MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the military to present at a hearing Friday the 43 health workers earlier arrested on alleged communist rebel training.

Government prosecutors, meanwhile, charged Thursday the 43 workers with illegal possession of weapons and explosives.

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The 43, who claimed to be medical volunteers, were holding a medical training seminar when arrested by military forces in Morong, Rizal on suspicion that they are members of New People’s Army.

In a resolution, the SC ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to produce the 43 health workers and to show cause of their restraint before the appellate court.

“The court finds that the requisites for the application of the writ are present… We find the petitioners’ verified allegations provide sufficient justification for the court to issue the writ of habeas corpus which extends to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty,” the court held.

The High Court directed Court of Appeals (CA) Acting Presiding Justice Portia Alino-Hormachuelos, also the chair of the appellate court’s First Division, to conduct a hearing on the case on at 2 p.m. Friday so that the respondents could make a return of the writ.

Considering the number of persons involved, the court told the CA to prepare an appropriate facility for the hearing.

Named respondents in the suit were AFP Chief-of-Staff General Victor Ibrado, PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, Philippine Army Commander Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit, Army 2nd Infantry Division chief General Jorge Segovia, 202nd Infantry Brigade Commander Colonel Aurelio Baladad, and Rizal PNP chief Superintendent Marion Balonglong.

Last February 9, petitioners who are kin of the 43 health workers belonging to non-government group Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed) asked the SC to issue a writ of habeas corpus due to the alleged illegal arrest.

The health workers, who include two doctors, a nurse and a midwife, were arrested during an alleged bomb-making workshop in Morong, Rizal last Saturday.

One of them, the military said, is being trained as a would-be assassin of the retired Army General Jovito Palparan, who is aspiring to be a senator.

According to the petitioners, the health workers were held incommunicado for almost three days in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal, and were denied their right to see their relatives and lawyers.

It was only Monday afternoon when some of the relatives, along with Commission on Human Rights Chairwoman Leila de Lima, were allowed inside the camp to talk to the victims, they added.

Starting February 1, leaders and members of Commed and Community for Health Development have been conducting a comprehensive “Community First Responders Health Training” in a facility within a farmhouse at 266 Dela Paz Street, Barangay Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal.

The farmhouse is owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, Commed’s chairman of the board and a renowned infectious disease specialist in the medical profession. The last day of the training was supposed to be on February 7.

But on February 6, around 6:15 a.m., at least 300 heavily-armed soldiers and policemen entered and searched the farmhouse.

The military and police brought with them eight 6x6 military trucks, two armored personnel carriers, one ambulance, one Kia Pride vehicle, and an undetermined number of PNP vehicles.

At past 8 a.m. of the same day, 43 men and women from the medical profession, including doctors Merry Mia Clamor and Alex Montes, were “forcibly taken and removed from the farmhouse by the military and police without informing them about the reason for their arrests.”

Velmonte asked for reasons of the illegal search and arrests of the participants of the training and was shown a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms against a certain Mario Condes, who is not even a resident of the farmhouse or known to the Velmontes.

Meanwhile, the 43 health workers were charged with illegal possession of weapons and explosives after Rizal Provincial Police Chief Jonathan Miano said security forces found three handguns, three grenades and six homemade bombs in the raid on a compound where the group was said to be holding a medical training seminar.

Relatives of the accused and lawyers said the suspects are not rebels but volunteer health workers serving impoverished communities with very few government medical workers.

In a statement, the lawyers said soldiers and police planted the evidence. They also questioned the search warrant, saying it was directed at a person who wasn't among the 43 and was issued by a judge from another province.

The suspects were held incommunicado, kept blindfolded, and denied legal counsel, a violation of their constitutional rights, said Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers.

Major General Jorge Segovia, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division that has custody of the suspects, denied anyone was tortured. He said they "suffered mental anguish" caused by their arrest. He did not elaborate.

The blindfolds were necessary to prevent them from planning an escape or resistance, Segovia said.

The rebels suffered a major setback and "they will not take this sitting down so they will use every trick that they know to discredit the operation, even concoct stories," he said.

Segovia said one member of the group admitted he was a rebel and was relieved that he was arrested so he could return to civilian life.

Several were involved in guerrilla ambushes and raids, he said. (JCV/With AP/Sunnex)