Sandiganbayan dismisses charges vs 7 accused in ‘Morong 43’ case
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the charges filed against seven accused police and military officials who were linked to the arrest and torture of the so-called “Morong 43” health workers, after the anti-graft court granted their demurrer to evidence.
A demurrer is a document seeking the outright dismissal of cases based on a supposed weak evidence presented by the prosecution.
In a resolution, the anti-graft court’s Seventh Division last July 1 but released only on Friday, accused Lieutenant General Jorge Segovia, Major General Aurelio Baladad, Brigadier General Joselito Reyes, Colonel Cristobal Zaragoza, Major Jovily Cabading, Police Supt. Marion Balonglong, and Police Supt. Allan Nobleza were acquitted as the prosecution evidence was deemed insufficient.
The officials were accused of violating Republic Act 7438 or an Act Defining the Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation when they allegedly detained and restricted legal access to the 43 health workers accused of working with New People’s Army (NPA) fighters.
According to Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses who penned the resolution, the prosecution had failed to establish conspiracy among the accused to purposely prevent the detained from talking with their lawyers.
“In this case, accused’s participation in the commission of the crime were not sufficiently proven with moral certainty,” the resolution, concurred by Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta and Georgina Hidalgo, said.
“The testimonies of the complaining witnesses failed to show accused’s participation in an alleged conspiracy. Conspiracy must, like the crime itself, be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Suppositions based on mere presumptions and not on solid facts do not constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt,”
The Sandiganbayan also noted that the complainants were unable to pinpoint the officials who supposedly barred them from meeting their respective counsels.
“As for private complainant Merry Mia Clamor, she admitted that she did not see or hear accused Segovia, Baladad, Reyes, Balonglong and Nobleza prohibit or prevent her from conferring with her counsel of choice,” the anti-graft court explained.
“As for private complainant Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, she said that she does not know personally accused Segovia, Reyes, Baladad, Balonglong and Nobleza. While she testified that she recognized Tabion and Zaragoza because she remembered their voices, she claimed that she requested for a lawyer only from her interrogators and not from any of the accused,” it added.
The anti-graft court initially granted the defense’s motion to file demurrers to evidence last March.
If a court grants an accused’s demurrer, the case’s dismissal will follow.
Bail posted by the accused were also ordered released and their hold departure orders for this case will be lifted. Meanwhile, the cases against Manuel Tabion, Vicente Lopez, and other accused identified as “Calaoagan,” “Bulaklak,” and “Idloy,” have been archived as they remain at large.
In 2010, reports said the military found firearms and explosives at a resort in Morong, where the 43 health workers were allegedly attending a bomb-making seminar.
The resort owner claimed that those arrested were attending a training course organized by non-government organization Council for Health Development.
The Commission on Human Rights under former chair and now Senator Leila de Lima said that the 43 healthcare workers were submitted to psychological torture, and were denied the right to counsel despite requests for a lawyer during interrogation. /muf
READ: What Went Before: The arrest of the ‘Morong 43’ https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/186987/what-went-before-the-arrest-of-the-%e2%80%98morong-43%e2%80%99#
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