ONE of the rebels killed in a recent encounter with military and police operatives was one of the members of the so-called Morong 43, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The Morong 43 refers to a group of health workers, which the military arrested on February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal on the grounds that they were members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and were undergoing explosive training at the time of their arrest, an allegation the workers denied.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, head, Public Affairs Office (PAO), identified on Monday the alleged NPA member as Ramon de la Cruz, alias Mandy.
De la Cruz and two of his comrades identified only as one alias Eldy and alias Robin were killed in an encounter with soldiers and policemen on August 9 in Barangay Kabayunan, Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan.
The rebel’s remains was claimed by his father Ramon Santos de la Cruz and mother Rosita, both of Namayan, Malolos, Bulacan.
The Morong 43 have been charged before the Regional Trial Court of Morong l with violation of Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by Republic Act 8294 and Republic Act 9516 which imposes penalties for illegal possession of grenades and other explosives and Comelec Resolution 8714 in relation to Article 261 (q) of the Election Code which prohibits any person, unless authorized by the Comelec, to carry firearms outside his residence during the election period.
In their petition, the health workers claimed that the military used a defective search warrant when it entered the premises where they were undergoing community health training.
They also claimed that the search warrant was issued by a Cavite Court, which is outside the jurisdiction of Rizal province.
On March 10, 2010, the Court of Appeals (CA) Special Division dismissed the petition for habeas corpus filed by the relatives of the 43 health workers, saying that petitioners have already been criminally charged before the Morong RTC and as such “can no longer question their detention.”
The CA explained that even if the arrest of a person is illegal, supervening event may prevent his release from detention under Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, which states that “the writ is not allowed if the person subject of such petition “is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge; or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment, or make the order.”
Also, the appellate court did not take action on the motion seeking the transfer of the Morong 43 from military custody in Camp Capinpin to police custody in Camp Crame. It said they would leave the matter to the Morong RTC to decide.
But on December 2010, the AFP vowed to the decision of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, to withdraw the charges against the Morong 43 for the sake peace and national reconciliation.
The AFP though has maintained that the Morong 43 were members of the NPA, not health workers and their arrest were made in accordance with the law.