MANILA — While stressing that it is not questioning the torture findings made by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on its investigation of the “Morong 43” incident, Armed Forces of the Philippines on Sunday maintains that the latter are not health workers but rebels undergoing explosive training.
“We will not question the finding of CHR about the “Morong 43″. However, we would like to maintain that they are not health workers but New People’s Army (NPA) members who were undergoing explosives training. After their release, most of them went back to the mountains to rejoin the NPA where two of them were killed in encounters in Bulacan and Bicol, one surrendered in Mindoro and 1 rearrestd for a murder case in Batangas,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc stressed.
“Five of them have taken side with the AFP and they affirmed their membership to the NPA and that they were not tortured during their detention,” he added.
The CHR earlier confirmed that torture was committed against members of the “Morong 43” following their arrest in 2010 for allegedly being members of the NPA.
In a 26-page resolution, the CHR said the rights of the medical workers were violated when they were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal on Feb. 6, 2010 based on a search warrant issued by a judge from a local court in Imus.
The arrest of the “Morong 43” was unlawful as there was no valid arrest warrant issued against any of them, it added.
Cabunoc also that the matter of recommending filing of charges against any person for alleged human rights violations is well-within the competence of CHR as a constitutional body tasked to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.
The AFP public affairs office chief was referring to Section 18, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution.
“The AFP will give due respect to such authority,” he added.
Cabunoc also said that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) who had previously represented respondent AFP officers in the habeas corpus proceedings filed by the relatives of the “Morong 43” will be consulted as to the matter of responding to any charges that may be recommended for filing by the CHR.
“Morong 43″ will be consulted as to the matter of responding to any charge/s that may be recommended for filing by the CHR,” he added.
“It may not be amiss to note that the earlier review in 2014 by the Supreme Court of the dismissal of the Petition for Habeas Corpus by the Court of Appeals filed at the instance of relatives of the Morong 43, the Supreme Court expressly ruled that there was no substantial argument to treat the issues raised by the said relatives, including alleged “xxx serious violations of, and utter disregard by the state forces of the constitutional rights of the petitioners, xxx”. This is assessed by the AFP as an indication that further prosecuting respondent AFP Officers for alleged violations may run inconsistent with the essence of the Supreme Court findings,” he concluded.