Using Martial-Law Doctrine, CA Junks Morong 43’s Habeas Corpus Petition


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Lawyers and relatives of Morong 43 denounce junking by the Court of Appeals of their habeas corpus petition.

MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) denied the petition for habeas corpus filed in behalf of the 43 health workers detained by the military in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

Dubbed as the Morong 43, the health workers were arrested February 6 by around 300 elements of the police and military. Authorities claimed that the 43 are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The court followed the Supreme Court ruling in Ilagan v. Enrile in denying the Morong 43’s petition. The doctrine declares that a petition for writ of habeas corpus becomes moot and academic once an information/indictment is filed in court and a warrant of arrest or an order of commitment is issued against the person detained.

“Once a person is duly charged in court, he may no longer question his detention through a petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be allowed after the party sought to be released had been charged before any court,” the CA said in its decision (read or download here, pdf).

“Having established that the detainees’ continued imprisonment is by virtue of a valid court process, we find it unnecessary to dwell on the other issues raised by the petitioners,” it added.

On February 11, 2010, two days after the filing of the petition for habeas corpus, 40 of the Morong 43 were charged in a Morong court with illegal possession of explosives, while three were charged with illegal possession of firearms.

“In simply adhering to the outdated Ilagan v. Enrile, a notorious martial law doctrine, the Court of Appeals seriously disregarded the litany of blatant violations of the constitutional rights of these 43 health workers from the time that they were unlawfully arrested and the continued abuse of their basic human rights in the hands of the military,” Romeo Capulong, lead counsel of the 43, said in a statement.

Capulong said the CA “has actually legalized the abuses committed by the military.”

“We have no other recourse but to elevate the case to the Highest Court,” Capulong and the other lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said, referring to the Supreme Court.

Capulong said the CA ruling violates the Morong 43’s right to due process, citing the Umil v. Ramos case. In that jurisprudence, the Supreme Court made an exhortation to all courts that in all petitions for habeas corpus the court must inquire into every phase and aspect of petitioner’s detention, from the moment petitioner was taken into custody up to the moment the court passes upon the merits of the petition, that only after such a scrutiny can the court satisfy itself that the due process clause of our Constitution has in fact been satisfied, and that if the conditions set by the Constitution or the rules are not met the petitioner must be ordered released.

He said they had asked the CA to look into the legality of the arrest of the Morong 43 and to order their immediate release.

In a separate statement, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) criticized the decision of the CA but also lauded the dissenting opinions of CA Justices Normandi Pizzaro and Francisco Acosta.

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said the CA decision sets a dangerous precedent. “…[O]ther illegal arrests can be done by the AFP and PNP, and that these can be ‘legalized’ once the information has been filed against the detainees,” Reyes said.

Capulong called on the Supreme Court to re-examine the Ilagan v Enrile doctrine which, he said, has served as a tool of the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to carry out the “unlawful warrantless arrest and arbitrary detention of members of progressive organizations.”

Two More of the 43 Taken Out

In another statement, the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Amnestiya (Selda) said that two more detainees — Jennilyn Pizarro and John Mark Barrientos, both from Quezon province — were reported by relatives to have been forcibly taken in isolation by their army guards. The two were reportedly brought to the officers’ lounge and were being pressured by the military to “cooperate.”

Earlier, three others were isolated and were being pressured by military officers to “surrender.” The three, Valentino Paulino, Cherrilyn Tawagon and Ellen Carandang, were even offered P50,000 as part of the package for “rebel returnees.”

Selda also said that the Morong 43 were served spoiled rice for breakfast. The relatives found the detainees looking tired and lethargic, and the latter reported that they felt sick after eating, Selda added.

“This is the latest assault on the rights of the health workers who are continuously being held and tortured by the military,” said Father Diony Cabillas, Selda’s spokesman. Cabillas said that deliberate or not, the serving of spoiled food to political detainees is inhuman and cruel. “It is meant to degrade them and wear down their resolve to give in to military pressure to turn witness against themselves and their co-workers,” he added.

“The AFP uses its divide-and-rule tactic, and targets to isolate and pressure not only the
detainees but also their relatives,” Cabillas said. (

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