Press Release
February 24, 2010

Loren to visit Morong 43, calls citation of 2 officers 'premature, absurd'

Nacionalista Party vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda will go to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, on Wednesday to visit the 43 health workers accused of being communist rebels.

Legarda, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve Corps, hopes her co-officers in the regular service would let her see the workers to check on their condition.

A day earlier, she criticized as "premature and absurd" the scheduled awarding of Bronze Medals to two officers who worked for the arrest of the workers.

"The military has not even proven the charges against 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 was 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 under military detention amid the growing protest not only of their relatives and friends but various non-government organizations, both local and foreign.

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