Health workers, human rights advocates, and relatives of victims of Morong 43 gather in front of NHA to decry the decision of the Sandiganbayan dismissing the complaint against AFP generals. The complaint for violation of Republic Act 7438 was filed by the health workers who were illegally arrested, tortured and denied of their rights in 2010. / Photo Maria Sol Taule

We are distressed to know just now that the Sandiganbayan has dismissed the charges of violations of the rights of arrested persons to counsel in the case of the Morong 43 health workers. 

While this legal setback has yet to sink in and while we are still making heads or tails of the Resolution, we cannot help but feel frustrated that a matter of reality such as our being counsel to them from day one, which fact practically everybody knows, can be obliterated by the legal fiction that we were supposedly not their counsel of choice to start with. 

But more than the legal setback is its impact on the question of whether effective and timely domestic legal remedies to seek redress for rights violations are really available. After almost a decade since their illegal arrest, torture and detention, this is what the scarred Morong 43 ended up with. 

And more fundamentally, what message does this send? 

That security forces can blatantly obstruct, prevent, prohibit, or deny the right to counsel of illegally arrested persons held incommunicado from their family, friends and lawyers because the lawyers who immediately responded to the SOS pleas of their families do not have a piece of paper with them while they were given the most deceptive run-around at the gates of the military camp where the Morong 43 were meanwhile being tortured and warned by their military and police captors that inside the said camp “there is no law, that we are the law, and that your lawyers have forgotten about you?”

Then truth is indeed a stranger to legal fiction.#

NUPL Private Counsels for Morong 43

Edre U. Olalia, NUPL President | +639175113373
Ephraim B. Cortez, NUPL Secretary General | +63917546 5798
Julian F. Oliva, NUPL-NCR Adviser | +63817546 5799

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers was founded September 15, 2007 as a nationwide association of human rights lawyers as well as law students, paralegals and legal workers in the Philippines united by a commitment to the defense, protection, and promotion of human rights especially of the poor and the oppressed. | 02 9206660