THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said that it respects the findings of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that torture has been committed against members of the so-called Morong 43. The Morong 43 is a group of health workers accused of cooperating with the News People’s Army and were arrested in Morong, Rizal for alleged possession of firearms and explosives.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, said the military will respect the CHR findings but will not change its earlier position that the arrested persons were not health workers but NPA members who were undergoing explosives training when nabbed by security forces.
“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 one was rearrested for a murder case in Batangas.
Also, Cabunoc said five of those arrested sided with the AFP by admitting they were NPA members and were not tortured during their detention.
On the recommendation of the CHR to file criminal charges for violation of Section 4 of Republic Act 7438 (Pertaining to Rights of Persons Arrested) against all arresting, detaining and investigating officers, Cabunoc said it is within the competence of the commission as a constitutional body to impose that sanction.
“The AFP will give due respect to such authority,” he said.
“Let me emphasized that the AFP maintained that the members of the Morong 43 are NPA rebels. In fact, at least two of them died in the battle. They went back to the mountains after their release. One of them died in Bulacan [in 2013]and another one died in the Bicol region sometime in 2011,” Cabunoc added.
Meanwhile, the human rights group Karapatan said the resolution of the CHR on the case was intentionally delayed pointing out that the long-overdue resolution on the complaint filed by Morong 43 “only reinforced the perpetuation of injustice and impunity.”
“The resolution is five years delayed. It had already resulted in the promotion, and not in the prosecution, of generals such as Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia and Col. Aurelio Baladad, who became more brazen in sowing terror and in violating human rights using their high posts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, in a statement.
Palabay said “the CHR led by former Chair Loretta Rosales may have also been liable in promoting these generals if they issued a clearance certificate for these generals as required by the Commission on Appointments.”