“It has been five years since we were wrongfully arrested, jailed and tortured by state agents. Such heinous crimes involve command responsibility and we seek justice.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – After more than two hours, members of the Morong 43 and the camp of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her military officials did not reach any settlement.
Judge Madonna Echiverri of Quezon City Branch 81 heard both camps this morning, Nov. 11 in the judicial dispute resolution process for the civil case filed by six of the so-called Morong 43. On Feb. 6, 2010, 43 health workers were arrested by elements of the police and military in Morong, Rizal. They spent ten months in detention and suffered physical and mental torture.
Three of the so-called Morong 43 — Dr. Alex Montes, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mercy Castro – attended the hearing. Their lawyer, Ma. Cristina Conti, of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers accompanied them.
Lawyers of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and military and police respondents appeared in court with special power-of-attorney.
Conti said the Morong 43 case is crucial since this is the first time that a president is being charged in a local court for human rights abuses based on a counterinsurgency policy.
Conti said Arroyo and her military and police officials implicated in the case could no longer ignore the civil case filed by Morong 43. “They have been compelled to appear in court, at least through their representatives,” she said.
At least five causes of action are being sought by Morong 43 against the former president and her officials involved in the case. These include damages for torture, damages for the violation of their constitutional and statutory rights, including their right against arbitrary and illegal detention, right against self-incrimination and right to counsel, divestment of personal belongings, Arroyo’s neglect of duty, and moral damages.
In October 2014, the Court of Appeals denied Arroyo’s motion to dismiss the damage suit filed by Morong 43.
Montes said, “It has been five years since we were wrongfully arrested, jailed and tortured by state agents. Such heinous crimes involve command responsibility and we seek justice.”
The next hearing for judicial dispute resolution is set on Feb. 3, 2016.