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Philippines - ‘Morong 43’ member killed in Bulacan encounter
Philippines– A member of the Morong 43 was killed in an encounter with government troops in Bulacan early this month, the military revealed Thursday.
“Good news. It’s confirmed,” Major General Pio Gregorio Catapang of the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command said, adding that Ramon dela Cruz, one of the three members of the New People’s Army killed in an encounter in Doña Remedios Trinidad town, was a member of the Morong 43, a group of suspected communist rebels who claimed to be as alleged health workers.
Based on the military’s photo gallery, the slain Ramon dela Cruz was the same person arrested during a military operation on a residential compound in Morong, Rizal in 2010, he said.
“I think it’s safe to say that this guy who was captured during the Morong incident was an NPA,” Catapang said.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Hernando Iriberri, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, also said that three rebels, who used to be with dela Cruz’ group and had already returned to government fold, made a positive identification of the slain insurgent.
“Another confirmatory information is that the parents who claimed his body– Danilo and Rosita dela Cruz- are the same parents listed in the information sheet during his stress debriefing when they were arrested in 2010.
Forty-three suspected communist rebels who claimed they were health workers were arrested in Morong town, Rizal, and were later known as Morong 43.
Government security forces claimed they recovered subversive documents and firearms and accused the supposed health workers of bomb-making activities.
Five of the health workers admitted they were NPA members and availed themselves of the government’s amnesty program. The rest were released after the government withdrew charges against them, with some of them reportedly re-joined their armed comrades.
Eight of the suspected rebels filed torture charges against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and police and military officials. The complaints remain pending before local courts.
Most ‘Morong 43’ members returned to hills
Of the members of the so-called “Morong 43” who had claimed to be health workers wrongly arrested by the Philippine Army last year, 33 of them had reportedly returned to the underground as communist rebels, with one of them ending up shot dead in an encounter with soldiers two weeks ago, the Inquirer learned on Saturday.
A military source told the Inquirer that only Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, health education and training services coordinator for the Council for Health and Development; Dr. Alex Montes, a member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation; midwife Teresa Quinawayan, community health workers Lydia Obera, Delia Ocasia and Reynaldo Macabenta, and nurse Gary Liberal remained as members of “progressive movements.”
Another five had turned witnesses against their comrades.
The source requested anonymity as he was not authorized to disclose the information.
Ramon de la Cruz, one of 33 who returned to the New People’s Army (NPA), was killed in an encounter with Army soldiers and members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Doña Remedios Trinidad town in Bulacan.
The military confirmed that De la Cruz was one of the Morong 43 through his parents, whose names were the same as the ones De la Cruz had given during his interrogation after his arrest in Morong, Rizal, in February 2010, his mugshot following the arrest, and his identification as an NPA member by a rebel returnee.
“It is only sad that they have to die first before people will believe that they are truly NPA members,” Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes said.
But the lawyer for some members of the Morong 43 did not agree with what he said was the military’s attempt to justify the arrest of his clients and their comrades three years ago.
“At the time the case happened, we were absolutely positive that they were not members of any underground movement or NPAs,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
Olalia recalled that one Ramon de la Cruz was among the Morong 43, but he said he would not be able to confirm if this was the same NPA killed in the encounter two weeks ago.