Thursday, March 22, 2012

Military and Police Coddling Morong 43 Rights Violators

Months after summons have been issued by a Quezon City Regional Trial Court, several respondent military personnel and police officers in the P15-million damage suit filed by the Morong 43 health workers remained officially unnotified of the charges. The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), counsel for the complainants, asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Brig. Gen. Herbert Yambing of the Office of the Provost Marshall General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to locate and provide information on the “missing” respondents but to no avail.

 “This is tantamount to a cover-up of the military and the police for their peers whose accountability is being sought for their involvement in brazenly violating the rights of the Morong 43 health workers,” said the NUPL through its Assistant Secretary for Legal Services Atty. Ephraim Cortez.

Addressed at their last known assignments, the summons against Gen. Jorge Segovia, Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Maj. Manuel Tabion and P/Supt. Marion Balonglong were returned unserved on the ground that they were no longer assigned thereat.

 “With their cynical unwillingness to cooperate, state forces have put up another roadblock to justice that effectively frustrates efforts to seek accountability for human rights violations against the Morong 43 health workers,” said Cortez.

In a letter sent to the NUPL, Yambing declined to give information on the whereabouts of the military personnel purportedly because his office has “no direct knowledge” on the whereabouts of the military officers and that he supposedly has no authority to release such information. On the other hand, the PNP, through Records Management Division Chief Manuel Gaerlan, CEO VI, said in its reply that the names of P/Supt. Balolong and P/Supt. Nubleza, who have been publicly known to be part of the service, strangely do not appear in the roster of the PNP.

“Either they are  deliberately  hiding any information about those involved or they are giving us a run-around through technicalities in  disclosing very simple standard details about their personnel for the purpose of serving summons, or both” Atty. Cortez said.

The summons to the respondents in what is considered the first civil case for human rights violations against former President Gloria Arroyo and her security forces were issued last November 28, 2011. The Morong 43 health workers were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal on February 2010. They were illegally arrested, detained, and tortured on the baseless charges of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Against all odds, they had filed the countersuit way back in April 2011.

 Aside from Segovia, Zaragosa, Baladad, Abawag, Tabion, Balonglong and former President Arroyo, the other respondents in the case are former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Gen. Victor Ibrado, and Gen. Delfin Bangit.

 “This obstructionist attitude demonstrates the manifest bias of the military and the police in favour of those from their ranks who commit rights violations,” Atty. Cortez said.

 “And it  shows once again how hard and sometimes frustrating it is to pursue justice for human rights violations under the present legal and judicial system  and how impunity is perpetrated before, during and after a violation,” NUPL Secretary General Atty.  Edre U. Olalia added. “But we shall not let up. They cannot just get away with it just like that.”#