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Honoring officers behind arrest of Morong 43 ‘premature, absurd’ – Loren

February 24, 2010

THE SCHEDULED AWARDING OF BRONZE CROSS MEDALS TO TWO MILITARY OFFICERS FOR THE CAPTURE OF 43 HEALTH WORKERS SUSPECTED OF BEING COMMUNIST REBELS IS PREMATURE AND SENDS THE WRONG SIGNAL TO OTHER MILITARY MEN AND LAW ENFORCERS, NATIONALISTA PARTY VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE LOREN LEGARDA SAID ON TUESDAY.
“The military has not even proven their LEGAL AUTHORITY TO ARREST the workers in court,” Legarda, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve Corps, said.
“What if the court DETERMINES THAT THE ARREST OF the workers WERE 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. And to think that the soldiers who are keeping the workers in detention are being accused of sexual abuse and other rights violations.”
The Bronze Medal, the fourth highest military award, is given to soldiers for “heroism not involving actual conflict.”
She noted that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had been keeping a hands-off stance on the issue, despite having the constitutional authority as commander-in-chief to check on any possible abuses of the Armed Forces.
“If Mrs. Arroyo allows this to push through, we’ll see what kind of President we’ve had all along,” Legarda said. “Does she mean to say that the military is above the legal system of this country?”
To be awarded are Col. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the Army’s 202nd Brigade, and Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion.
According to the AFP spokesman, Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Baladad and Abawag were the key officers who worked for the arrest of the health workers at a training seminar last February 6 at a resort in Morong, Rizal.
The workers are still detained in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, amid the growing protest not only of their relatives and friends but various non-government organizations, both local and foreign.