Friday, February 26, 2010

Repulsive bronze cross medals

This entry is related to my previous entry entitled “Biggest Warlord in the Philippines”, which referred to Pres. Gloria Arroyo and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

To Filipino military officers a bronze cross medal is a symbol of honor, courage and nobility.

But when such a medal is totally undeserved, as in the case of two colonels and their personnel in Tanay, Rizal, Philippines who led the illegal arrest of 43 health workers in that province (on the suspicion that they were communist rebels) without the benefit of valid search/arrest warrants issued by the courts, the freedom-loving Filipinos see such a medal as a repulsive and obnoxious brazen cross symbolizing military abuse, oppression, corruption, hypocrisy, and violence, all of which characterize the abusive and corrupt rule of Pres. Arroyo and her cronies these past nine years.

Read below the editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the said issue.

It condemns the "Palparan Doctrine".

Palparan was a notorious and infamous military general who was known among militant organizations as "The Butcher". He was the ideal soldier of his protector, Pres. Arroyo, whose violent and abusive mind equaled Palparan's.

Palparan is now a party-list member of the Philippine Congress, an institution derided by Filipinos for its laziness, incompetence, corruption and partisanship and for its scandalous multi-billion pork barrels and junkets that shamelessly bleed the toiling hands and brutally inflame the lifeless hearts of hungry Filipinos.

Brazen Cross
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:39:00 02/25/2010

MANILA, Philippines—The decision of the military leadership to award the Bronze Cross to the officers who led the raid on the Morong resort and effected the arrest of the 43 health workers alleged to be members of the New People’s Army is an insult both to the rule of law and the military’s own highest standards. The raid remains mired in legal controversy; the health workers continue to allege torture and other forms of maltreatment; above all, the impact on the NPA remains to be seen. Why rush to (favorable) judgment?

Let us, for the sake of argument, accept the official military version. Assuming that the Morong 43 were indeed medical workers of the NPA, engaged in a “bomb-making” exercise, was it right for the Armed Forces to award its fourth highest medal to the key officers who led the raid? We don’t think so—because the raid itself has been assailed as illegal.

Sen. Loren Legarda, a reserve colonel herself, called it right when she criticized the decision to award the medals as “premature” at best. “The military has not even proven their legal authority to arrest the workers in court,” she said. “What if the court determines that the arrest of the workers [was] without legal basis? Are they saying that it’s all right to award soldiers and even policemen who make accusations they cannot even prove? It’s absurd, even surreal.”

So, even if we were to assume that the Morong 43 were all communist insurgents, the better part of valor would still have been discretion. The AFP should have waited for the court to rule.

But was the raid, in fact, an out-and-out success? AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner says it gave the military a major tactical victory. “Now that they are arrested, the NPA is not able to launch their plans for the next few months, until June 2010, specifically in areas in Central Luzon and Southern Luzon,” he told ANC. Maybe. But we would have to wait for June to know for sure, wouldn’t we?

In other words, even the most favorable interpretation of the facts would tell us that any awarding of medals is, at best, premature. But wait. Is Brawner offering the argument that the arrest of medical workers who were allegedly being taught how to make bombs (in other words, they still don’t know how) would be enough to cripple the communist insurgency in Central and Southern Luzon? He must enlighten the public on this unusual, self-serving reading of the insurgency.

In the meantime, we will join the public in continuing to view the raid with great skepticism, and to hear the Morong 43’s woeful tales of physical torture, psychological harassment and sexual abuse with sympathy. We have gone down this road before, during the darkest days of the Marcos dictatorship, and yet again during the Arroyo administration’s detour to Palparan-esque butchery.

Indeed, the template the AFP followed, in deciding to honor the controversial raiders with the Bronze Cross, comes right out of the Jovito Palparan playbook. At the height of the politically motivated killings that Palparan, then still in active service, said he may have inspired, President Macapagal-Arroyo singled out her favorite general in a State of the Nation Address for lavish, cringe-inducing praise.

There are many more soldiers, in or already out of active service, who reflect the military’s finest traditions. They can represent the armed services infinitely better than Palparan and his kind. The decision to award the Bronze Cross to the brigade commander and the battalion commander involved in the Morong raid (and, thus, in the subsequent violation of the suspects’ basic human rights, the subject of intense outrage both within and outside the country) commits the AFP to an avoidable mistake. It reinforces in the public mind the unhealthy connection between the President and her remaining Palparans.

A news report summarizes Brawner’s thinking on the legal controversy in this way: “He added that even if the criminal charges are dismissed, the military would always consider the arrested health workers as supporters of the communist movement.” In other words, the law can go to hell. Here we have the true explanation for the decision to award the medals. They are the response of a military establishment lulled or lured into the Palparan mindset; they are a raised middle finger, a prize for brazenness.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Extortion and elections

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have always accused the independent-minded Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as pro-Left and pro-Communist.

This time, however, as to if to dispel the paranoia of the AFP and the PNP, the CHR has attacked the communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA) in re: its coercive “permits to campaign” fund-raising extortion activities nationwide. Hundreds of candidates, who are now campaigning for the general elections on May 20, 2010, are the victims of this revolutionary taxation scheme of the communist rebels.

I am indeed glad that the CHR has slammed the New People’s Army’s “permit to campaign” scheme, calling it an “extortion” by “non-state actors” who have regard for free, fair and genuine elections.

CHR chairperson Leila de Lima said the communist rebels “permit to campaign” policy violates the people’s right to make an informed choice of their leaders.
She added that this practice arrogates to the requiring group the powers rightfully belonging to the people and lawfully designated authorities. It disregards the rule of law, and scoffs at the principles of free, fair and genuine elections.”

According to De Lima, “the ‘permit to campaign scheme’ which, in plain language, is a form of extortion being perpetrated by the New People’s Army and other non-state actors, is repugnant in all possible ways to valued human rights principles and standards, not only of candidates and political parties, but of the individual voters as well.”

Also violated, according to de Lima, are the rights to equality, free expression, freedom of movement, and freedom against discrimination.
De Lima has reminded the communist guerillas of their obligations under the international humanitarian law.


Tax deduction for legal aid approved.

The newly approved “FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2010” gives lawyers and law firms tax incentives when they render free legal services to poor clients. (See my previous entry in this blog on the same issue).

Republic Act No. 9999 or the “Free Legal Assistance Act of 2010” sought to encourage lawyers to provide pro bono services to clients who can't afford to hire lawyers.

The new law grants participating lawyers or law firms "tax deduction of up to 10 percent of their gross income."

The exclusionary clause of the new law provides that "the actual free legal services herein contemplated shall be exclusive of the minimum sixty-hour mandatory legal aid services rendered to indigent litigants as required under the Rule on Mandatory Legal Aid Service (MLAS) for Practicing Lawyers, under BAR Matter No. 2012, issued by the Supreme Court."

To avail of the tax incentives, lawyers and law firms may apply for certification from the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) on rendering free legal services to the poor.

The full text of the law has not been published as of today.

I doubt if Filipino lawyers and law firms would avail themselves of the tax benefit under the new law because availment by the Bar of the provisions of the new law is purely voluntary and discretionary on its part. There is no compulsion.

My prediction is that, most probably, what would happen is that lawyers would simply comply with the Supreme Court circular on mandatory legal aid service (MLAS) under B.M. No. 2012 (whose implementation has been suspended since last year) for fear of suspension of their individual Bar licenses, which is the very same disciplinary sanction against lawyers who fail to complete 36 hours of mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) lectures every three (3) years under B.M. No. 850 of the Court.

The detailed MLAS implementing rules have not been issued yet by the Court as of now for failure of the board of governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to submit to the Court its proposed draft thereof for the consideration and approval of the Court.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writ of Kalikasan; rules to be issued.

The Philippine Supreme Court, under the innovative and libertarian leadership of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, shall soon issue the new rule on the WRIT OF KALIKASAN, which, to my mind, should be praised worldwide for being a leading judicial activist advocacy to protect the environment in the Philippines in the face of the greed of businessmen, politicians, and military and police officials who rake in huge sums of dirty money monthly out of the prostitution and degradation of the Philippine ecology at the expense of the future generations of Filipinos.

During the visit of the "Justice On Wheels" project in Muntinlupa City, Puno announced that "the high court was nearing the completion of the writ of kalikasan, a set of rules designed to protect people's right to the environment, which he vowed to be completed before he retires in May."

Read a related news item below on the matter.

I will digest the new Rule upon its public issuance by the Court.

‘Justice on Wheels’ rolls into Muntinlupa
By Miko L. Morelos
Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 09:15:00 02/24/2010

MANILA, Philippines— (UPDATE) The Supreme Court’s “Justice on Wheels” on Wednesday rolled into Muntinlupa city in an effort to de-clog court dockets and resolve cases in the city immediately.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who accompanied the mobile court, explained that Justice on Wheels is part of his centerpiece program on human rights focusing on the legal needs of marginalized sector.

Puno is also scheduled to participate in a dialogue between the Supreme Court and barangay (village) officials who are being schooled on their rights and powers as leaders of the country's fundamental government unit.

The chief justice said the mobile courts, which are touring towns, cities, and provinces across the country, have been able to release some 3,000 inmates. At the same time, he added, other components of the enhanced Justice on Wheels program have significantly contributed to speeding up court processes and in educating people about their rights.

