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Court Starts Hearing Morong 43 Case

Freezing of assets of GMA and other respondents demanded

MANILA, Philippines (June 11 2011) – A Quezon City court started hearing yesterday the illegal detention and torture case filed by the so called Morong 43 against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some military officials.

The civil suit is an offshoot of the arrest of 43 health workers,claimed by the military to be members of New People's Army, in Feb. 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal and their subsequent controversial detention and alleged tortures that lasted until December last year when the new president Benigno Aquino III ordered their release upon the recommendation of the Department of Justice.

Each health worker as plaintiff seeks P2.5 million in civil damages.

The case is assigned to Judge Luisa Padilla of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 226.

Ephraim Cortez, a lawyer of Morong 43, asked the court to issue a writ of preliminary attachment aimed at holding the assets of Mrs. Arroyo and other military officials even before they are summoned in court.

The court is expected to start identifying the real properties and other assets of the respondents for possible issuance of writ of attachment.

Cortez argued that the writ of preliminary attachment is necessary because it is possible that the defendants might disappear.

"We want the judge to issue the writ of the preliminary attachment because there is always a possibility that there's no more defendant while the case is being heard," said Cortez.

Cortez fears that Arroyo "might abscond" or "might go out of the country" because there are many pending cases against her.

Two of the defendants – Delfin Bangit and Victor Ibrado, who were former Armed Forces officers – have already retired from the military service.

Cortez also asked the freezing of the assets and bank accounts of other respondents, including former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Victorino Zaragoza, Maj. Manuel Tabion, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Superintendent Marion Balolong and Superintendent Allan Nubleza.

Cortez said a total of P15 million worth of properties and assets of the defendants should be frozen until the court resolves the case.

Sworn affidavits of the health workers were also submitted to bolster claims that they had suffered mental and physical torture while in military detention, . (From