GMA et al face torture raps over 'Morong 43' case

Posted at 05/03/2012 10:43 AM | Updated as of 05/03/2012 4:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was charged by 8 members of "Morong 43" for allegedly violating one of the laws she enacted during her term, Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 otherwise known as the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta, Mercy Castro, Jane Beltran Balleta and Samson Castillo filed a joint complaint affidavit this morning with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Arroyo and ranking officials and officers of the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The complainants were part of a group of 43 medical and health workers rounded up by the military and PNP on Feb. 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal on suspicion of being communist rebels. The group maintained they were on a special 6-day community health training.

They also charged then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado; then Army Commanding General Delfin Bangit; M/Gen. Jorge Segovia, then Commanding General of the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, B/Gen. Aurelio Baladad, then Commanding Officer of the Army's 202nd Infantry Brigade, Col. Joey Reyes, Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, P/Supt. Marion Balonglong, P/Supt. Allan Nobleza, Maj. Manuel Tabion, Lt. Jovilee Cabading, a certain Vicente Lopez, "Calaoagan," "Bulaklak," "Idloy," and several "John Does" and "Janes Does."

Charges of violations of RA No. 7438 (Rights of Arrested Persons) were also filed against Ibrado, Bangit, and Segovia. The other respondents were, meantime, also charged for robbery.

"We charged GMA (Mrs. Arroyo) on the basis of the doctrine of command responsibility because she was then Commander-in-Chief of the Military and may have or should have known about the arrests. This [case] puts to test the doctrine of command responsibility," complainants' lawyer, Edre Olalia, told reporters at a news conference.

Olalia described the criminal charge against Mrs. Arroyo as an "acid test" of the Anti-Torture Law and the first criminal case for human rights violations against a former President.

Dr. Montes expressed hope the case would prosper and end in the filing of information against respondents before a trial court.

At a news conference, he described the alleged medical and physical anguish he went through at the time of his detention.

"When we were detained in Feb, 2010, hindi sinabi ang charges laban sa amin... I had a feeling kinukuryente ako, hindi ako makatayo after the process. May psychological torture... and method of interrogation was at night time," he said.

Dr. Clamor said she despised the "indignities" she was subjected to.

"I was subjected to prolonged interrogation which started on the day we were arrested, and lasted until Feb. 21, 2010... I was blindfolded for the first 36 hours of my detention and interrogation. The question came with threats and noises like screams of women being hurt which made me nervous," Clamor said in her affidavit.

At one time, Clamor claimed she had to go to the toilet tied up and blindfolded.

"[I] was accompanied by a [female] guard, and the guard did not untie me and did not remove my blindfold. Worst, it was the guard who pulled my trousers down, and put it back after I was finished relieving myself, inflicting immeasurable shame," her affidavit read.

Castillo, meantime, alleged he was strangled at one point by one of his captors.

"Sinakal ako... pinagtutulak," he said.

Complainants lamented the "slow progress" of a civil case they filed with a Quezon City trial court and a request for investigation they lodged with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III assured the complainants their complaint will be immediately looked into even as he stressed the respondents will be accorded due process.

In response to the complaint, the office of former President and Rep. Arroyo said: "The former President is quite saddened by the filing of these charges because she had nothing to do with the case. However, she feels this may present a good opportunity to uncover the truth behind the incident. We will answer all the charges at the proper time." -- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News