Press Release

9 February 2016

Morong 43 torture dismissal: Torturers can run but cannot hide

The Morong 43 health workers who were illegally arrested tortured, and illegally detained on February 6, 2010 will not blink and after six long agonizing and traumatic years are revenants still seeking justice.

Today, they are seeking a reconsideration of what international lawyers who joined the worldwide protest and who campaigned for their release call the “shocking and atrocious ” October 26, 2015 Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman (received by NUPL January 28, 2016) which dismissed the torture charges they had filed way back in April 2012 against former President Gloria Arroyo and her top military and police officials.

Calling the decision dropping the torture and robbery charges “unbelievable,” members and supporters of the Morong 43 and NUPL lawyers trooped to the Office of the Ombudsman today to ask for a reconsideration of the said ruling.

The partial Motion for Reconsideration pointed out that the Resolution relied solely on the complainants’ Medical Records which did not mention external physical signs of torture such as bruises, swelling and wounds.

According to Atty. Edre Olalia, NUPL Secretary General and a private counsel for the Morong 43 since 2010, such findings not only ignored the detailed accounts of torture of the Morong 43 which they vividly described in their complaint-affidavits but more importantly, it rendered useless the letter and spirit of the Anti-Torture Law which was ironically passed during the term of President GMA a few months prior to the health workers’ torture.

“The Anti-Torture Law specifically and explicitly punishes psychological means of committing torture such as blindfolding, threats against the detainees and their families, sleep deprivation, shaming and threats of sexual abuse – all which were recounted in harrowing detail by members of the Morong 43.” , said Olalia.

“These psychological forms of torture may have no external physical signs but the damage these have inflicted on the complainants will haunt them for the rest of their lives. It is precisely for this reason that the November 2009 Anti-Torture Law (RA 9745) recognized and punished such forms of torture. The Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman unfortunately and inexplicably failed to take this into account. By limiting evidence of torture to external physical signs, the Office if the Ombudsman is effectively not recognizing psychological torture although the text of the law is very clear on this matter ”, lamented Olalia.

Olalia added that the Resolution equating torture with external physical signs is very alarming. “Torture has become sophisticated and clever over the years. The use of psychological torture and systematic beating designed to create fear but which leave no physical marks are prevalent. This makes the Ombudsman’s decision all the more alarming. It is as if it is blind or has blinders to what the whole world knows.”

“What is the imprudent Resolution insinuating is that there is no torture when State agents threaten you with death at gunpoint, deny you food and deprive you of sleep through prolonged and repetitive interrogation, deprive you rest by keeping you bound and blindfolded for 36 straight hours or transfer you from one cell to another at night, or tell you nobody knows where you are and cockily say they know where your family lives, or mock and even fondle your private parts in an open toilet in the presence of laughing men and women in the dead of the night?” Olalia wondered.

Apart from questioning the dropping of the torture charge, the complainants also questioned the dropping of robbery charge. The partial Motion for Reconsideration pointed out that several personal items and cash of the complainants were taken by the respondents or upon their orders and up to now have not been returned even though the cases against them have already been dismissed in December 2010.

“That is why there is impunity for human rights violations to this day. And how is impunity rammed “in-your-face”? We see a supposedly very sickly former president running again for Congress and military men like Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad getting promoted left and right under the succeeding administration of outgoing President BS Aquino,” Olalia pointed out.

“Ultimately, Arroyo and her cohorts should be included among the accused and they should stand trial for the acts of their subordinates under the principle of command responsibility. They can run, but they certainly cannot hide,” Olalia stressed. #

Reference:

Atty. Edre U. Olalia

NUPL Secretary General

+639175113373

Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez

NUPL ASG for Legal Services

+63917546 5798

National Secretariat
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”

– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007

“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”
– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010