After almost eight months, PNoy finally believed the 43 healthcare workers weren’t army militants after all.
It may be worth noting that the arrest of the 26 women and 17 men—dubbed eventually as the Morong 43—happened when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is still the head of the Philippine republic. And no less than the general secretaries of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) have already pleaded for the detainees’ fate.
Some groups in New Zealand have also reminded the former president of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009(Republic Act 9745). Migrante International also condemned the illegal arrest and detention of the health workers.
The sister of President Herman Van Rompuy of the European Union also called on for the release of her fellow health care workers. "As a nurse who has visited the Philippines, I personally know and note that the organizations of these detained health workers do an excellent job. They provide primary health care in the poorest areas of the Philippines. They are brave men and women who defy very difficult circumstances to help their fellow citizens."
The Morong 43 were still detained though in Camp Capinpin for 12 weeks. They were just having a health training at a farmhouse owned by infectious disease specialist Dr. Melecia Velmonte when the police accused them for training for the New People's Army (NPA). The police arrested the Morong 43 without a warrant.
The health care workers were eventually transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa where they were continuously blindfolded and interrogated.
But days and weeks had passed and the charges weren’t proven. Only after almost eight months did PNoy decide to free the health care workers.
‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word
The relatives of the health care workers and various human rights groups weren’t exactly forgiving though. They insisted that the military apologize. “Sinira nila ang buhay namin, ang buhay ng mga anak ko. Kailangan, sila mismo maghingi ng sorry sa amin. Ikalat din nila sa buong mundo yung kung papaano nilang kinalat, pinagbintangan yang mga Morong 43 na yan na NPA (They disrupted our lives, my children’s lives. Now they need to tell us outright that they are sorry. They should tell this to the entire world in the same way that they spread to the world their accusations that the Morong 43 were NPA members)," said Evelyn Montes, wife of 62-year-old detainee Dr. Alexis Montes.
"Masama ba ang humingi ng apology? Ang ganyang paghingi ng apology, nagpapakita na tao lang tayo, eh hindi eh (Is it bad to apologize? Offering an apology means saying you are only human, prone to mistakes. But that’s not the case here)," remarked Marie Enriquez, secretary-general of Karapatan, in an interview over dwIZ radio.
Well, that would be ‘too much’ for PNoy. He has, after all, already ordered the charges against the health care workers dropped. “I think we have already demonstrated and already rectified the situation ... Medyo too much naman yan (A public apology just to show our administration’s sincerity may be too much)," he said. Six of the Morong 43 had admitted links with the NPA.
For this, the ‘innocent’ among the Morong 43 would file charges against the soldiers for violating the anti-torture law. AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. just shrugged it off, as the military will provide “the best lawyers if possible" for its men. So much for a five-letter word.