Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Military general in Morong 43 arrests assumes new role in Visayas

From the Philippine Star (Jul 17): Military general in Morong 43 arrests assumes new role in Visayas

The former operations chief of the military has assumed as the new commander of the Army’s 3rd division, the unit securing areas in the Visayas that are considered hotbeds of communist rebels.

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad assumed last Tuesday as chief of the Capiz-based division, succeeding Jose Mabanta, Jr., who retired from the service last month.

The 3rd Infantry Division’s area of responsibility covers Panay and Negros, where the New People’s Army (NPA) has a strong presence.

Baladad was among the military officers who were accused of torture and robbery by the so-called Morong 43, a group of suspected communist rebels who claimed to be rural health workers.

Morong 43 members claim that Baladad’s promotion proved that the Aquino administration rewards human rights violators.

Alex Montes, spokesman of the Morong 43 alliance, said Baladad should not have been promoted because of the pending cases slapped against him.

Baladad has denied the allegations and has expressed readiness to face the charges against him.  

He urged the communist rebels to abandon the armed struggle, noting that a peaceful atmosphere could pave way to development.

“If there is no security, there is not much development. Our approach will be to bring our troops in the area so it can be peaceful and for now, our concentration is Negros Oriental,” Baladad said.

The Morong 43 members were arrested on Feb. 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Baladad was commander of the Army’s 202nd Brigade when the arrest took place.

The military had alleged that the Morong 43 members were holding a seminar on bomb-making.

The suspects, however, claim they were merely attending a medical symposium when the raid happened. Five of the Morong 43 members have admitted that they are NPA members and have availed of the government’s amnesty program.

In December 2010, President Aquino ordered the dropping of charges against the suspects after the Justice Department had declared that the procedures conducted by military in their arrest were questionable.

Last year, some “Morong 43” members filed robbery and torture cases against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Baladad and 17 others in connection with their arrest and detention in 2010.

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