Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last Friday, February 12, the Armed Forces of the Philippines defied the High Court when it failed to present the 43 detained health works to the Court of Appeals. The High Court has granted the petition for the writ of habeas corpus that the kin of the alleged rebels have filed.

The reason the AFP cited for their failure is logistics. They claim to have no sufficient time to prepare for the security and transportation details of the 43 detainees. They received the order to present the detainees on Thursday, a day before the scheduled hearing.

For this omission, the military, represented by Col. Aurelio Baladad, received a mere slap on the wrist instead of a graver citation for contempt. It is their job after all to secure people in their custody and transport them to hearings. They cite possibilities of an ambush and a rescue attempt by their “comrades” assuming that they are indeed NPA elements. They cite the lack of a vehicle that can accommodate the 43 detainees plus a minimum of , say, 43 custodians. How then were they able to transport them on that morning raid on February 6? What is the purpose of being the largest armed group in the country if they cannot accomplish such a simple task?

The 43 detainees were conducting a training seminar in the farm owned by Dra. Melecia Velmonte when they were rounded up, cuffed and blindfolded on the grounds of a search warrant for a man named Mario Condes.
But this is only where the flimsy storyline starts to unravel.

Under Duress

Starting with a questionable search warrant for a Mario Condes that was not even present in the farm of not known by Dra. Velmonte and covers a non-specific address, the raiding group of 300 men “found” assorted bomb-making materials UNDER the beds of the detainees. I echo Dra. Velmonte’s disbelief, who in his right mind would put bomb making materials in places where one sleeps? It also begs to be noted that the search was conducted in the abscence of the owner of the house or witnesses which is a clear violation of the Rules of Criminal procedure. These grounds alone should be enough to provide for the unconditional release of the 43 detainees.

AS the days went on, the army now flaunts NEW arrest warrants for the some of the detainees. These arrest warrants were presumably supported by “confessions” of the detainees. It begs to be said that these confessions were obtained UNDER DURESS, for how would you classify being blindfolded for more than 36 hours, being dunked into water, being electrocuted, being cuffed till your wrists are red and sore to touch, being denied visitors and the right to counsel, if not duress?

Guilt by Association

More than this, the Morong 43 are judged guilty by association. Lt. Noel Detoyato said that they found acupuncture needles among the confiscated stuff. He concluded that wherefore acupuncture needles being trademarks of NPAs, therefore the health workers are NPAs. Has he not been to Ongpin and Chinese drugstores selling acupuncture needles? BY virtue of his logic, they are also NPAs? How come he immediately made this acupuncture needle-NPA connection instead of the acupuncture needle-alternative medicine connection? Jessie Mendez is offering acupuncture treatment in his beauty business venture, is he an NPA too?
Also, the army took note that Atty Romeo Capulong is representing the Morong 43. Atty. Capulong, they said, is a “lawyer of personalities from the Left, including, Jose Ma. Sison.” And so what? Does this prove anything at all? If anything, it proves that Atty. Capulong is one very capable lawyer. The various charges against Jose Ma. Sison has been dropped, including the terrorist tag by the European Union.

Lies, Lies, Lies

But the lies just keep on coming. One side continually claims innocence, that they are mere health practitioners holding a training seminar. The other side claims the group is into making bombs and is composed of NPAs.
Then one day, the other side made a subtle change in their story, that they are NPAs but they are called medical officers.
What’s next? The military seems to tweak their story here and there to serve their purpose, not the truth. First they claim that bombmaking paraphernalia were found among the Morong 43’s things, therefore they are NPAs. Then they say, acupuncture needles were found, which makes them medical officers of the NPAs. Either way, they are NPAs.

However, the second claim actually bolsters the Morong 43’s claim of being rural health workers and not bomb-making terrorists, which, casts doubt on the military’s accusations.

Human Rights

And so what if they are NPAs? Is being an NPA reason enough for the army to violate his basic human rights that democracy has bestowed on him?
From the statement of Usec. Severo Escatura, the Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, it would seem that indeed a double standard on the observance of human rights exists. In a radio program, Huwarang Pilipino, in Radio ng Bayan last February 14, he evaded the military’s accountability to observe human rights and practically turned the tables around to make the NPAs accountable too. In fairness to the underground movement, I have not heard of a single HRV against the state elements when and if they were captured that was lodged legally, instead of being harped on in public.

Malacanang stands by the military

And what does the Malacanang have to say about all the clamor of the public against the military’s move to detain the Morong 43 and continually refer to them as NPAs? We stand behind the military, is what it says. No matter that prominent public servants and professional organizations in the health sector stand by the Morong 43’s claim to innocence. No matter that Ms. Leila De Lima herself and the Commission she stands for is accused of being Left-leaning over her justifiable concern for possible human rights violations.

Cultured Impunity

These past days what the state, through the AFP has accomplished is to send a clear message to the Filipino people. The culture of impunity that has pervaded the Arroyo regime has not been countered effectively despite numerous appeals from different international bodies to address the issue. It has been lying latently just beneath the surface, ready to spring out when the ripples have petered out.
But recent events, especially exposed ties between the perpetrators of the daytime Maguindano Massacre and Mrs. Arroyo herself, run counter to this culture of impunity observation. For while this culture of impunity may have sprung from a social base that is uncaring for people other than themsleves, it has been cultured deliberately to perpetrate a status quo that has increasingly become beneficial to some.

And transgressions of this nature by the state armed force that should have been foremost in protecting and upholding a civilian, a citizen’s right over anything else, are not reprimanded nor sanctioned. Instead, these transgressions against the most basic rights of a person that is enshrined in the Constitution are applauded, condoned and encouraged by the highest executive of the country itself, the President.

What we have far from a democracy. It is a farcical interpretation of it.

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