Puno also announced that the high court is nearing the completion of the writ of kalikasan, a set of rules designed to protect people's right to the environment, which he vowed to be completed before he retires in May.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Better late than never.

As I have previously stated in a related entry (“Justices Recover Their Sanity”), in the very fresh case of ELEAZAR P. QUINTO and GERINO A. TOLENTINO, JR. Vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, EN BANC, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court had regained its wisdom and sanity by reversing itself and by holding that all appointive officials and employees in the Philippines are automatically deemed resigned upon filing of their respective certificates of candidacy without violating the constitutional principles of due process and equal protection of the law.

The Court reverted to the traditional statutory construction and jurisprudence on the said constitutional issue.

I feel that, by reiterating the old doctrine by way of stare decisis, the Court acted with wisdom and enlightenment, thereby, recovering the lost respect of the Bar, the Bench, and the Filipino people in general.

May I digest the doctrinal statements of the Court in the said case, thus:

1. We grant the motions for reconsideration. We now rule that Section 4(a) of Resolution 8678, Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, and the second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of RA 9369 are not unconstitutional, and accordingly reverse our December 1, 2009 Decision.

2. Section 4(a) of COMELEC Resolution 8678 is a faithful reflection of the present state of the law and jurisprudence on the matter, viz.:
Incumbent Appointive Official. - Under Section 13 of RA 9369, which reiterates Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, any person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and officers and employees in government-owned or -controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy.

Incumbent Elected Official. – Upon the other hand, pursuant to Section 14 of RA 9006 or the Fair Election Act, which repealed Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code and rendered ineffective Section 11 of R.A. 8436 insofar as it considered an elected official as resigned only upon the start of the campaign period corresponding to the positions for which they are running, an elected official is not deemed to have resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the same or any other elected office or position. In fine, an elected official may run for another position without forfeiting his seat.

3. These laws and regulations implement Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution, which prohibits civil service officers and employees from engaging in any electioneering or partisan political campaign.

4. To emphasize its importance, this constitutional ban on civil service officers and employees is presently reflected and implemented by a number of statutes. Section 46(b)(26), Chapter 7 and Section 55, Chapter 8 – both of Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 – respectively provide in relevant part:

Section 44. Discipline: General Provisions:

x x x x

(b) The following shall be grounds for disciplinary action:

x x x x

(26) Engaging directly or indirectly in partisan political activities by one holding a non-political office.

x x x x

Section 55. Political Activity. — No officer or employee in the Civil Service including members of the Armed Forces, shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity or take part in any election except to vote nor shall he use his official authority or influence to coerce the political activity of any other person or body. Nothing herein provided shall be understood to prevent any officer or employee from expressing his views on current political problems or issues, or from mentioning the names of his candidates for public office whom he supports: Provided, That public officers and employees holding political offices may take part in political and electoral activities but it shall be unlawful for them to solicit contributions from their subordinates or subject them to any of the acts involving subordinates prohibited in the Election Code.

5. Section 261(i) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 (the Omnibus Election Code) further makes intervention by civil service officers and employees in partisan political activities an election offense, viz.:

SECTION 261. Prohibited Acts. — The following shall be guilty of an election offense:

x x x x

(i) Intervention of public officers and employees. — Any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all other para-military units that now exist or which may hereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any partisan political activity, except to vote or to preserve public order, if he is a peace officer.

6. But Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution and the implementing statutes apply only to civil servants holding apolitical offices. Stated differently, the constitutional ban does not cover elected officials, notwithstanding the fact that “[t]he civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters.” This is because elected public officials, by the very nature of their office, engage in partisan political activities almost all year round, even outside of the campaign period. Political partisanship is the inevitable essence of a political office, elective positions included.

7. We now hold that Section 4(a) of Resolution 8678, Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, and the second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of RA 9369 are not violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

i. Fariñas, et al. v. Executive Secretary, et al. is Controlling

8. In truth, this Court has already ruled squarely on whether these deemed-resigned provisions challenged in the case at bar violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution in Fariñas, et al. v. Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 147387, December 10, 2003, 417 SCRA 503

In Fariñas, the constitutionality of Section 14 of the Fair Election Act, in relation to Sections 66 and 67 of the Omnibus Election Code, was assailed on the ground, among others, that it unduly discriminates against appointive officials. As Section 14 repealed Section 67 (i.e., the deemed-resigned provision in respect of elected officials) of the Omnibus Election Code, elected officials are no longer considered ipso facto resigned from their respective offices upon their filing of certificates of candidacy. In contrast, since Section 66 was not repealed, the limitation on appointive officials continues to be operative – they are deemed resigned when they file their certificates of candidacy.

The petitioners in Fariñas thus brought an equal protection challenge against Section 14, with the end in view of having the deemed-resigned provisions “apply equally” to both elected and appointive officials. We held, however, that the legal dichotomy created by the Legislature is a reasonable classification, as there are material and significant distinctions between the two classes of officials. Consequently, the contention that Section 14 of the Fair Election Act, in relation to Sections 66 and 67 of the Omnibus Election Code, infringed on the equal protection clause of the Constitution, failed muster. We ruled:

The petitioners' contention, that the repeal of Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code pertaining to elective officials gives undue benefit to such officials as against the appointive ones and violates the equal protection clause of the constitution, is tenuous.

The equal protection of the law clause in the Constitution is not absolute, but is subject to reasonable classification. If the groupings are characterized by substantial distinctions that make real differences, one class may be treated and regulated differently from the other. The Court has explained the nature of the equal protection guarantee in this manner:

The equal protection of the law clause is against undue favor and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or the oppression of inequality. It is not intended to prohibit legislation which is limited either in the object to which it is directed or by territory within which it is to operate. It does not demand absolute equality among residents; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced. The equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation which applies only to those persons falling within a specified class, if it applies alike to all persons within such class, and reasonable grounds exist for making a distinction between those who fall within such class and those who do not.

Substantial distinctions clearly exist between elective officials and appointive officials. The former occupy their office by virtue of the mandate of the electorate. They are elected to an office for a definite term and may be removed therefrom only upon stringent conditions. On the other hand, appointive officials hold their office by virtue of their designation thereto by an appointing authority. Some appointive officials hold their office in a permanent capacity and are entitled to security of tenure while others serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

Another substantial distinction between the two sets of officials is that under Section 55, Chapter 8, Title I, Subsection A. Civil Service Commission, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 292), appointive officials, as officers and employees in the civil service, are strictly prohibited from engaging in any partisan political activity or take (sic) part in any election except to vote. Under the same provision, elective officials, or officers or employees holding political offices, are obviously expressly allowed to take part in political and electoral activities.

By repealing Section 67 but retaining Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, the legislators deemed it proper to treat these two classes of officials differently with respect to the effect on their tenure in the office of the filing of the certificates of candidacy for any position other than those occupied by them. Again, it is not within the power of the Court to pass upon or look into the wisdom of this classification.

Since the classification justifying Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 9006, i.e., elected officials vis-à-vis appointive officials, is anchored upon material and significant distinctions and all the persons belonging under the same classification are similarly treated, the equal protection clause of the Constitution is, thus, not infringed.

9. Our Fariñas ruling on the equal protection implications of the deemed-resigned provisions cannot be minimalized as mere obiter dictum. It is trite to state that an adjudication on any point within the issues presented by the case cannot be considered as obiter dictum. This rule applies to all pertinent questions that are presented and resolved in the regular course of the consideration of the case and lead up to the final conclusion, and to any statement as to the matter on which the decision is predicated. For that reason, a point expressly decided does not lose its value as a precedent because the disposition of the case is, or might have been, made on some other ground; or even though, by reason of other points in the case, the result reached might have been the same if the court had held, on the particular point, otherwise than it did. As we held in Villanueva, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, et al.:

… A decision which the case could have turned on is not regarded as obiter dictum merely because, owing to the disposal of the contention, it was necessary to consider another question, nor can an additional reason in a decision, brought forward after the case has been disposed of on one ground, be regarded as dicta. So, also, where a case presents two (2) or more points, any one of which is sufficient to determine the ultimate issue, but the court actually decides all such points, the case as an authoritative precedent as to every point decided, and none of such points can be regarded as having the status of a dictum, and one point should not be denied authority merely because another point was more dwelt on and more fully argued and considered, nor does a decision on one proposition make statements of the court regarding other propositions dicta. (italics supplied)

10. To start with, the equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. The test developed by jurisprudence here and yonder is that of reasonableness, which has four requisites:

(1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions;
(2) It is germane to the purposes of the law;
(3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and
(4) It applies equally to all members of the same class.

11. Our assailed Decision readily acknowledged that these deemed-resigned provisions satisfy the first, third and fourth requisites of reasonableness. It, however, proffers the dubious conclusion that the differential treatment of appointive officials vis-à-vis elected officials is not germane to the purpose of the law, because “whether one holds an appointive office or an elective one, the evils sought to be prevented by the measure remain”. Xxx.

