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MANILA, Philippines - Eight of the 43 health workers collectively known as the Morong 43, who were arrested in February 2010 during a medical training, filed criminal charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and several military officials before the Department of Justice.
Arroyo, now a Pampanga lawmaker, and the military and police officials and personnel were charged for alleged violation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, Republic Act 7438 (Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation), and robbery.
The accused military and police officials include General Victor Ibrado, General Delfin Bangit, Lieutenant General Jorge Segovia, Colonel Aurelio Baladad, Colonel Cristobal Zaragosa and 10 other officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan spokesperson and convenor of the End Impunity Alliance said that, “this is the first criminal case against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo involving human rights violations under her watch, and on the basis of the anti-torture law that was passed during her regime.”
Karapatan expressed support for the health workers for their continuing quest for justice, as the rights group urged the Department of Justice and Malacanang “to act immediately on the said complaint to make human rights violators in government accountable for the rights they have wantonly violated.”
The health workers were arrested and detained for about a year on allegations that they were members of the New People’s Army.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, one of the legal counsels of the health workers, said Arroyo was charged “under the principle of command responsibility,” stressing that as commander-in-chief of the armed forces during that time, “the president has the power to effectively command, control and discipline the military.”
In their joint complaint affidavit, the eight health workers narrated their individual experience under the hands of their captors.
“As a result of the torture, we suffered physical injuries in different parts of our bodies. Worst, we suffered intense psychological and emotional pressure, the effect of which is still being felt even today, and require continued medical care before we can overcome the trauma,” they said.
The complainants were Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, nurse Gary Liberal, midwife Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta, Mercy Castro, Jane Beltran Balleta, and Samson Castillo.
On April 4, 2011, six of the 43 health workers also filed a civil case for damages under Articles 27, 32 and 33 of the Civil Code at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. Segovia, Baladad and Abawag were among the respondents for illegal arrest, torture, arbitrary and illegal detention. A complaint was also filed before the Commission on Human Rights on February 25, 2010 against Segovia and Baladad.