Almost six years into one of community health’s darkest day, forty-three doctors, nurses, midwives, and Community Health Workers (CHWs) fell victims to a State-sponsored crime against human rights. The Morong 43, as they were collectively called, were whisked, blindfolded, illegally arrested, detained, and tortured for ten gruelling months in a military and civilian prison – away from their families, co-workers, patients, and communties they serve.
Their belongings were taken away from them and never to be seen again even after they were freed on December 17, 2010 by virtue of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” principle and pressure from local and international mass movements and personalities.
Today, just three days from the day that they were taken by more than 300 heavily armed military and police in Morong, Rizal on February 6, 2010, the healthworkers receive news that former president and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former AFP Chief of Staff Victor S. Ibrado, former commanding general of the Philippine Army Delfin N. Bangit, and all the respondents in the criminal case were exculpated from their crimes on robbery and violation of the Anti-Torture Act. Furthermore, the ruling dismissed all complaints filed by the Morong 43 on torture and robbery against all of the named respondents.
Dr. Julie Caguiat and Dr. Eleanor Jara, executive directors of Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD) respectively, say they find the Ombudsman’s reasoning as “deficient of reason and inhumane to the rights of the Morong 43, their families, and all victims of torture.”
COMMED and CHD argue that GMA and some of her minions may not have been physically present when the Morong 43 suffered rights violations but she refused to investigate the matter immediately after news of the incident broke out.
“By virtue of the president being commander-in-chief of the AFP and the principle of command responsibility, she could have chosen to do what is right and implored swift justice. However, it took 10 long months of torture and incarceration, extending to the presidency of yet another incompetent chief executive Benigno Aquino III,” they said.
By the Ombudsman’s dismissal of their torture and robbery complaints, the Morong 43 finds the agency as guilty in inflicting the crime of impunity and robbing them of justice they deserve.
“The Ombudsman’s October 26, 2015 ruling sends a distorted message for victims of torture, rights advocates, and the Filipino people in general – that even if state agents commanded by the president have blood on their hands, perpetrators of these crimes can wake up to a normal day everyday knowing they will never be held accountable in an institution that makes torture part of the day’s work.”
Meanwhile, the Morong 43 and their supporters trooped to Quezon City Hall of Justice this morning for the resumption of the Judicial Dispute Resolution under the sala of Presiding Judge Madonna Echiverri of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 81 for the civil case filed by Merry Mia-Clamor, et. al, against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et. al on April 2011.
Speaking in behalf of the Morong 43, Dr. Alex Montes maintained that they will pursue the cases they filed against the former president, her generals, and other accomplices to the human rights violations they suffered – whatever it takes for justice to be had.
“No amount of money can ever appease the pain and anguish we suffer to this day. It is justice that we seek – that all the perpetrators be made accountable for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law,” said Dr. Montes.
The Morong 43 and their counsel Dr. Julian Oliva of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) are bent on seeking all legal remedies to address their complaints to make a dent on ending impunity cloaking the country.##