12. Sad to state, this conclusion conveniently ignores the long-standing rule that to remedy an injustice, the Legislature need not address every manifestation of the evil at once; it may proceed “one step at a time.” In addressing a societal concern, it must invariably draw lines and make choices, thereby creating some inequity as to those included or excluded. Nevertheless, as long as “the bounds of reasonable choice” are not exceeded, the courts must defer to the legislative judgment. We may not strike down a law merely because the legislative aim would have been more fully achieved by expanding the class. Stated differently, the fact that a legislative classification, by itself, is underinclusive will not render it unconstitutionally arbitrary or invidious. There is no constitutional requirement that regulation must reach each and every class to which it might be applied; that the Legislature must be held rigidly to the choice of regulating all or none.

13. Thus, any person who poses an equal protection challenge must convincingly show that the law creates a classification that is “palpably arbitrary or capricious.” He must refute all possible rational bases for the differing treatment, whether or not the Legislature cited those bases as reasons for the enactment, such that the constitutionality of the law must be sustained even if the reasonableness of the classification is “fairly debatable.” In the case at bar, the petitioners failed – and in fact did not even attempt – to discharge this heavy burden. Our assailed Decision was likewise silent as a sphinx on this point even while we submitted the following thesis:

... [I]t is not sufficient grounds for invalidation that we may find that the statute’s distinction is unfair, underinclusive, unwise, or not the best solution from a public-policy standpoint; rather, we must find that there is no reasonably rational reason for the differing treatment.

In the instant case, is there a rational justification for excluding elected officials from the operation of the deemed resigned provisions? I submit that there is.

An election is the embodiment of the popular will, perhaps the purest expression of the sovereign power of the people. It involves the choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular vote. Considering that elected officials are put in office by their constituents for a definite term, it may justifiably be said that they were excluded from the ambit of the deemed resigned provisions in utmost respect for the mandate of the sovereign will. In other words, complete deference is accorded to the will of the electorate that they be served by such officials until the end of the term for which they were elected. In contrast, there is no such expectation insofar as appointed officials are concerned.

The dichotomized treatment of appointive and elective officials is therefore germane to the purposes of the law. For the law was made not merely to preserve the integrity, efficiency, and discipline of the public service; the Legislature, whose wisdom is outside the rubric of judicial scrutiny, also thought it wise to balance this with the competing, yet equally compelling, interest of deferring to the sovereign will. (emphasis in the original)

14. In fine, the assailed Decision would have us “equalize the playing field” by invalidating provisions of law that seek to restrain the evils from running riot. Under the pretext of equal protection, it would favor a situation in which the evils are unconfined and vagrant, existing at the behest of both appointive and elected officials, over another in which a significant portion thereof is contained. The absurdity of that position is self-evident, to say the least.

15. Accordingly, our assailed Decision’s submission that the right to run for public office is “inextricably linked” with two fundamental freedoms – those of expression and association – lies on barren ground. American case law has in fact never recognized a fundamental right to express one’s political views through candidacy, as to invoke a rigorous standard of review. Bart v. Telford pointedly stated that “[t]he First Amendment does not in terms confer a right to run for public office, and this court has held that it does not do so by implication either.” Thus, one’s interest in seeking office, by itself, is not entitled to constitutional protection. Moreover, one cannot bring one’s action under the rubric of freedom of association, absent any allegation that, by running for an elective position, one is advancing the political ideas of a particular set of voters.

16. Prescinding from these premises, it is crystal clear that the provisions challenged in the case at bar, are not violative of the equal protection clause. The deemed-resigned provisions substantially serve governmental interests (i.e., (i) efficient civil service faithful to the government and the people rather than to party; (ii) avoidance of the appearance of “political justice” as to policy; (iii) avoidance of the danger of a powerful political machine; and (iv) ensuring that employees achieve advancement on their merits and that they be free from both coercion and the prospect of favor from political activity). These are interests that are important enough to outweigh the non-fundamental right of appointive officials and employees to seek elective office.

17. According to the assailed Decision, the challenged provisions of law are overly broad because they apply indiscriminately to all civil servants holding appointive posts, without due regard for the type of position being held by the employee running for elective office and the degree of influence that may be attendant thereto.

Its underlying assumption appears to be that the evils sought to be prevented are extant only when the incumbent appointive official running for elective office holds an influential post.

Such a myopic view obviously fails to consider a different, yet equally plausible, threat to the government posed by the partisan potential of a large and growing bureaucracy: the danger of systematic abuse perpetuated by a “powerful political machine” that has amassed “the scattered powers of government workers” so as to give itself and its incumbent workers an “unbreakable grasp on the reins of power.” As elucidated in our prior exposition:

Attempts by government employees to wield influence over others or to make use of their respective positions (apparently) to promote their own candidacy may seem tolerable – even innocuous – particularly when viewed in isolation from other similar attempts by other government employees. Yet it would be decidedly foolhardy to discount the equally (if not more) realistic and dangerous possibility that such seemingly disjointed attempts, when taken together, constitute a veiled effort on the part of an emerging central party structure to advance its own agenda through a “carefully orchestrated use of [appointive and/or elective] officials” coming from various levels of the bureaucracy.

…[T]he avoidance of such a “politically active public work force” which could give an emerging political machine an “unbreakable grasp on the reins of power” is reason enough to impose a restriction on the candidacies of all appointive public officials without further distinction as to the type of positions being held by such employees or the degree of influence that may be attendant thereto. (citations omitted)

18. The assailed Decision also held that the challenged provisions of law are overly broad because they are made to apply indiscriminately to all civil servants holding appointive offices, without due regard for the type of elective office being sought, whether it be partisan or nonpartisan in character, or in the national, municipal or barangay level.

This erroneous ruling is premised on the assumption that “the concerns of a truly partisan office and the temptations it fosters are sufficiently different from those involved in an office removed from regular party politics [so as] to warrant distinctive treatment,” so that restrictions on candidacy akin to those imposed by the challenged provisions can validly apply only to situations in which the elective office sought is partisan in character. To the extent, therefore, that such restrictions are said to preclude even candidacies for nonpartisan elective offices, the challenged restrictions are to be considered as overbroad.

19. In this regard, it is well to note that from as far back as the enactment of the Omnibus Election Code in 1985, Congress has intended that these nonpartisan barangay elections be governed by special rules, including a separate rule on deemed resignations which is found in Section 39 of the Omnibus Election Code. Said provision states:

Section 39. Certificate of Candidacy. – No person shall be elected punong barangay or kagawad ng sangguniang barangay unless he files a sworn certificate of candidacy in triplicate on any day from the commencement of the election period but not later than the day before the beginning of the campaign period in a form to be prescribed by the Commission. The candidate shall state the barangay office for which he is a candidate.

x x x x

Any elective or appointive municipal, city, provincial or national official or employee, or those in the civil or military service, including those in government-owned or-controlled corporations, shall be considered automatically resigned upon the filing of certificate of candidacy for a barangay office.

Since barangay elections are governed by a separate deemed resignation rule, under the present state of law, there would be no occasion to apply the restriction on candidacy found in Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, and later reiterated in the proviso of Section 13 of RA 9369, to any election other than a partisan one. For this reason, the overbreadth challenge raised against Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code and the pertinent proviso in Section 13 of RA 9369 must also fail.

20. This Court would do well to proceed with tiptoe caution, particularly when it comes to the application of the overbreadth doctrine in the analysis of statutes that purportedly attempt to restrict or burden the exercise of the right to freedom of speech, for such approach is manifestly strong medicine that must be used sparingly, and only as a last resort.

In the United States, claims of facial overbreadth have been entertained only where, in the judgment of the court, the possibility that protected speech of others may be muted and perceived grievances left to fester (due to the possible inhibitory effects of overly broad statutes) outweighs the possible harm to society in allowing some unprotected speech or conduct to go unpunished. Facial overbreadth has likewise not been invoked where a limiting construction could be placed on the challenged statute, and where there are readily apparent constructions that would cure, or at least substantially reduce, the alleged overbreadth of the statute.

In the case at bar, the probable harm to society in permitting incumbent appointive officials to remain in office, even as they actively pursue elective posts, far outweighs the less likely evil of having arguably protected candidacies blocked by the possible inhibitory effect of a potentially overly broad statute.

Asylum law

As Filipinos already know, opposition Senator and ex-Philippine National Police Chief Panfilo Lacson has been charged with double murder case in connection with the death of a prominent publicist and his driver a few years back. He is now at large, having escaped to an unknown foreign country. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has coordinated with the International Police (Interpol) agency for assistance to effect his repatriation to the Philippines

Sen. Lacson had exposed before the Senate floor major corruption scandals implicating Pres. Gloria Arroyo, her controversial husband Mike Arroyo, and top cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries politically linked to the couple. The senate inquiries were all well-publicized, leading to a drastic drop in the level of respect of the Filipinos for Pres. Arroyo and her cohorts.

The international instrument that Sen. Lacson intends to use in order to seek political asylum in a foreign country of his choice is the UN Document No. A/6716 or “The Declaration on Territorial Asylum”, which I am reproducing verbatim below, for legal research purposes of the visitors of this blog.

I am also reproducing below a 2005 status report of the Amnesty International on the status of the implementation of European and UN covenants on refugees and asylum seekers in the said continent.

