SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers is calling on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to disclose the location of the two “missing” AFP personnel involved in the arrest of the Morong 43. The Morong 43 were a group of health workers illegally arrested and detained under the Arroyo administration and who were eventually freed due to a complete lack of evidence offered by the AFP that they were indeed members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The counsels of the Morong 43 health workers today challenged President Noynoy Aquino and Armed Forces chief Jessie Dellosa to disclose the latest address of former Defense Secretary Norberto B. Gonzales and Camp Capinpin warden Manuel Tabion, in a show of good faith and in a bid for accountability.
“If this administration says it is sincere in seeking justice for victims of human rights violations, then it should help us in the proper administration of law. Otherwise, it may be fated to follow in the footsteps of the Arroyo administration – to make the same mistakes and find itself hauled before the courts as well,” said Atty. Ephraim Cortez, handling lawyer from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
The Morong 43 are suing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other top officials for P15 million worth of damages over the workers’ illegal arrest and detention through eight months in 2010. Gonzales and Tabion have not replied to any communication from the court, meaning the justice system cannot proceed as to claims against them.
Six health workers, led by Dr. Merry Mia Clamor and Dr. Alexis Montes, today asked the court’s permission to send the summons for the “missing” two to be published instead of handed over personally. The Office of the Provost Marshall of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Directorate for Personnel of the Philippine National Police have declared that they have no forwarding address for either, and refused to accept correspondences.
“We are forced to resort to summons by publication because we cannot locate the two defendants. To date, Gonzales and Tabion have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the court, and the military establishment has refused to provide assistance to our clients to ascertain their whereabouts,” said Atty. Cortez.
Branding the Army’s stance ludicrous, the NUPL scored the obvious refusal to cooperate especially since Tabion is reportedly still in active service. “The military and police want us to believe that they have no access to or contact with them. It’s either they are incompetent at keeping tabs on their people, or they are trying to hide them from us. Maybe they are all cavorting together someplace with former Gen. Palparan, Col. Oscar Legaspi, and the like,” said Atty. Cortez. The group alluded to two other top-ranked military officials wanted for the abduction of two UP students, and the murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia, respectively, who have been both at large for several years.
The multi-million damage suit was filed in April by Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, nurse Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mercy Castro. It is anchored on four causes of action: the illegal arrest, detention, and other violations of their constitutional rights; the alleged physical, verbal and psychological abuses; and the divesting of the plaintiffs’ personal belongings.
The separate criminal case filed against Arroyo’s top military officials, filed May earlier this year, is still pending before the Ombudsman.