Remembering that in 2011, legal propagandists of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) triad had a heyday laughing at then-Col. Antonio Parlade Jr. when President Benigno Aquino 3rd sacked him as spokesman of the Philippine Army for speaking out loud against the release of the Morong 38, the cause célèbre of a controversy that erupted in February 2010.
Combined troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) had arrested and detained 43 elements of the CPP/NPA during a clandestine meeting in a resort in Morong, Rizal. Five of the 43 readily admitted they were members of the CPP/NPA and turned state witnesses — attesting to the fact that the group were members of the terrorist organizations.
For the sensational defense by so-called cause-oriented lawyers, journalists and legal front organizations of the CPP/NPA/NDF, the remainder of the 43 became known as Morong 38, consisting of 23 women and 15 men. The AFP just appeared helpless against the barrage of legalese and invocations of human and civil rights ventilated by supporters of the apprehended terrorists agitating for their release.
AFP spokesman Arnulfo Burgos, Jr. indicated this predicament of the military: “Bahala na riyan ang korte. Wala na kaming ano riyan. Nakakahinga na kami diyan (Let the court take care of the matter. We no longer have anything to do with that case. We can take a breather).”
If the loud outcry against the arrest and detention of the Morong 38 were a symphony, then it achieved its resounding coda in a decision by the then chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, Leila de Lima, agitating for the release of the terrorists on the strength of the provisions of the Human Security Act (HSA), to wit:
“SEC. 18. Period of Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest. – The provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code to the contrary notwithstanding, any police or law enforcement personnel, who, having been duly authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council has taken custody of a person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or the crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism shall, without incurring any criminal liability for delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities, deliver said charged or suspected person to the proper judicial authority within a period of three days counted from the moment the said charged or suspected person has been apprehended or arrested, detained, and taken into custody by the said police, or law enforcement personnel…
“The penalty of ten (10) years and one day to twelve (12) years of imprisonment shall be imposed upon the police or law enforcement personnel who fails to notify and judge as provided in the preceding paragraph.”
Parlade had particularly criticized the Human Security Act for barring authorities from detaining arrested persons suspected of being terrorists for a period longer than three days. Since building up airtight cases against these suspects would require investigation needing a lot more than three days to accomplish, terrorists almost always get to go scot-free a short time after arrests.
As early as then, Lt. Gen. Parlade was decrying loopholes capitalized on by terrorists to great advantage in running around the law. “Yan ang problema sa HSA of 2007. Pinagtawanan n’yo lang ang mga pulis at AFP nang mapawalan ang teroristang ‘Morong 38’ dahil sa inyong alibi na sila ay pawang mga aktibistang ‘health workers’!”
How could a group, large that they were, be simple, innocent health workers when they were caught in possession of subversive documents, arms and ammunitions, and explosive devices?
Then commanding general of the Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Arturo B. Ortiz was so enraged by President Aquino’s sacking of Parlade for that stand on Morong 38 that he was ready to resign his post. Parlade himself persuaded Ortiz to stay, with the assurance that he himself would make PNoy (Aquino) realize the impact of his action upon the entire organization of the Philippine Army.
And so, as Lt. Gen. Parlade would put it, “What goes around comes around.”
It’s been a decade since the Morong 38 gained fame as “innocent health workers” used by the military as psywar objects for advancing the government anti-insurgency campaign. What went around as actually terrorist elements in 2010 came around as indeed the terrorists that they were in subsequent encounters with government forces.
Very recently, another member of the so-called “Morong 38” was buried after being killed in an encounter with military troops. She was Lorelyn Saligumba alias “Ploy”/”Fara,” who Parlade identified as a political instructor of the NPA Platun Dos who was killed during an encounter in Baco, Oriental Mindoro on June 4.
“Recovered from her possession were caliber .45 pistol, an improvised explosive device (IED), a Garmin GPS, 13 cellphones with text messages incriminating local officials, and containing Makabayan bloc contacts,” Parlade disclosed, adding, “Also seized were subversive documents and paraphernalia of Anakbayan, Bayan and other legal-front organizations, a Commission on Human Rights primer, assorted medicines, and acupuncture paraphernalia.”
Saligumba, who was laid to rest in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, also had at least five pending murder charges.
Parlade revealed that also recovered in that encounter was the AR-4 5.56mm rifle of Jessie Almoguerra alias “CJ”, “Yam-ay” and “Aja”, vice platoon leader. The rifle had been issued to Sgt. Malusalem Manlapaz who was killed during an encounter in Bulalacao in March 2017. In that encounter, another Morong 38 member Lilibeth Donasco alias “Mok” was also killed together with four other NPA members.
According to Lt. Gen. Parlade, that brings to 12 the total number of Morong 38 who were actually killed after they had been released from detention owing to an effective play on the Human Security Act.
Those terrorists had their day mocking our legal judicial processes.
That the very President of the land had to even chide genuine guardians of justice as then-Col. Antonio Parlade Jr. was, could not but amount to rubbing salt to injury.
What they failed to reckon was that the guy would rise to commander of the entire Southern Luzon Command of the AFP, over a large territory deemed the last rampart of the half-century old Jose Maria Sison communist insurgency.
Lt. Gen. Parlade, right upon assuming the post, swore to end that insurgency in his turf during his term.
With members of the Morong 38 falling one after another, give it to the General that he could not help enjoying the last laugh.
“Tell me Glenda Gloria of Rappler, didn’t I say in 2011, before I was sacked as Army spokesman by PNoy that these NPA medics and bomb makers are not health workers? Where are the liars who rejoiced when these terrorists were released? Dr. Alex Montes? Dr. Merry Mia Clamor? Atty. Edre Olalia of NUPL (National Union of Peoples Lawyers) and the former chairperson Leila de Lima of CHR?”
“Anong masasabi mo Ka Satur? Ka Sara Elago? Ka Caloy Zarate? Ka Inday Varona? Nagkamali ba ang AFP sa aming sinabi na ang Morong 38 ay mga terorista? Planted ba kamo ang mga bomba? Hayan, meron na namang dalang IED si ‘health worker’ Lorelyn.”
(What can you say Ka Satur? Ka Sara Elago? Ka Caloy Zarate? Ka Inday Varona? Was the AFP wrong in saying that the Morong 38 were terrorists? Did you say the bombs were planted evidence? There, ‘health worker’ Lorelyn was carrying another IED.”)
Know what? He who laughs last, laughs best!