MANILA, Philippines?As if the brouhaha over the arrest and detention of 43 health workers were not enough, the military Monday announced that it was conferring the fourth highest military award on two officers who led the operation against the detainees early this month.
Col. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the Army's 202nd Brigade, and Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion, are to be awarded on Tuesday the Bronze Cross Medal for the arrest of the health workers, whom the military accused of being members of the communist New People?s Army (NPA).
The Bronze Cross Medal is awarded to soldiers for heroism not involving ?actual conflict? with an enemy.
Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, chief of the Southern Luzon Command, will lead the awarding ceremony at the command?s headquarters at Camp Nakar in Lucena City, according to the military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr.
Brawner said Baladad and Abawag were the key soldiers who worked for the arrest of the health workers while they were attending a training seminar on Feb. 6 at a resort in Morong, Rizal.
Despite the controversy surrounding the arrest and detention of the so-called ?Morong 43,? Brawner said the Armed Forces of the Philippines had no issue with the operation since it was ?very definite? that the health workers were NPA members.
?We have to recognize this feat because we are serious in our mission in crushing the communist insurgency by June 2010,? he said.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the military to crush the communist insurgency in the country before her term ends on June 2010. The military has maintained that it is on the right track in accomplishing its mission.
Brawner described the arrest of the health workers and their detention at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, as a ?tactical? and ?strategic victory.?
The 43 detainees have complained of torture and sexual abuse?allegations the military described as ?purely propaganda? aimed at discrediting the Feb. 6 operation.
Nelson Mallari, secretary general of the Katribu party-list group, Monday called on the military not to push through with the awarding of medals to the two officers, who he said were human rights violators.
?It?s unfair to the victims of human rights violations,? Mallari told the Inquirer on the phone.
The military, he said, must instead confer awards on soldiers who were upright.