Declaration on Territorial Asylum
Available From:

Conclusion Date: 1967-12-14 Description: This Declaration provides for the mutual respect among States of other States' decisions to grant asylum to persons fleeing persecution. It proscribes the expulsion or return of such persons to States where they may be persecuted. However, persons who have committed war crimes, or crimes against peace or humanity, are not entitled to a grant of asylum. Legal Citation: UN Doc. A/6716


Adopted by General Assembly resolution 2312 (XXII) of 14 December 1967


The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolutions 1839 (XVII) of 19 December 1962, 2100 (XX) of 20 December 1965 and 2203 (XXI) of 16 December 1966 concerning a declaration on the right of asylum,

Considering the work of codification to be undertaken by the International Law Commission in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1400 (XIV) of 21 November 1959,

Adopts the following Declaration:


The General Assembly,

Noting that the purposes proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations are to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among all nations and to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,

Mindful of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares in article 14 that:

"1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."

"2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations",

Recalling also article 13, paragraph 2, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

"Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country",

Recognizing that the grant of asylum by a State to persons entitled to invoke article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a peaceful and humanitarian act and that, as such, it cannot be regarded as unfriendly by any other State,

Recommends that, without prejudice to existing instruments dealing with asylum and the status of refugees and stateless persons, States should base themselves in their practices relating to territorial asylum on the following principles:

Article 1

1. Asylum granted by a State, in the exercise of its sovereignty, to persons entitled to invoke article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including persons struggling against colonialism, shall be respected by all other States.

2. The right to seek and to enjoy asylum may not be invoked by any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes.

3. It shall rest with the State granting asylum to evaluate the grounds for the grant of asylum.

Article 2

1. The situation of persons referred to in article 1, paragraph 1, is, without prejudice to the sovereignty of States and the purposes and principles of the United Nations, of concern to the international community.

2. Where a State finds difficulty in granting or continuing to grant asylum, States individually or jointly or through the United Nations shall consider, in a spirit of international solidarity, appropriate measures to lighten the burden on that State.

Article 3

1. No person referred to in article 1, paragraph 1, shall be subjected to measures such as rejection at the frontier or, if he has already entered the territory in which he seeks asylum, expulsion or compulsory return to any State where he may be subjected to persecution.

2. Exception may be made to the foregoing principle only for overriding reasons of national security or in order to safeguard the population, as in the case of a mass influx of persons.

3. Should a State decide in any case that exception to the principle stated in paragraph 1 of this article would be justified, it shall consider the possibility of granting to the persons concerned, under such conditions as it may deem appropriate, an opportunity, whether by way of provisional asylum or otherwise, of going to another State.

Article 4

States granting asylum shall not permit persons who have received asylum to engage in activities contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.


Document - Europe: Treatment of refugees and asylum seekers
Media Briefing
AI Index: EUR 01/010/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 153
20 June 2005
Embargo Date: 20 June 2005 01:00GMT
Europe: Treatment of refugees and asylum seekers

Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Article 14, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The right to seek sanctuary from persecution is enshrined in international law. However on asylum provisions and the challenges of migration, governments continue to emphasize control and deterrence rather than protection. This document looks at new legislation and the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers in a number of European countries.


On 15 October 2004, the Constitutional Court declared three articles of the 2004 Asylum Law unconstitutional. One article allowed asylum-seekers to be deported before a decision had been taken on their appeal. The second limited the possibility of presenting new evidence during a hearing, and the third allowed detention to be prolonged if an application was resubmitted. There were continuing concerns about asylum-seekers' lack of access to translators during medical examinations which failed to offer proper care. It was unclear who under the new asylum law had responsibility for the representation of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.

There are reports of ill-treatment of asylum-seekers held in refugee camps. Amnesty International is concerned that mechanisms have not been put in place to ensure proper monitoring and accountability regarding facilities housing asylum-seekers; day-to-day responsibility for such facilities was outsourced to private companies in 2003. There is continuing concern at the lack of monitoring by the Austrian authorities to ensure that guarantees given prior to extradition are in fact adhered to by the receiving government. The willingness of the Austrian authorities to consider extradition requests before applications for asylum had been properly processed is also a cause of concern.


A Georgian asylum-seeker in the Traiskirchen Refugee Camp was allegedly ill-treated in February 2004 when he refused to leave the camp during asylum procedures. According to reports, he was wrestled to the ground by officials and had cigarettes stubbed out on his shoulder.
In February 2004, Akhmet A., a Russian citizen, was extradited to Russia, despite pending asylum determination procedures. There were concerns that the investigation by the Austrian authorities into the offences he allegedly committed in Russia -- which were the basis of the extradition request -- was inadequate. There were reports that Akhmet A. may have been ill-treated in pre-trial detention by Russian law enforcement officers following his return to Russia.


Non-nationals are allegedly subjected to excessive force and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during deportation operations. In July 2004, the Human Rights Committee recommended that those responsible for carrying out deportations be better trained and monitored. The Committee also expressed concern about non-nationals being held in the transit zone "under questionable sanitary and social conditions". It considered such practices "akin to arbitrary detention which can lead to inhuman and degrading treatment" and said that Belgium should end them immediately.

In 2004, some non-nationals, who had been denied access to Belgian territory on arrival at the airport and then held in detention centers for aliens by administrative order awaiting deportation, were released on court orders. In some cases such people were transferred directly to the transit zone of the national airport under police escort, on the orders of the Aliens' Office attached to the Interior Ministry. They were then left for days or weeks, and occasionally months, effectively confined, without passports and access to legal advice, and without some of the basic means of survival such as food, fresh air and proper washing facilities. As a result, they were frequently forced to rely on the charity of passengers and airport staff.


A teenager from Guinea-Bissau who arrived at Brussels airport in November 2003 and made an immediate but unsuccessful asylum application spent some eight months in detention centers for aliens. During this period he was subject to several deportation attempts. The courts twice ruled that he should be released, allowed to enter Belgian territory, and provided with a guardian and appropriate care in an institution where he would be protected as a minor. The Aliens' Office disputed that he was a minor, as he maintained, and eventually transferred him to the transit zone in the airport in July 2004, where he spent several days without food and sleeping facilities. Following interventions and publicity by domestic non-governmental organizations and the media, the Interior Minister ordered the boy’s transfer to an open centre for asylum-seekers.


In June 2004, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published a report on its September 2003 visit to Finland. The CPT found that there was no coherent set of regulations on the use of force and means of restraint authorized during the deportation of non-nationals, and recommended that detailed instructions on the procedures to be followed be issued without delay.


In 2002, a Ukrainian married couple and their two children aged 11 and 12, were deported back to Ukraine after an operation lasting three days. Before being deported, they were held in a custody unit for aliens in Helsinki where sedative drugs were administered without proper examination by a doctor and without proper records being kept. The CPT described the approach taken in this case as unacceptable.


Conditions in reception centers or holding areas for non-nationals were reported to have fallen below international standards in many areas. In 2004, the Ombudsperson for Children expressed "extreme concern" about the situation of unaccompanied children placed in waiting zones before they were deported. Associations that assist refugees and asylum-seekers in border areas noted that the entry of such children was often systematically blocked. In a number of cases, children had been prevented from rejoining parents already in the country. In December, in a landmark decision, the Court of Appeal of Paris stated that holding areas should, for legal purposes, be considered as part of French territory and therefore that judges had competence to examine cases.


Four passengers on board a flight at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris in August 2004 faced charges of interfering with air traffic and disturbing the peace after protesting about police brutality. They reported seeing French officers hitting a national of Mali who was being forcibly deported.

In September 2004, the Court of Appeal of Paris ordered that there was no case to answer in the death of Ricardo Barrientos, an Argentinian national, who died while being forcibly deported in December 2002. On an aircraft destined for Buenos Aires, he had reportedly been bent double, his hands cuffed behind his back, and his torso, thighs and ankles bound with Velcro tape, while two police officers and three gendarmes applied continuous pressure to his shoulder blades. He had a mask over his face and was covered with a blanket, which hid him from other passengers and prevented him appealing for help. He collapsed before the aircraft's doors were closed. The court decided that Ricardo Barrientos had not been subjected to "acts of violence leading unintentionally to death”, as the charge maintained, because the officers had only been obeying orders to keep him under restraint. The court found that his death was attributable exclusively to natural causes arising from a heart condition. The judgment did not alleviate concerns that the methods of restraint used during the deportation failed to comply with international standards.


Under regulations of the Immigration Act 2004, victims of human rights abuses committed by non-state actors and victims of gender-based human rights violations would be eligible for recognition as refugees. However, many of the new provisions appear to undermine the rights of asylum-seekers and of people without residence permits.


Coastguards and police, including border police, are allegedly trying to discourage undocumented migrants from entering Greek territory, thus violating international standards. Such practices include interception on the Turkish border and immediate expulsion, refusal to accept applications for asylum, and failure to make available such applications to migrants. In August 2004, migrants who had been detained for three months on the island of Samos reported conditions of detention that contravened international standards. Concerns were also raised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following a visit to the detention centre. In September 2004, 10 migrants were reportedly ill-treated by members of commando forces on Farmakonisi. On 15 October the same year, five coastguards were found guilty of torturing a group of immigrants on the island of Crete in June 2001, and received suspended prison sentences.


A Sudanese national was at risk of forcible return to the conflict-torn Darfur region of Sudan from where he had fled in 2003 because the Ministry of Public Order refused to re-examine his case. He had been detained on his arrival in Greece in June 2003 and released three months later. He lived without welfare support in Greece until October 2003, when he travelled to the UK and claimed asylum. The UK authorities determined that Greece was responsible for deciding on his asylum claim and he was returned to Greece in June 2004. His new asylum application was rejected on the grounds that he had left Greece. A decision to deport him was issued. A new application based on fresh information about the situation in Darfur was declared inadmissible. It is not known whether he has been deported.

