CHR summons AFP, PNP over ‘Morong 43’ torture

CHR summons AFP, PNP over ‘Morong 43’ torture
By Alcuin Papa, Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has summoned officials from the military, the police and the judiciary in connection with its investigation into allegations that the “Morong 43” have been tortured.

The officials were asked to personally appear on March 18 at a CHR hearing “under the pain of contempt,” according to a Feb. 26 order from CHR chair Leila de Lima.

Summoned were: Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division; Col. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade; Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion; Supt. Marion Balonglong, Rizal Provincial Police commander; Judge Cesar Mangrobang, presiding judge of the Imus, Cavite, Regional Trial Court Branch 22; state prosecutor Romeo Senson; and Dr. Melecia Velmonte and Jose Manuel Velmonte.

Told to answer the allegations of torture within 10 days were: Armed Forces chief Gen. Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police chief Dir. Gen. Jesus Verzosa; Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit; and Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali.

Arroyo, too

Asked to file their comments were President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.

The CHR also enjoined the members of the Armed Forces and the PNP who have custody of the Morong 43 from “committing prohibited acts of physical and mental torture.”

The military arrested the 43 during a Feb. 6 raid on a rest house in Morong, Rizal, owned by the Velmontes. Authorities claimed they arrested communist rebels but the 43 said they were health workers attending a seminar.

The CHR is conducting a probe as a result of the charges filed against the officials for alleged human rights violations, illegal detention, physical and mental torture and the withholding of the Morong 43’s right to counsel and to receive visitors.

All those summoned, with the exception of the Velmontes, were asked to explain why the 43 are still being detained in a military camp.

Change of lawyers

Meanwhile, a military spokesperson yesterday said that three of the detainees said they wanted a change of lawyers after their lawyer allegedly asked them to sign an affidavit accusing the military of human rights violations.

According to Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the three claimed that their lawyer, Romeo Capulong, had prepared a complaint of torture and sexual molestation against their military custodians at the Army’s Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

The three, who also confessed to being members of the communist New People’s Army, were identified as Valentino Paulino, Cherylyn Tawagon and Eleonor Carandang.

Brawner said they refused to sign the affidavit prepared by Capulong in the presence of CHR representatives on Tuesday.

They instead submitted a separate affidavit asking to remain inside the camp and be provided with new counsel.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.