Trial set for 3 generals for ‘Morong 43’ detention
The Sandiganbayan has cleared all legal obstacles for the trial of seven Army and police officials who allegedly denied legal counsel to the so-called “Morong 43” health workers after their arrest in February 2010.
In a six-page minute resolution dated June 7, the court’s Seventh Division denied the motion to quash filed by the defendants, who had questioned the validity of the charges filed against them by invoking technicalities.
The court scheduled for June 29 the arraignment of retired Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Brig. Gen. Joselito Reyes, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza, Police Supt. Marion Balonglong, Police Supt. Allan Nobleza, and Police Chief Insp. Jovily Cabading.
The case stemmed from the controversial arrest of the 43 health workers whom the military tagged as communist rebels conducting explosives’ training in a house in Morong, Rizal province.
The detainees went on hunger strike in protest of their alleged illegal detention.
They later claimed to have been tortured, threatened, deprived of sleep and framed with planted evidence by the military.
The defendants countered that the Informations for eight counts of violation of Republic Act No. 7438, the law governing the rights of persons under detention or custodial investigation, were invalid for charging more than one offense.
The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure state that an Information should charge only one offense.
But the defendants claimed that they were charged with violating both Sections 4(a) and 4(b) of said law.
Section 4(a) penalizes the failure to inform the arrested person of his Miranda rights and Section 4(b) prohibits officials from keeping any person from conferring with a lawyer, relative, doctor or spiritual adviser.
No duplicity of charges
The court, however, said it had effectively settled this issue when it issued a finding of probable cause last Jan. 10, which charges the defendants only with violation of Section 4(b) of the law.
The court also rejected the defendants’ claim of “hyperbolic depiction” of the date stated in their charge sheet, explaining that the phrase, “February 7, 2010, or sometime prior or subsequent thereto,” could only refer to nearby dates.
The court also disagreed with the defendants’ claim of unreasonable delays in the preliminary investigation that lasted beyond two years.
Siding with the prosecution, the court said the case moved continuously despite the complexity of the case.
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