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Six of Morong 43 sue Arroyo, AFP officials for ‘torture’

Andreo Calonzo, GMA News

Six of the so-called “Morong 43″ health workers filed on Monday a P15-million damage suit against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and several military officials for alleged “physical and psychological” torture committed against them while they were detained last year.

The Morong 43 health workers were detained for 10 months last year on suspicion that they were New People’s Army members.

The health workers filed the lawsuit against Arroyo, and nine other government and military officials before the Quezon City Hall of Justice at 11:00 a.m. on Monday.

The six complainants in the case were:
# Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor;
# Dr. Alexis Montes;
# Gary Liberal;
# Ma. Teresa Quinawayan;
# Mercy Castro, and
# Reynaldo Macabenta.

Liberal said he and the five other complainants wanted to send a “strong message” to human rights violators and to make those responsible for their alleged torture accountable for their actions.

“Isa ito sa mga hakbang namin para wakasan ang impunity na ginagawa ng mga human rights violators,” he said in a phone interview with GMA News on Monday afternoon.

He said that former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Arroyo was included in the case because she was the military’s commander-in-chief during the time of their alleged torture.

“Sinampahan namin siya ng kaso dahil sa command responsibility. Siya ang commander-in-chief at dapat alam niya ang ginagawa ng mga sundalo niya sa field,” he said.

Elena Bautista-Horn, the former President’s spokesperson, refused to comment on the case filed by the health workers while waiting for documents related to the lawsuit.

“Our lawyers have advised us to wait for a copy of the complaint before issuing any statement,” she said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Aside from Arroyo, the others charged were:
# former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales;
# former chief of staff Gen. Victor Ibrado,
# former chief of staff Gen. Delfin Bangit,
# Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia (former Philippine Army 2nd Infantry Division commander),
# Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa (2nd Infantry Division commander of intelligence unit),
# Major Manuel Tabion (2nd Infantry Division warden),
# Col. Aurelio Balbad (202nd Infantry Battalion Commander),
# Col. Jaime Abawag (16th Infantry Battalion Commander), and
# Police Superintendent Marion Balolong (Rizal provincial police office commander)

Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta, for his part, called the complaints filed by the six health workers as “hazards of the trade.”

“Ever since weve gone into this internal security operation we fell this will be part and parcel of what were going into this is what we may call hazards of the trade as we move on and ensure that rules of engagements are abided with,” Mabanta said in a separate interview.

“These are some of the things we have to face. With that in mind, we welcome this development,” he said.

“One thing we see forthcoming is the truth will surface. We are waiting for this. We hope authorities will come up with decisions based on the truth in order for the accused to clear their names,” he added.

The complainants were among the 43 health workers arrested and detained in February last year, four months before Arroyo’s term as president ended.

The 43 health workers were accused of allegedly conducting explosives training at a private residence in Morong, Rizal at the time of their arrest.

In December last year, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the dropping of charges against the health workers, who were eventually freed days after Aquino’s pronouncement. – VVP, GMA News

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