Last November, 502 children, the majority from Albania, were reported to have gone missing between 1998 and 2002 from a state-run children's home in Athens, where they were being sheltered after being taken off the streets by police. Many of the children were apparently victims of traffickers who forced them to sell trinkets or beg. The children had reportedly not been adequately protected at the home and little, or no effort, was made by the Greek authorities to find them. Despite the intervention of several non-governmental organizations and the Albanian Ombudsman, the Greek authorities had not undertaken a thorough and impartial judicial investigation into the case, although a preliminary police inquiry was launched in May 2004.

Last December police officers were reported to have tortured and ill-treated a group of around 60 asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, at least 17 of whom were under 18 years old. Police reportedly punched, kicked, sexually abused and threatened them with guns both in their homes and at the local police station in Athens.

There were reports that 186 children aged between 13 and 16 were among the approximately 700 refugees held in the Reception and Temporary Accommodation Centre for illegal immigrants in the Pagani area of Lesbos in extremely overcrowded conditions. As many as 200 people were reportedly crowded into rooms meant to accommodate 80. Most of the refugee children were believed to come from Iraq and Afghanistan and had arrived in Greek territory unaccompanied.


The Immigration Act 2004 is fundamentally flawed in its lack of respect for internationally recognized human rights. There is no independent human rights monitoring of immigration controls at ports of entry. Concern heightened throughout 2004 about the status and entitlement of migrant workers, including their rights to family reunion, and to be provided with a means of appeal against a deportation order. The 27th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 2004, removing the constitutional guarantee of citizenship for people born in Ireland who do not have a parent with Irish citizenship. Family members of children with Irish citizenship, who were not themselves Irish nationals, faced the retrospective application of changed government policy to deny them automatic residency. Such families are not entitled to legal aid when applying to remain on humanitarian grounds. According to official figures, by October 2004, 32 parents of Irish children had been deported, and another 352 had been issued with deportation orders. Concern remained that the best interests of the child were not sufficiently being taken into account in deportation decisions. In October a decision by the European Court of Justice confirmed the rights of children, who are citizens of the European Union (EU), to the care and company of their parents in the EU. In December, the government announced revised arrangements for processing claims from the non-national parents of Irish children born before 1 January 2005.


There is still no specific and comprehensive law on asylum. A draft law still falls short of relevant international standards. The protection for asylum-seekers offered under certain provisions of immigration legislation does not guarantee access to a fair and impartial individual asylum determination procedure. Many people in need of protection are forced to return to countries where they are at risk of grave human rights violations. Because of excessive delays in the asylum determination process, combined with inadequate provision for the basic needs of asylum-seekers, many people are left destitute while awaiting the outcome of initial asylum applications.

Thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers continue to arrive on southern shores by boat and hundreds of others perish in the attempt. Many such boats set out from Libya. In 2005, Italy forcibly returned to Libya people arriving by boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Italy's actions are in breach of the country's obligations under the UN Refugee Convention by not allowing those who may have a valid asylum claim to be properly assessed. According to Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights, the Italian government is prohibited from expelling entire groups of people, without properly considering each individual's situation.

Thousands of non-nationals without a right of residence in Italy, or suspected of not having such a right, are detained in temporary holding centers where they can remain for up to a maximum of 60 days before expulsion from the country as illegal immigrants or release. Many inmates experience difficulties in gaining access to the expert advice necessary to challenge the legality of their detention and of expulsion orders. Tension in the centers is high, with frequent protests, including escape attempts, and high levels of self-harm. The holding centers are often overcrowded, with unsuitable infrastructures, unhygienic living conditions, unsatisfactory diets and inadequate medical care.


In 2004, 25 asylum-seekers were expelled to Ghana. They were among a group of 37 people who had been allowed, on humanitarian grounds and after considerable delay, to disembark from a boat belonging to a German non-governmental organization.

In January 2004, a Roman Catholic priest employed as the director of Regina Pacis temporary holding centre in Puglia province, two doctors, five members of the administrative personnel, and 11 carabinieri providing the centre's security service, were ordered to stand trial in connection with the physical assault and racial abuse of inmates in November 2002.

Last year, the Bologna Public Prosecutor concluded a criminal investigation into allegations that some 11 police officers, one carabinieri and a member of the Red Cross administration running the via Mattei holding centre were involved in a physical assault on inmates in March 2003. The Prosecutor indicated that he would be requesting the committal for trial of at least four police officers.

On 17 March 2005, the Italian authorities forcibly returned 180 people to Libya, where they may be at risk of torture. Despite strong protests by various organizations including the UNHCR, Italy is reportedly planning further deportations. The authorities appear to be rushing to deport people from Lampedusa, and are doing so without proper scrutiny of the individual cases.


In May 2004, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern at information that asylum-seekers from certain countries were prevented from requesting asylum at the border; that the criteria for detaining asylum-seekers in “exceptional circumstances” remained unclear; and at the low percentage of applicants granted asylum in recent years. The Committee recommended that Lithuania ensure access to the domestic asylum procedure for all asylum-seekers, irrespective of their country of origin, and provide information on the criteria for detention.


Hundreds of asylum-seekers and migrants arrive by boat and an unknown number have died in the seas around Malta while attempting to reach Europe. By the end of 2004, over 800 people, including women and children, were held in detention centers run by the police and armed forces. Many were held on grounds beyond those permissible under international norms. In February 2004, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on his 2003 visit. He expressed concern about the policy of automatic detention until the conclusion of refugee determination proceedings or return to country of origin. In January 2005, Amnesty International called for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into reports that members of the Maltese armed forces had subjected scores of asylum-seekers and unauthorized migrants to physical assault resulting in numerous injuries.

Amendments to the Refugee and Immigration Acts in August 2004 provided for an increase in the resources available to the decision-making bodies and for inmates of detention centers to submit a request for conditional release on grounds that continued detention would be “unreasonable as regards duration or because there is no reasonable prospect of deportation within a reasonable time.” However, no criteria were given for assessing what would constitute an “unreasonable” length of detention.


On 13 January 2005, over 90 inmates of a detention facility for aliens at Safi army barracks conducted a peaceful protest, refusing to re-enter the centre at the end of an exercise period. The inmates, some of whom had apparently been detained for over 18 months, were protesting about the length of their detention; lack of information about the progress of their applications for refugee status or humanitarian protection and, in the case of those whose applications for asylum had already been rejected, lack of information concerning their future. Eyewitnesses have reported that after the protestors refused an order to re-enter the barracks, soldiers, dressed in riot gear and armed with batons and shields, charged the peaceful protestors and subjected them to deliberate and gratuitous violence.


Changes to the asylum law which came into force in April 2004 included reducing the period within which many asylum-seekers could appeal against the rejection of their initial asylum applications from 30 to five days. The amendment affected those whose initial applications were rejected automatically, without individual examination, on grounds that the authorities categorized their country of origin as safe for return. The amendment does not allow rejected asylum-seekers sufficient time to access appropriate legal advice and lodge an appeal.

In November 2004 the government presented, for public consultation, a draft federal law regulating the use of means of restraint by police during deportations and during the transport of detainees ordered by a federal authority. The draft aims to make a number of essential safeguards for deportees legally binding, and bans any police restraint methods restricting breathing. However, there is a provision allowing the use of electro-shock weapons, including tasers.

United Kingdom

In 2004 legislation further restricted the right to appeal against a refusal to grant asylum, replacing the two-tier immigration appeals system with a single tier. The authorities’ initial decision-making on asylum claims was frequently inadequate. Restrictions on public funds for immigration and asylum work left many asylum applicants without expert legal advice and representation.

In May 2004, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales ruled that legislation allowing the authorities to deny any support to adult asylum-seekers could not be reconciled with the UK’s international human rights obligations.


(Note: Visit AsylumLaw.Org).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Holier-than-thou meddling

The biggest stumbling block to the enactment of a much-needed divorce law in the Philippines is its Catholic Church, whose holier-than-thou political meddling and interference on the part of its arrogant and hypocritical bishops and priests and their misled and unthinking lay followers in the political and non-religious aspects of the Philippine society border on a clear and intentional violation of the very important and universal constitutional doctrine of the “separation of Church and State”.

The Philippine Catholic Church lives in the archaic age of violent Inquisition, the heydays of abusive Spanish colonialism, and the puritan reign of Queen Victoria. Covering their centuries-old sex, financial and political scandals, some prominent Catholic bishops and pastors, who are better known as political hypocrites and mercenaries of their benefactors in the elitist stratum of Philippine society, think and act as though they are the monopolistic zenith and epitome of purity, morality, ethics, and selflessness while hiding their real selfish intention of perpetuating their political, socio-psychological and economic hold on the ignorant and obedient Filipinos whose baseless fear of hell and eternal damnation dictate their daily secular options and decisions as free citizens of a democratic republic.

