Press Release
February 16, 2010

Legarda calls for GMA to look in Morong 43's plight

"It's time that President should start looking into the allegations of torture and sexual molestation of 43 health workers under custody of the military for more than a week now," Sen. Loren Legarda said in a statement on Monday. "She is, after all, the commander-in-chief."

"Due process must be applied, of course," Legarda, a lieutenant colonel in Air Force Reserve Corps, said. "And that's for both the volunteer workers, whom the military suspects of being members of the New People's Army, and the soldiers, whom one of the female detainees accused of touching her private parts, as well as those of her companions'."

Legarda noted an report about one of the workers, Jane Balieta, a granddaughter of the late labor leader Crispin Beltran, telling her mother, Ofelia Beltran-Oreta, about the sexual molestation.

Balieta reportedly whispered to her mother that some soldiers blindfolded her and other detainees and took them to the toilet where they touched their private parts. That was her mother's on Saturday at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, where she and the workers have been detained since being rounded up last Feb. 6.

Their captors are members of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Oreta disclosed her daughter's ordeal to the Inquirer last Saturday.

The military, through spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., denied the allegations, calling them "pure propaganda" to discredit the military.

"My political rivals will probably accuse me of speaking out on this matter only because I'm running for the vice presidency," Legarda said. "But remember that I was also a full-time journalist before I entered politics. We just want want to get to the truth in this issue without anyone violating anyone else's rights."

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