Members of 'Morong 43' charge Arroyo with torture, robbery

Jonathan de Santos
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

Members of the "Morong 43", a group of health workers arrested in 2010 as suspected rebel trainees, have formally charged Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ranking military officers with torture and robbery.

Doctors Merry Mia Clamor and Alexis Montes, Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta, Mercy Castro, Jane Beltran Balleta, and Samson Castillo filed their complaint before the Justice Department on Thursday.

They said Arroyo--then commander-in-chief--"had actual knowledge of the commission of the torture against us, and (is) criminally liable for the said acts under the principle of command responsibility."

Also accused were former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Victor Ibrado, former Army commanding general Delfin Bangit, and unit commanders Major General Jorge Segovia, and Brigadier General Jorge Segovia.

Clamor said the military raided, searched, and arrested them without a court-issued warrant.

"After retrieving our personal belongings, they tied our hands with plastic wires and blindfolded us with cloth reinforced with packing tape. We were not informed why we were being arrested," she said.
They were not read their rights either, she said.

Montes, meanwhile, said he was forced to admit he was a member of the New People's Army. He said he was hit on the chest when he denied this.

"I was forced to say names of activists I knew during my youth so that they would not hurt me," he said, adding that he was also electrocuted and beaten.

Castillo said soldiers threatened to kill him and hurt his children unless he admitted to being an NPA rebel.

"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.

They said Arroyo, Ibrado, and Bangit "failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the commission of torture against us or punish the perpetrators thereof."

Aside from being tortured, the complainants also lost personal belongings during the raid. They said mobile phones, a laptop, a digital camera and other valuables worth around P100,000 were confiscated and never returned. "In addition, the LCD Projector owned by the Council for Health and Development was also taken and has not been returned, the value of which is approximately P40,000.00," they said.

Torture carries a penalty of from one month to at least thirty years while failure to inform suspects of their rights and refusing them their right to be assisted by counsel is punishable by a fine of P6,000 and from eight to ten years in prison.

Robbery is punishable with from six months to twenty years.

The “Morong 43” were arrested in February 2010 and were released by President Benigno Aquino III in December 2010.