It’s damage control time for AFP hierarchy

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leadership has pushed the damage-control button after President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III decided to withdraw the charges filed by military against the so-called “Morong 43.”

The Morong 43 were allegedly group of health workers that were arrested earlier this year by combine military and police troops in a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal over suspicion that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said Monday that they have been doing rounds of various military camps nationwide even weeks before the president announce his decision to withdraw the charges against the Morong 43.

“We were already prepared, in fact we have been doing rounds and explaining to the people and when teh announcement was made by the commander-in-chief,” Mabanta said in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.

The AFP spokesman added, “we were prepared and the whole forces at that time was convinced and that we were going in the right direction… well at least the chain of command was consulted on this.”

The AFP spokesman said that military officers, especially those that were directly involved in the operation that resulted in the arrest of the Morong 43, were consulted prior to the decision of withdrawing the charges.

“There were explanations made and at the end… everyone was satisfied with the explanation and we as a whole decided to toe the line and what I said go towards one direction,” said Mabanta.

The AFP spokesman said the dropping of charges against the so called Morong 43 have shown the Aquino administration sincerity in resuming the stalled peace-talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“This shows the sincerity of the government and well it’s now up to the other side to show their sincerity, but all indications point that everyone is sincere and we hope thatpeace negotiations will prosper,” Mabanta said.

Despite of the president’s order to drop the charges against the Morong 43, military officials stood firm in their belief that the 43 were not just ordinary health workers, but are members of the NPA’s medical group.

Military officials also rejected the call of relatives and supporters of the Morong 43 for them to apologize for their arrest last February saying that no rights were violated and the operation was conducted with the rules of engagement. Anthony Vargas

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