As of now, Filipino couples whose marriages are irretrievable and thus should be dissolved for their own sake and for the sake of their innocent, confused and mentally tortured children have no other procedural choice but to use the provisions of Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines (the much-abused and infamous psychological incapacity doctrine) to annul their failed and cancerous marriages by filing petitions before the concerned Regional Trial Courts and by undergoing, for at least two (2) years, the expense, rigors, pains and tediousness of court trials, appeals (up to 10 years), and strict counter-interventions by the public prosecutors and the Office of the Solicitor General.

Read the recent column below of former Chief Justice Art Panganiban, whose deep Catholic faith had led to the promulgation by the Supreme Court during his term of the very strict Molina doctrine. The current composition of the Court is liberalizing the application of Article 36, realizing that it is in the best interest of Philippine society if the same is construed with liberality, pragmatism and compassion to and recognition of the plight of the erring couples and their unintended victims (their own children).

With Due Respect
Divorce, Pinoy style
By Artemio V. Panganiban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:56:00 02/20/2010

MANILA, Philippines—A Western-style absolute divorce between spouses who are both Filipinos—even if obtained abroad—is not valid here. Although divorce is taboo, our courts can nonetheless void a marriage due to a fatal defect at its inception. The most common defect used to void a marriage is “psychological incapacity” under Article 36 of the Family Code. This law took effect on Aug. 3, 1988, but its interpretation and application are still evolving.

First decision. Let me quote the law: “A marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”

The earliest Supreme Court decision on the subject (Santos vs Court of Appeals, Jan. 4, 1995) ruled that “psychological incapacity should refer to no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity … to confine (its) meaning to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.” It “must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability.”

Still, judges and lawyers found this ruling difficult to apply in specific cases. In frustration, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) branded—an exaggeration, no doubt—Article 36 as the “most liberal divorce procedure in the world.” Thus, it asked the Court to issue clear guidelines to standardize its application.

Strict guidelines. Since Article 36 was sourced from Canon Law, the Court invited Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz, head of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, as amicus curiae, to explain its meaning and application. Based on his presentation, the Court in Republic vs Molina (Feb. 13, 1997) issued these eight guidelines:

1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of its validity and against its dissolution.

2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be: (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. The evidence must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, were mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he or she was assuming, or knowing them, could not have validly assumed them.

3) The incapacity must be proven to be extant “at the time of the celebration” of the marriage. The evidence must show that the illness existed when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.”

4) The incapacity must also be shown to be incurable, that it is medically or clinically permanent. The incurability may be absolute or may relate only to the other spouse.

5) The illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will.

6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. The non-complied marital obligations must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

7) Interpretations of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church, while not controlling, should be given great respect by our courts.

8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney and the solicitor general to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the solicitor general issues a certification, which shall be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein the reasons for his/her agreement or opposition to the petition.

Back to liberality. Because of criticisms that the guidelines were “too strict,” the Court abandoned item no. 8 in 2003. Dissenting, I argued that the active intervention of the OSG was necessary in the same way that the “defensor vinculi” (defender of the bond) was tasked by the Church to oppose nullity cases to ensure that the process does not degenerate to a divorce fiat.

Since then, the high court has tended to relax the guidelines. The latest decisions on the subject (see Te vs Te, Feb. 13, 2009 and Azcueta vs Republic, May 26, 2009) held that the guidelines should not be used as a “straightjacket.” While “not suggesting the abandonment of Molina,” Te nonetheless held that “courts should interpret (Article 36) on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals.”

Because of this “case-to-case” ruling and the relaxation of the guidelines, it is now difficult to predict how individual cases would be decided. There are no more firm standards to which decisions could be anchored. Sometimes, when parties collude successfully, the defective judgments are not appealed because the OSG is no longer mandated to defend the marital bond. Critics say that we are back to the “most liberal divorce procedure in the world.” Or simply, to the Pinoy edition of absolute divorce.


Justices recover their sanity

True to his libertarian and philosophical form, Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno has succeeded in persuading his colleagues in the Court to recover its sanity. nobility and dignity by reversing its stupid and unwise 2009 decision which held that appointive officials and employees were not deemed automatically resigned upon filing of their certificates of candidacy.

It will be noted that in December year, the Court declared as unconstitutional the prevailing election laws of the Philippines which deem as automatically resigned all appointive officials and employees who are running in an election upon filing of their certificates of candidacy with the Commission on Elections.

[See: Section 4(a) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution 8678, the second provision in the third paragraph of Section 13 of RA 9369, and Section 66 of the of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC)].

I will digest this week the 44-page decision of the Court penned by the Chief Justice himself as soon as it is made public.

Bets who are appointed execs resigned—high court
By Tetch Torres, Dona Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 14:41:00 02/22/2010

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Reversing its December 1, 2009 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that appointed officials, including members of the judiciary and the poll body, who have filed their certificate of candidacy for the May 10 elections are “deemed resigned.”

Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez said the ruling contained in the 44-page resolution is “effective immediately” since the prevailing law is that all appointive officials running in May 10 elections are automatically considered resigned.

The decision, penned by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, will affect four Cabinet members who are seeking congressional posts: Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, and Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon.

Voting 10-5, the high court said its December 2009 decision failed to consider the threat to government “posed by the partisan potential of a large and growing bureaucracy: the danger of systematic abuse perpetuated by a ‘powerful political machine’ that has amassed ‘the scattered powers of government workers’ so as to give itself and its incumbent workers an ‘unbreakable grasp on the reins of power.’”

“In the case at bar, the probable harm to society in permitting incumbent appointive officials to remain in office, even as they actively pursue elective posts, far outweighs the less likely evil of having arguably protected candidacies blocked by the possible inhibitory effect of a potentially overly broad statute,” the court said.

The Supreme Court noted the “absurdity” of a situation where aside from high-ranking cabinet members who already filed their certificates of candidacy without relinquishing their posts, several election officers and judges have also thrown their hat into the political ring.

"We cannot allow the tilting of our electoral playing field in their favor,” said the high court.

Devanadera, who substituted for her sister for a congressional seat in Quezon province, was given special mention. The court noted that her position as justice secretary includes supervision over the city and provincial prosecutors, who, in turn, act as vice chair of the respective boards of canvassers.

“In fine, the assailed Decision would have us ‘equalize the playing field’ by invalidating provisions of law that seek to restrain the evils from running riot. Under the pretext of equal protection, it would favor a situation in which the evils are unconfined and vagrant, existing at the behest of both appointive and elected officials, over another in which a significant portion thereof is contained. The absurdity of that position is self-evident, to say the least,” said the Court.

The new ruling thus upheld the constitutionality of the three provisions in the election laws that deemed appointive officials automatically resigned once they filed their certificates of candidacy. It held that the said provisions do not violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The court reversed its December 2009 ruling that allowed appointive officials who are running in May 10 elections to remain in office. It set aside the ruling which declared as unconstitutional Section 4(a) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution 8678, the second provision in the third paragraph of Section 13 of RA 9369, and Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).

The court held as baseless its earlier decision’s claim that the right to run for public office is inextricably linked with the fundamental freedoms of expression and association.

Citing American case law, it said a fundamental right to express one’s political views through candidacy has not been recognized so as to invoke a rigorous standard of review.



‘Partisan potential’
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:48:00 02/23/2010

LIKE MANY, we welcome the Supreme Court's reconsideration of the matter of appointed officials running for elective office. These officials really ought to be deemed resigned the moment they file their certificates of candidacy. The Court’s reversal of its Dec. 1, 2009 decision in the Quinto and Tolentino v. Comelec case turns this “ought” into reality.

The new ruling, written by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, describes the effect of the first decision with precision: it “paved the way for public appointive officials to continue discharging the powers, prerogatives and functions of their office notwithstanding their entry into the political arena.” The original decision, written by Associate Justice Eduardo Nachura, essentially argued that forcing appointive officials who had already entered the political arena to resign their posts, while allowing elected officials to stay in theirs, violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The Puno decision meets this argument with many counter-arguments, plus the corrective of reality: In truth, leaving appointive officials in place gave them an unfair advantage over their election rivals. Nachura’s perspective “obviously fails to consider a different, yet equally plausible, threat to the government posed by the partisan potential of a large and growing bureaucracy: the danger of systematic abuse perpetuated by a ‘powerful political machine’ that has amassed ‘the scattered powers of government workers’ so as to give itself and its incumbent workers an ‘unbreakable grasp on the reins of power.’”

As the track record of the Arroyo administration proves, and as Malacañang’s belligerent attitude to the new ruling demonstrates, officials of the Executive are not shy about using the “partisan potential” of the administration’s political machine. For this reason alone, many Filipinos welcome the reversal; the playing field that Justice Nachura sought to level in the abstract has been made so by the new ruling, in the concrete.


Biggest warlord

As Pres. Gloria Arroyo ends her notoriously repressive 9-year term on June 30 this year, while keeping open her hold-over option, military-rule option and constitutional-change option to perpetuate herself in power, the Filipinos should expect an increase in the oppressive, violent, illegal and abusive operations and human rights violations of the dreaded Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which Pres. Arroyo has virtually converted into her own private army as the biggest warlord in the Philippines.

An example of the abovementioned scenario is the recent mass arrest of 43 innocent and hardworking pro bono doctors, nurses and health workers attending a routine health conference in the semi-urbanized town of Morong, Rizal near Metro Manila.

