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Free at last: Most of Morong 43 released from PNP jail


(Update 3 - 3:30 a.m. Dec. 18) Free at last, members of the Morong 43 started walking out of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig on Friday night from 10:52 p.m. onwards, after over 10 months of detention on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Relatives and sympathizers, who had feverishly worked and anxiously waited for the detained health workers’ actual release in the past days, broke into tearful cheers and hugs as the first detainees stepped out from the Philippine National Police detention facility into freedom, radio dzBB’s Roland Bola reported. An elated Ofelia Balleta, mother of freed health worker Jane Balleta, told GMA News: "Gusto ko siyang kargahin na parang baby, iparamdam ko sa kanya na sabik na sabik akong makita siya." (I want to carry her like a baby, and make her feel how much I missed her.) By 11:10 p.m., all 23 female detainees in Camp Bagong Diwa were freed. Of the 15 male detainees in the PNP detention facility, 10 have been released as of past midnight Saturday, according to online news Pinoy Weekly citing Edre Olalia, one of the group's lawyers. Following their release, the female health workers held a brief press conference at the Episcopalian Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John at the Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City, thanking their relatives and supporters who had been with them throughout their 10-month ordeal.
In an interview with GMANews.TV, Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said they are continuing to work for the release of the remaining detainees. Judge Gina Cenit-Escoto of the Morong Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 78 had earlier on Friday ordered the health workers’ release upon motion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw criminal charges filed against them. (See: Court orders release of ‘Morong 43’ health workers) The 43 health workers were arrested by a combined Army-police team on February 6 on suspicion that they were members of the communist-led New People's Army allegedly conducting explosives training at a private residence in Morong, Rizal. Of the original group, 38 were later transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa while five were detained in a separate facility at the Army's 2nd Infantry Division headquarters in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal after they supposedly admitted to being NPA rebels. Status of Capinpin 5 In an earlier interview over dzBB, Reyes said that supporters are working for the release of the entire original group, including five other members of the group detained at Camp Capinpin who are also supposedly covered by the Morong RTC release order. Reyes, however, said they have yet to hear of news about the five detainees’ release as of posting time. Adoring Paulino, the mother of Me-Ann Paulino who is among the five still detained at Camp Capinpin, joined the press conference of the released health workers to call for her daughter’s release, according to Reyes. According to a report on GMA News' "Saksi", the released health workers include the two women who recently gave birth and were under hospital arrest at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), and one male who was hospitalized after participating in a hunger strike, which the group staged to pressure the government to speed up their release. The two nursing mothers were fetched from the PGH by a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology vehicle and arrived at Camp Bagong Diwa at around 10 p.m. where they were released with the rest of the group, according to a news release posted on Bulatlat.com.—Jun Verzola and Jerrie M. Abella, GMANews.TV
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