Two army lieutenants accused of torturing a woman political prisoner in April were acquitted by a military court today.
The officers, Lt. Eduardo Matillano and Lt. Prudencio Regis, were charged with giving electric shocks to Trinidad Herrera in the headquarters of Manila's Military Intelligence Service Group.
Herrera, 35, the best-known leader of Manila's 1 million slum dwellers, was arrested April 26 on charges of taking part in anti-government demonstrations. She was released May 13 after U.S. officials intervened in her behalf, but still faces charges of illegally participating in demonstrations, illegal use of aliases and subversion. She also is prohibited from talking to reporters.
Her arrest and the torture charge were a serious setback to President Ferdinand Marcos' martial-law government. The U.S. House of Representatives slashed $6.2 million from the requested military aid allocation to the Philippines, and although a Senate Appropriations subcommittee refused to endorse the cut, the amount the Philippines will get still awaits a Senate-House conference committee recommendation and a vote in each chamber.
The Herrera case also is likely to be discussed by the World Peace Through Law Conference, which is to open here Sunday. The conference theme is the protection of human rights.
Herrera is president of a cummunity organization in the Tondo slum area of central Manila. She is regarded as a spokesman for Manila slum-dwellers generally, has met frequently with President Marcos to discuss slum problems, and has confered with World Bank missions in Manila on project to improve the slums.
Her arrest, kept secret by the government, became known May 10 when her lawyer, former Sen. Soc Rodrigo, charged publicly that she had been tortured. Marcos ordered her release May 13 after the U.S. embasy in Manila expressed concern that her rights had been violated.