Military fails to present 43 'health workers'

Posted at 02/12/2010 4:44 PM | Updated as of 02/12/2010 6:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday failed to present before the Court of Appeals (CA) the 43 individuals arrested in Rizal province over the weekend for allegedly engaging in rebel activities.

The military was supposed to bring the 43 "health workers" to the appellate court at 2 p.m. after the Supreme Court granted their relatives' petition for the issuance of habeas corpus.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, spokesman of the Civil Military Operations of the Philippine Army's 2nd Infantry Division, earlier told ANC's Dateline Philippines that only a military commander -- Col. Aurelio Baladad of the Army's 202nd Infantry Brigade -- would go to the appellate court.

"We already stressed that we are ready to bring their living body, [but] today, only the presence of Col. Baladad is needed at the Court of Appeals in Manila and he will be there. The original plan was to bring them there, but I think it was postponed to a later date," Detoyato said.

Meanwhile, reports gathered by ABS-CBN News said that Baladad was reprimanded by the CA for failing to heed the SC's order. The court ordered the military to bring the 43 individuals on Monday.

The relatives of the 43 individuals claim that they are actually health workers and were undergoing medical training during the arrest at a farmhouse in Morong town, Rizal province on Saturday morning.

The military, on the other hand, claims they were being trained to make bombs.

AFP: All are NPA members, supporters

Detoyato also reiterated the military's line that all 43 individuals are active New People's Army (NPA) members and supporters. He alleged that the arrested suspects did not have the proper qualification to support their claim that they are health workers.

"Based on their education profile: 10 of them are college graduates and not all of these courses are medical-related; 9 had elementary [education], 10 high school, 7 high school graduates, and 7 are college undergraduates... They have very limited comprehension of medical [practice]," the military official said, based on the alleged questioning by the military of the 43 suspects.

He added that one of the 43 arrested individuals allegedly has 2 pending warrants of arrest; 3 are allegedly members of a Cavite-based NPA unity; 7 have allegedly been involved in an ambush of policemen in Rizal; 2 others were allegedly involved in the abduction of a policeman in the same province.

Detoyato added that the 30 other individuals allegedly have links with national, regional and provincial fronts of the NPA.

Baladad, in an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com over the weekend, said the arrests were made after the confiscation of several firearms and explosives at the farmhouse.

Among the items seized were a .45 pistol, 1 .38 revolver, 3 grenades, a cannister of a 10x12 improvised land mine, 2 pieces of improvised Claymore land mines. 2 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 7 blasting caps, 36 pieces of improvised dynamite sticks, cellular phones, backpacks; and, campaign materials of the Bayan Muna party-list.

Baladad also said that they may file cases against the farmhouse's owner, Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a renowned infectious disease specialist and a consultant of the Philippine General Hospital. With a report from ANC