The AFP had accused and tagged them as violent and armed top communist rebels allegedly holding a “mass convention, corporate workshop and team-building seminar “ to effect a violent downfall of the Philippine government -- a preposterous and ridiculous charge as far as intelligent and thinking Filipinos are concerned.

There seems to be validity in the claim of the victims that their human rights were violated in the form of warrantless search and seizure, mental and physical torture, and the filing of fabricated criminal cases against them for alleged illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions and explosives by the AFP in conspiracy with the assigned investigating prosecutors and with the tacit consent of their partisan bosses in the politicized Department of Justice.

A routine tactic of abusive soldiers and policemen since the martial-law regime of deposed ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos is to urgently arrest and detain innocent suspects by planting evidence of alleged unlicensed firearms, ammunitions and explosives (of which the law enforcers have ample unrecorded supplies) and by using old warrants of arrest directed against unidentified communists dubbed only as "John Does and Jane Does" to give a color of authority to their illegal operations.

I have gathered below a few published articles on the above-mentioned matter, for legal research purposes of the visitors of this blog. (For updates, visit

United Nations and US Department of State country reports have classified the Philippines as one of the worst countries in the world in terms of state-sanctioned intentional violations of international covenants on civil, political, social and economic rights of its citizens, a situation which had become more pronounced and more violent under the oppressive and paranoid reign of Pres. Arroyo and her unthinking and neurotic Cabinet-level security cluster.

The arrested health workers have filed a habeas corpus petition with the Supreme Court which had ordered the Court of Appeals to receive evidence on the petition. It is still pending as of now. Meanwhile, the health workers are detained in a military camp in Tanay, Rizal.

Addendum: The AFP’s army headquarters has awarded the two arresting colonels for "exemplary performance". What a stupid thing to do. Only in the Philippines.

Health workers tortured–CHR
By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:22:00 02/10/2010

MANILA, Philippines—The head of the Commission on Human Rights has accused the military of subjecting to “psychological torture” the 43 health workers who were arrested in Morong, Rizal, last Saturday on suspicion that they were communists.

“They are continuously handcuffed and blindfolded, they are not allowed to sleep, they are not allowed to feed themselves. Even when they use the bathroom, someone else is there to take off their underwear,” said CHR Chair Leila de Lima.

Blindfolding is a form of mental or psychological torture under the Anti-Torture Act, or Republic Act 9745, said De Lima who led a CHR team in interviewing the detainees at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal, on Monday.

Right to counsel denied

She said the health workers were denied the right to counsel despite their repeated demands for a lawyer during interrogation.

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) nongovernment organization, who was with De Lima, also confirmed the allegations of torture.

She said the detainees told them the military has been “torturing” them since their arrest last Saturday in the Morong resort owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte attending a training seminar on public health. The military alleged they were members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) planning destabilization campaigns.

“Based on accounts of the detainees, the [Armed Forces] subjected them to various forms of torture and sexual harassment,” said Rivera.

They were handcuffed and blindfolded for more than 36 hours and were also denied food and bathroom privileges, she said.

Rivera said the detainees were confined in dark cells and forced to listen to sounds of gunfire. They were not allowed to speak to each other and were slapped around every night. The detainees were also forced to admit that they were NPA members.

Sore arms and wrists

“One of the detained men already had sore arms and wrists from being tied down for so long,” added Rivera.

She said that Dr. Alex Montes, whom the military has accused of being a member of a special NPA unit sent to kill retired general Jovito Palparan, was electrocuted and repeatedly hit on the chest while being questioned.

The pain was so unbearable that after several hours of taking the brutal punishment the 62-year-old Montes was willing to admit to anything, she said.

Rivera said that family members, when they were finally allowed to see the detainees last Monday, were taunted by a certain Col. Aurelio Baladad who called them “paid actors who are not really relatives of the detained.”

The workers’ families and the Community Medicine Development Foundation, the organizers of the seminar, have filed a habeas corpus petition with the Supreme Court, asking the high court to compel the military to bring the detainees before a judge or court, and to protect them against illegal punishment.

Abuse of discretion and authority

Named respondents in the petition were Armed Forces Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, Philippine Army Commander Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, Army 2nd Infantry Division chief Gen. Jorge Segovia, 202nd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Aurelio Baladad, and Rizal PNP chief Supt. Marion Balonglong.

At the Senate, Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the committee on social justice, Tuesday filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the “abuse of discretion and authority” of the military and police who arrested the health workers. With Norman Bordadora, Nikko Dizon and Christine Avendaño


Military defies SC on 43
AFP fails to present detainees
By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:14:00 02/13/2010

DESPITE A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS issued by the Supreme Court, the military and the police failed to present before the Court of Appeals Friday the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 on suspicion of being members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Col. Aurelio Baladad, the representative of the military at the habeas corpus hearing, told the appellate court that there was no time to coordinate security measures for the health workers’ transfer from Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, to Manila.

Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro said the “essence” of the writ was “immediacy,” and that the failure of the respondent military and police officers to comply with the Supreme Court’s order might set a dangerous precedent on how habeas corpus orders would be dealt with in the future.

“You are the biggest armed group in the country. That is your job. That is your problem. You have to produce the living bodies,” Pizarro told Baladad.

The First Division chaired by acting Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Portia Alino-Hormachuelos is hearing the habeas corpus case. The other member aside from Pizarro is Associate Justice Francisco Acosta.

Asked to explain the noncompliance with the high court’s order that the 43 detainees be presented to the appellate court on Friday, Baladad said the military received a copy of the directive issued on Wednesday only on Thursday.

“They are high-risk…,” he said of the detainees. “It takes time to arrange security.”

Charges filed

The “Morong 43”—including 62-year-old Dr. Alex Montes and Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor—were taking part in a health training seminar at a rest house in Morong, Rizal, on Feb. 6 when a military and police team raided the premises and arrested them.

The raiders claimed to have found explosives at the seminar venue and accused
the health workers of being NPA members.

The Health Alliance for Democracy and the Community Medicine Development Foundation, of which many of the health workers are members, have said that they were held incommunicado from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8. There were also allegations of sexual harassment and even torture.

Assistant Solicitor General Renan Ramos yesterday told the appellate court that appropriate charges were filed against the health workers on Thursday.

“The proper remedy is a motion to quash,” Ramos said, indicating that the habeas corpus case no longer applied to the case of the health workers.

But Pizarro said the spirit of the law on the writ of habeas corpus was in part to immediately present the subjects of the petition and show “whether they are still complete.”

“The essence of the writ is immediacy. It might send the wrong signal that in the future, we may not produce the bodies [of the subjects of the writ] for the reason that they have yet to coordinate with the [Philippine National Police for security measures],” Pizarro said.

“I just could not let this pass,” he said.

No contempt citation

Nonetheless, the appellate court’s First Division ruled to reset the hearing on Monday, with a guarantee from the lawyers of the Office of the Solicitor General and the military that the 43 health workers would be presented then.

But there was no citation for contempt, and the health workers’ lawyers did not seek it.

Longtime human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong, one of the members of the defense panel, instead asked that the health workers be released if the appellate court would reset the hearing.

“Right now, their rights are being violated,” Capulong told the appellate court in reference to the health workers’ continued detention despite the Supreme Court’s order.

Capulong later told reporters that his motion for the release of the detainees upon the resetting of the hearing was tantamount to asking the court to cite the respondents for contempt.

“As you saw, the mood of the hearing was very tame ... Ganun na rin ’yon (It amounts to that),” Capulong said of his motion for the detainees’ release.

Character assassination

Baladad explained that the sheer number of the detained health workers required certain precautions for their transportation from the military camp to the Court of Appeals.
“Some of them have participated in armed encounters,” he added in stressing the need for tight security for the transfer.

But Capulong told Baladad off, saying the latter should not resort to “character assassination” and that the allegation was “utterly false.”

Capulong asked the court to strike Baladad’s remarks from the record, but was told that his request would be taken “under advisement.”

A number of lawmakers attended the hearing, along with the lawyers, relatives and friends of the health workers.

Sen. Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, an independent presidential candidate, was present, as were Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza of the party-list groups Bayan Muna and Gabriela, who are both senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party (NP).

‘Barbaric’ acts

Madrigal, who chairs the Senate committee on peace, said she was planning to visit the 43 health workers at Camp Capinpin this weekend.

In a statement, she condemned the “acts of torture” purportedly committed on them as “barbaric,” and said being a member or supporter of the NPA was “not an excuse to torture a person.”

“Even assuming that the Armed Forces has evidence on these health workers, they still have civil and political rights which must be respected,” she said.

Madrigal called on the military leadership to look into the allegations of torture.

“I have noticed as well that there seems to be a rise in the military clampdown on so-called Left-leaning individuals and people’s organizations,” she said, adding:

“Why is this being done during the election period? Is this an attempt to prevent the victory of genuine people’s candidates and party-list groups in the [May elections]?”

Officers violated law

In his own statement, Ocampo said the ordeal suffered by the 43 health workers in the hands of the military was in itself a form of torture.

“It’s barbaric, inhumane and against the law,” he said, and called for the immediate relief of the officers and men involved in the “abduction” of the health workers.

“There is no defending or justifying this. The AFP officers and personnel violated Republic Act No. 9745, the Anti-Torture Act. Regardless of the false charges the AFP is making against the 43 health workers, to subject the civilians to various forms of psychological and physical torture is barbaric,” he said.

