Morong 43 are health workers; arrest and torture are illegal

“Nothing justifies torture and illegal arrest,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the military’s claim that Ramon de la Cruz, one of the illegally detained and tortured members of the “Morong 43”, was killed in an encounter with the New People’s Army in Bulacan on August 9.

Karapatan said the statements of Maj. Gen. Pio Gregorio Catapang, Northern Luzon commander and  Brig Gen Hernando Irriberi of the Army's 7th Infantry Division promote the military’s twisted logic that the AFP is right in arresting, detaining and torturing the M43 because they were NPA.

In reaction to the statements  of the AFP officials, Palabay said Karapatan  “stands by our previous statements that the Morong 43 are community health workers who, in 2010, were illegally arrested, detained and tortured. The military’s continued insistence that they are members of the NPA is but an attempt to justify the crime they committed against the healthworkers.”

As of this writing, it has yet to be confirmed whether the said incident happened and if indeed a De la Cruz was killed in the said encounter between the military and the NPA.

“Whether De la Cruz joined the NPA after his release or not is his personal choice. That does not in any way change the facts of the case. The military illegally arrested, detained and tortured the 43 health workers, period,” asserted Palabay.  

On April 4, 2011, six of the Morong 43 charged former President Gloria Arroyo, through a civil suit, for physical and psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.  On May 4, 2012, they also filed criminal charges at the Department of Justice, with the Anti-Torture Law as among the main bases of the complaint.

Other respondents in both civil and criminal complaints are former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, former Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, Gen. Delfin N. Bangit, former commander of the 2nd Infantry Division (ID) Gen. Jorge Segovia, commander of the intelligence unit of the 2nd IDPA Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, 2nd IDPA Warden Major Manuel Tabion, commander of the 202nd Infantry Battalion (IB) Col. Aurelio Baladad, 16th IBPA commander Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, and Rizal Provincial Police Office commander P/Supt. Marion Balolong.

“We are not surprised that until now the military never tires with their assertion that the Morong 43 are NPA members. It’s the only way they think they can come out clean of the violations they committed. But as things are under the Aquino government, some of them even got promoted to higher ranks in the military,” Palabay ended.