Military officer implicated in illegal arrest of 43 health workers promoted

“If President Aquino has forgotten what he himself has previously acknowledged – that our human rights were violated- we have not.” – Dr. Alexis Montes

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Despite strong opposition, Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Western Visayas was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, Sept 4.

Dr. Alexis Montes, one of the Morong 43 questioned Baladad’s “integrity and moral fitness” to the position he is being appointed to. Supporters and relatives also trooped outside the Senate to show their support for the health workers and opposition to Baladad’s confirmation.

“A position that entails so much responsibility and demands utmost respect for human rights should not be entrusted to someone like Col. Baladad who is facing serious charges of human rights violations,” Montes said in a statement.

Montes continued, “If President Aquino has forgotten what he himself has previously acknowledged – that our human rights were violated- we have not. We are asking the Honorable Committee not to forget as well. We are asking the Honorable Committee to deny or withhold the confirmation Col. Baladad.”

But Montes’ objection was only dismissed by the CA.

In a report Montes, who was present during the CA national defense committee, told the panel that Baladad “has first-hand knowledge regarding what was being done to them when they were detained.”

“He has a direct hand in our arrest,” Montes was quoted as saying in the report.

CA majority floor leader, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, said Montes’ allegations are mere speculation and have no basis.

Montes and rest of the Morong 43 were illegally arrested, tortured and detained in February 2010 while they were conducting a health training in Morong, Rizal. They were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Most of the detained health workers were released after 10 months. Charges against them were also withdrawn by the government due to international and local pressure.

The Morong 43 filed illegal arrest and torture charges against military and police officials involved in their arrest including Baladad. They also filed a damage suit against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her military and police officials.

Despite the swift decision of the CA on Baladad’s confirmation, without considering Montes’ opposition, he said the Morong 43 would pursue their quest for justice. “Even if the Aquino government seems to be rewarding human rights violators and giving special treatment to thieves, we will still continue to fight for justice. The two cases that we filed against the perpetrators have strong basis. We will fight until they are imprisoned and we will fight together with the people,” Montes in a text message. ()

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