Ocampo is the main author of RA 9745, which was enacted on Nov. 10, 2009.
“The AFP simply violated this law, among others. [The health workers’] illegal detention, blindfolding, interrogation, threatening, and other acts against the Morong 43 are clearly defined as forms of torture in Section 4 of RA 9745,” Ocampo said.
“Criminal cases against the AFP officials and soldiers who participated in the abduction, illegal detention and torture of the health workers must be immediately initiated by the Department of Justice,” he said.

Ocampo also called on the government to immediately release the health workers and drop all charges against them.

‘Help, not harass’

Sen. Loren Legarda, the NP’s vice presidential candidate and chair of the Senate committee on health, joined the call for the prosecution of the arresting team.

“I express my deep concern for the health workers who, according to the CHR (Commission on Human Rights), were abused or tortured psychologically by the apprehending authorities,” Legarda said at a press conference.

“I put more importance on barangay health workers, community-based health workers, those who do outreach in the villages, but became victims of military harassment and even accused as NPA rebels. We should not harass them, but help them. We should not torture them. We should teach them and assist them,” she said.

Legarda called on the CHR to investigate the authorities involved, and if evidence is found, to file the necessary charges.


The late dictator’s son and namesake weighed in on the case of the arrested health workers.

At a campaign sortie Friday in Tanza, Cavite, Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., an NP senatorial candidate, said the military and police should have enough evidence to keep the health workers in detention.

“There are always two sides to a case. We have to look at both sides and study ... the evidence, the basis of this arrest, and see if [it’s] sufficient. But if it is not, they should be set free,” Marcos Jr. told reporters.

Thousands of activists disappeared without a trace or were tortured and killed during martial law period under Marcos Jr.’s father.

To this day, the kin of the martial law victims, including Satur Ocampo, continue to seek compensation from the Marcoses.

With reports from Jerry E. Esplanada, Michael Lim Ubac and Nikko Dizon and Alcuin Papa


SC to AFP: Present 43 health workers
By Norman Bordadora, Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:45:00 02/12/2010

THE SUPREME COURT on Thursday ordered the military and police to present Friday to the Court of Appeals the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The high court’s First Division issued the resolution in response to the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed on Monday by the relatives and colleagues of the health workers, who were taken at gunpoint from a health training seminar and detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

The hearing, scheduled at 2:30 p.m., is to be conducted by the appellate court’s First Division led by acting Presiding Justice Portia Hormachuelos.

The health workers were arrested for suspected links with the communist New People’s Army (NPA). The military and police held a press conference yesterday in Taytay, Rizal, to back this suspicion.

The Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeals to provide an appropriate venue in view of the big number of persons to be presented.

It also required the respondent officers led by Gen. Victor Ibrado, the Armed Forces chief of staff, and Director General Jesus Verzosa of the Philippine National Police to explain the detention of the health workers.

“The court finds that the requisites for the application of the writ are present,” the tribunal’s First Division said in its resolution.

“The petition was signed and verified by relatives and the secretary of the Community Medicine Development Foundation on behalf of the 43 who are
restrained of their liberty,” it added.

Among the arrested health workers detained at Camp Capinpin are two doctors—Alex Montes and Merry Mia Clamor.

‘Ka Beloy’

In the press conference at Camp Geronimo in Taytay, a man claiming to be an NPA member in Bulacan said he and the 42 others arrested in Morong were part of the guerrilla movement, and a police officer identified two of them as among the rebels who abducted and held him hostage for almost three months in 2009.

Valentino Paulino—or “Ka Beloy,” as he introduced himself—and Insp. Rex Cuntapay were among the witnesses presented by the military and police to justify the detention of the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6.

“My comrades are still detained in the camp ... so I would like to ask your assistance to help them return to the fold of the law,” Paulino told reporters.

Cuntapay said he and his team were ambushed at noon on Jan. 3, 2009, in Barangay Macabud, Rodriguez town, by a group of NPA rebels, killing PO1 Erickson Aquino.

Among the arrested health workers, he pinpointed two women—Linda Otañez and Pearl Irene Martinez—as part of the NPA group that held him captive for 83 days.
“Our patrol vehicle ran over a land mine last year... Our driver was killed, two others were seriously wounded,” Cuntapay said.

He said Police Officers 1 Alberto dela Cruz and Marvin Agasen were also held hostage for nearly three months.

Police personnel assigned to the municipal station in San Narciso in the Bondoc Peninsula also took turns in naming the purported guerrillas who posed as journalists before raiding the police post on Dec. 20, 2009.

Among those identified were Otanez, Aldrin Garcia, Edwin Detera, Antonio de Dios, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mark Escartin.


Relatives and colleagues said the 43 arrested health workers were tortured and kept in handcuffs and blindfolds for more than 36 hours at Camp Capinpin.

Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, chief of the 2nd Infantry Division, told reporters that these claims were “the first salvo of propaganda” meant to discredit the Feb. 6 operation.
He said it was expected that the NPA would not “take it sitting down” as it was the biggest arrest of communist guerrillas by security forces in recent history.

“This is a big blow to them, so they will concoct every kind of story,” Segovia said.
A joint team from the military and police arrested the 43 health workers during a raid on a rest house owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, an expert in infectious diseases, in Morong.

The raiding team claimed to find a number of firearms and explosives in the rest house.
Seven criminal cases were yesterday filed in court against the 43, State Prosecutor Romeo Senson said.

Senson said 40 were charged with illegal possession of explosives with no bail recommended.

He said the rest, who purportedly acted as guards, were slapped with bailable charges of violation of the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections, and illegal possession of firearms.

As for Velmonte, Senson surmised that the doctor was outside her rest house when the arrests were made, which was why she could not be charged with any of the three crimes.

“Although, of course, that is still under investigation,” he said.


Criminal raps filed vs 43 health workers
They’re NPA, government troops insist
By Abigail Kwok, Tetch Torres
First Posted 13:28:00 02/11/2010

CAMP GERONIMO, Rizal – The Department of Justice has filed a criminal case against 43 health workers who were allegedly arrested by the military as government troops insisted that they were members of the New People’s Army.

State Prosecutor Romeo Senson said charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the Commission on Elections gun ban were filed before the regional trial court here and no bail was recommended.

The 43 were arrested while undergoing community health training inside the property owned by one Doctor Melecia Velmonte.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police presented Thursday before media Valentino Paulino, alias Ka Reloy, who admitted that he was a member of the NPA in Bulacan, Central Luzon.

Paulino even appealed to other members of the rebel group, saying "Sana matulungan sila na magbalik-loob sa gobyerno [I hope they can be guided to return to the fold of the law]."

The charges against the suspects were filed after several firearms and bomb-making components were seized from them at Barangay (village) Maybangcal, Morong town, said Major General Jorge Segovia, commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division.

The police presented "witnesses" that tagged some of those arrested as responsible for some of the atrocities committed in the region.

Police said two of those arrested were among those who ambushed and abducted members of the 418th provincial mobile group in Rodriguez last Jan. 3, 2009.
One of the kidnap victims, Senior Inspector Rex Cuntapay, positively identified two as Linda Reyes Otanes and Pearl Irene Martinez.

The policemen were held by the NPA for 83 days.


Madrigal slams AFP for giving awards to ‘Morong 43’ jailers
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 15:44:00 02/23/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for deciding to confer awards on two officers who led the military operation against the 43 health workers suspected of being communist rebels.

Madrigal, an independent presidential candidate, joined on Tuesday militant groups and legislators in criticizing the military's allegedly “arrogant behavior” towards the so-called "Morong 43."

“It is an insult to human rights victims and a clear case of arrogant conduct on the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal pointed out “the arrest of the 43 health workers is still being questioned in the Court of Appeals. It is also being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Red Cross and other international groups.”

Madrigal said, “This is what happens when the military considers itself above civilian jurisdiction and even our courts of law.”

The senator has scheduled a visit to the health workers at Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, Rizal, on Tuesday.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general, described as “self-serving” the AFP move, which he said was “meant to cover up the AFP's liability" in the illegal arrest and detention, as well as the torture of the "Morong 43.”

Reyes called the awards "a hollow counter-move to the snowballing public opinion in support of the 43 health workers.”

“We vow to block any future promotions for these officers, including Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Balalad (commander of the Army's 202nd Brigade) and Col. Jaime Abawag (commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion). Complaints of human rights abuses will also be filed against them this week before the CHR,” Reyes added.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said "The arresting team was accused of illegal arrest and torture, among others. Is the military honor an attempt to legitimize, justify and reward illegal acts?”

For the young legislator, “It should be the 43 health workers who should be honored by government for choosing to stay in the country and for volunteering in communities.”

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo noted “despite clear evidence that the Morong 43 are genuine health workers, the AFP insists they are New People's Army members and alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders at that.”

“It isn't surprising that they claim the arrests as a major military gain to defeat the NPA this year. Hence, awarding medals to the officers who led the (Morong, Rizal) operations is aimed at projecting this fake feat,” Ocampo said.

Meanwhile, the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based OFW group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) said the AFP move was “not surprising at all.”

“The Arroyo regime has been giving rewards to its faithful violators of human rights and civil liberties, like General Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan,” said M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona added such “dishonorable awards” only promote the prevailing culture of impunity that may even escalate into violence in the coming nationals elections.