on July 9, Espartinez alleged that Montes is the chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Espartinez, however, did not attend the two succeeding mediation hearings. Assistant prosecutor Gibson Araula Jr. then forwarded the case to prosecutor Raul Desembrana, saying that both parties have failed to reach a settlement.
Conner said their family is considering filing charges against Espartinez for the inconvenience he has caused them. He shared that he had to beg off from a surgery to attend the Sept. 30 preliminary investigation.
“Our lives have been affected and so are our jobs,” he told Bulatlat.com.
The elder Montes is one of the 43 health workers dubbed as the “Morong 43” who were arrested in 2010 based on trumped up charges. They were branded as members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The health workers assailed the military for torture.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Dr. Montes said that since they were released from detention, he has become emotional and irritable. At times, he added, he has difficulty sleeping.
On Jan. 8, Espartinez arrived at their local church and sat behind Dr. Montes while attending a mass. The pastor, who was declared persona non grata by the UCCP National Commission on Discipline and Conflict in 2012 for “conduct unbecoming a minister,” started whispering, saying that the doctor would have ended dead if the plan to bomb their detention center pushed through.
Dr. Montes and his son then warned him to keep away from their family.
Prior to the incident, Espartinez has been sending letters even to their families in the provinces, linking Dr. Montes to the CPP. Some of these letters included cash, ranging from P20 to P100 while others reportedly received thousands.
Even the UCCP, in a previous interview with Bishop Gabriel Garol, was not spared as their members too have received the same letter, saying that the church is infiltrated by communists.
In the terms of settlement he submitted before Araula, Espartinez also alleged that Conner is a member of the CPP and that the two respondents must “denounce in writing their membership and sympathies to the CPP/NDF/NPA and their front organizations.”
“But who is the one really causing vexation?” Dr. Montes asked rhetorically while waiting for the prosecutor to call them in during the first preliminary investigation.
Conner, for his part, challenged Espartinez to prove his allegations.
‘Nobody buys his lies’
Dr. Montes said that while he does not think that Espartinez is under direct orders from the military, what he is doing would most likely be encouraged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In a statement, the Justice for the Morong 43, Justice for All Victims of Human Rights Violations! Alliance said Espartinez should stop peddling lies “because nobody buys it.”
The Morong 43 alliance said Espartinez might need to move heaven and earth to prove and to convince the city prosecutor that he is the distressed party.
“Surely, Espartinez does not deserve the limelight for such prevarication. Be it as it may, we cannot allow attack dogs of state forces such as Espartinez to diffuse the real issue at hand – the human rights of the 43 health workers were grossly violated; and human rights violators remain unpunished and continue to perpetrate the culture of impunity in this country,” added the Alliance.