Army, police officials in ‘Morong 43’ case seek quashing of raps
The military and police officials facing charges for preventing the “Morong 43” health workers from having counsels when they were arrested in 2010 sought the quashal of their criminal charges at the Sandiganbayan.
Seven military and police officials face trial at the Sandiganbayan for violations of Republic Act 7438 or “An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation as well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining, and Investigating Officers, and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”
They were charged with refusing the 43 health workers counsels when they were arrested at a resort in Morong, Rizal province, on Feb. 6, 2010, on suspicion of being communist cadres.
After 10 months in jail, 38 members of the Morong 43 were freed in Dec. 2010 after then president Benigno Aquino III ordered the justice department to withdraw the criminal charges against the health workers over reports they were denied due process.
In their motion to quash filed before the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division, the military and police officials alleged that the information against them were “duplicitous” and “confusing” because it alleges two criminal charges.
The information alleges the respondents violated Section 4(a) of Republic Act 7438 when they allegedly failed to allow the Morong 43 to confer with their counsels or provide them with one if he or she could not afford the services of the counsel.
The respondents said the charge sheet is confusing because on one hand it charges violation of Section 4(a) for allegedly failing to inform the Morong 43 of their right to remain silent or to provide a counsel if he or she could not afford one, while on the other hand it also charges the respondents of violation of Section 4(b) for allegedly obstructing a lawyer, members of family, or doctors or priest from conferring privately with the health workers.
The respondents’ lawyers stated while the said law protects the rights of the accused, it also “recognizes the practical reality that the detainee’s liberty is restricted.”
Respondents said the information may be quashed under the Rules of the Court which allows it if more than one offense is charged.
Respondents said these two violations of the law carry with it different penalties and imprisonment.
They cited a Sandiganbayan resolution finding probable cause to hold them on trial for charges that fall under violation of Section 4(b), not 4(a).
The accused said this violated their right to be informed of the true case and nature of their case, and thus should be quashed.
“The alternative allegations of two distinct offenses, compounded by the Ombudsman’s designation of the crime, make the Informations confusing enough that not even Ombudsman and this Honorable Court can agree as to the true nature of the offenses being prosecuted,” the accused said.
“In sum, this infirmity is fatal and renders the duplicitous Informations susceptible to quashal,” they added.
The court deferred the scheduled Thursday arraignment to May 24.
The accused who sought the quashal are Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Brig. Gen. Joselito Reyes, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza, P/Supt. Marion Balonglong, P/Supt. Allan Nobleza, and Maj. Jovily Cabading.
In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), who was set to enter their appearance as private prosecutors, lamented that they were not informed beforehand of the cancellation of today’s arraignment.
The NUPL vowed to fight in court the denial of due process on the Morong 43.
“We stand by our statement that the simple message is loud and clear: it is not entirely true that you can get away with rights violations with impunity just like that. Sooner or later you will be held to account. And that those in whose name you perpetuated them will either abandon or forget you in time,” the lawyer’s group said. JE/rga
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