Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Rehashing lies that Morong 43 are NPAs: When is torture ever justified?

By National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

Like a ghoulish ritual for the carcass of the dead, the military once again would resuscitate its long discredited claim that our clients, the Morong 43 health workers, are members of the underground New People’s Army.

Jumping on another opportunity to peddle this storyline — quite inherently contradictory most of the time — they now claim that one of those killed in an encounter weeks ago was in fact a former member of the Morong 43 who were illegally arrested, searched, detained and tortured more than 3 years ago.

It now claims that most of our clients “have returned to the hills” even as it concedes that a number of them have “continued” to be members of “progressive organizations”. It confirms that our clients — especially those who are visible in rallies and public places or events, or who chose to file cases against them and whom they stalk to this very day — continue to engage in health services.

As for all the rest that are less visible or who chose to keep a low profile, if not a “quiet” life after their horrific ordeal for 10 months, the military automatically claims are again NPAs.  Except of course a select few of them that they have spoiled and are living it up as their glorified slaves.

If the military cannot keep its facts straight, at least — if it has time — it should review its math. Even their convoluted figures do not literally add up.

As for Ramon dela Cruz who was reportedly killed in an alleged encounter, the belated claim that he is an NPA and the same person as the namesake of a former member of the Morong 43 is grounded on questionable bases and circumstances.

The comparison with his supposed mugshots and the similarity of the names of his supposed parents that he allegedly disclosed while under extreme and hostile interrogation in isolated detention is at best self-serving and at worse contrived if not malicious. And it does not help one bit that those who purportedly corroborated his identity as an NPA were most probably the usual roving mad dogs and itinerant professional “rebel returnees.”

And what if he was? On the supposition which cannot be independently established that he became an NPA after he was released, as far as his basic human rights were concerned, so what?

While we as lawyers are absolutely positive that our clients were not members of the NPA at the time the incident of illegal arrest happened, we are not privy into the minds and daily lives of each and every single client of ours after our legal engagement. We are incompetent and would be pretentious to judge them in whatever choices or options they subsequently take.

Yet we would be the least surprised as counsels who have known their torment up close that they are simply frustrated or have just had enough of a system that has betrayed them, with their pending cases they had filed personally and in constructive representation of others to seek justice in the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, the Regional Trial Court and the Commission on Human Rights still in outstanding limbo after all these years.

We have to remember these people who just wanted to help the poor and those in need went through horrendous psychological and even physical torture, not to mention illegal arrest, search, detention, and denial of counsel. The arguable supposition that one of them became an NPA more than 3 years afterwards does not make those violations right, much less make those liable for such violations immaculate.

Otherwise, we would accept the strained fallacy as follows:

  1. the military claims the Morong 43 are NPAs,
  2. there were violations of their rights including torture,
  3. the Morong 43 deny that they are NPAs but are community health workers,
  4. the killing of one of them supposedly confirmed he was an NPA,
  5. all of the Morong 43 were therefore NPAs all along, and
  6. Ergo, the torture and rights violations are proven justified and it is alright to have tortured them after all.

While checking on its arithmetic, it would also do well for the military and those who want to get away with impunity – again if they have time – to review their logic if not their sense of right and wrong.

Indeed, when was torture by anybody on anyone at anytime and in any place and under any circumstance ever justified?

Edre U. Olalia
Secretary General

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