MANILA–President Benigno Aquino III on Friday ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw all the information filed against the so-called Morong 43, health workers arrested and charged in connection with their alleged membership in the communist revolutionary movement.
Aquino issued the order in a speech he gave in Malacañang Palace to mark International Human Rights Day.
The human rights alliance Karapatan, which was commemorating the day with protests, welcomed the order as the “fruit of the just struggle for human rights.”
The order to withdraw the charges against the health workers came amid mounting pressure from local and international organizations and Aquino’s initial hedging on the issue when, after acknowledging that the Morong 43’s arrest appeared to be legally defective, he backtracked and said he was leaving their fate up to the courts.
In his speech, Aquino said the health workers’ “right to due process was denied them” even as he stressed that suspicions the Morong 43 were aiding New People’s Army insurgents “are valid concerns.”
“As a government that is committed to the rule of law and the rights of man, this (denial of due process) cannot stand,” he said. “Therefore I have ordered the DOJ to withdraw the informations filed before the court. This will, in effect, subject to court approval, free those among them who have no other standing warrants in other courts.”
The health workers were arrested during a raid on a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal where they were undergoing training.
The military and police claim they were learning how to make improvised explosives but the health workers and their supporters debunked this, saying they were training in community health work. More