In a 39-page resolution promulgated on July 1, the anti-graft court’s seventh division granted the demurrer to evidence of the accused or a petition to dismiss the cases without presenting their defense.
Michael Varcas
Sandigan clears ‘Morong 43’ police, military officers
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the criminal charges filed against police and military officers accused of illegally detaining 43 health workers in Morong, Rizal in February 2010.

In a 39-page resolution promulgated on July 1, the anti-graft court’s seventh division granted the demurrer to evidence of the accused or a petition to dismiss the cases without presenting their defense.

“The court finds the evidence adduced by the prosecution insufficient to sustain the indictment or to support a verdict of guilt... warranting the dismissal of the cases,” the ruling penned by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses read.

Cleared of the charges were Army Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Brig. Gen. Joselito Reyes, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza, police Cols. Marion Balonglong and Allan Nobleza and Maj. Jovily Cabading.

The cases filed against five other respondents, who remain at large,  were archived even as the court issued warrants for their arrest.

The police and military officers were charged with eight counts of violation of Section 4 (b) Republic Act 7438. The law defines the rights of those arrested, detained or under custodial investigation as well as the duties of arresting, detaining and investigating officers.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2016, the cases stemmed from the alleged refusal of the accused to allow the so-called Morong 43 to confer with a lawyer of their choice while in detention.

The health workers were arrested on Feb. 6, 2010 on suspicion of being communist rebels undergoing training on explosives. They claimed they were also tortured while in detention.

However, the court said the ombudsman failed to prove that the health workers have a lawyer of their choice at the time of their arrest or detention and that the accused prevented that lawyer from conferring with the inmates.

The supplemental affidavits of the Morong 43 were “silent on the issue” of the alleged violation of their right to confer with their lawyer, the court added.

“The discrepancies between the allegation in the (case) information and their (Morong 43) testimonies and affidavits relate to significant facts that could not be disregarded by the court,” the Sandiganbayan said.              

Ruling cheered, jeered

Col. Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces of the Philippinesn (AFP) public affairs office chief, said the decision is a ”welcome development.”

”The AFP thanks all those who offered their prayers and manifested their support to our officers and men,” Detoyato said.

Rights group Karapatan said the ruling is one of the ”most stark indications that despite strong evidence and testimonies of human rights violations by state actors, impunity rules the land.”

Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo Clamor  cited the testimonies of the health workers on their torture as ”hideous and downright abhorrent.” – With Jaime Laude, Rhodina Villanueva

 

MORONG 43 HEALTH WORKERS SANDIGANBAYAN
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