Arroyo faces new trial, this time over 'Morong 43' arrest

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) denied former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's motion to dismiss the P15-million damage suit filed by 6 members of the Morong 43 against her.

With the decision, a full trial on the case will now proceed. 

Arroyo argued that the complainants, who were among the 43 health workers arrested in February 2010 over suspicions that they are communist rebels, failed to state a cause of action against her. In her motion to dismiss, Arroyo said the case was against the state, not her. Arroyo was still president when the arrest occured.

The CA affirmed the decision of Quezon City Regional Trial Court presiding judge Afable Cajigal denying Arroyo's motion. 

In a 12-page ruling  penned by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes, the CA said: "Petitioner's arguments that she should not be held liable for damages as the alleged acts or omissions were in the performance of her official duties as President and Commander-in-Chief; the instant case is a suit against the State; and, she should not be liable under the principle of damnun absque injuria are defenses, whose validity and merits should be threshed out in a full-blown trial and not in a motion to dismiss." 

Morong 43 is the group arrested in February 2010 in Morong, Rizal, tagged by the military as New People's Army (NPA) members conducting explosives training.

Human rights groups like Karapatan insisted they were health workers training poor villagers. But at least 5 members of the group have already confessed to being NPA members

Months after President Benigno Aquino III assumed office in 2010, he ordered the Department of Justice to withdraw against the Morong 43. Aquino said the government recognized that their right to due process was denied.  

Six of the Morong 43, namely Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, nurse Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta, and Mercy  Castro, filed the damage suit against Arroyo,

The complainants claimed they were subjected to torture when they were arrested. They are seeking P2.5 million each for actual, moral and exemplary charges and attorney's fees.

Arroyo, now the representative of the second district of Pampanga, is on hospital arrest over plunder charges on the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds. She is also facing suspension in relation to graft charges that stemmed from a telecommunications contract when she was Philippine president.  Rappler.com