Court resets ‘Morong 43’ arraignment anew
The scheduled arraignment of military and police officials charged with preventing the “Morong 43” health workers from having counsels when they were arrested in 2010 was reset anew to July.
The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division reset the scheduled arraignment for the second time.
The first time back in March was reset after the accused filed a motion to quash their criminal charges.
On Thursday, the court reset the scheduled arraignment to July 31 because the accused filed an appeal to the court’s denial of their motion to quash their charges.
In their motion for reconsideration, the accused appealed the court’s dismissal of their quashal bid belying the respondents’ claim that the informations were duplicitous for charging more than one offense.
The court said the prosecution expressed its desire to amend the informations, and that the Ombudsman’s two years and five months delay in filing the case is reasonable due to the complexity of the case.
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 information should be quashed because it charges two informations at once – besides 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, 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 reiterated the charges are “duplicitious” and that the Ombudsman’s amendments “will do nothing to cure the duplicity of the informations” because the two offenses would remain in the accusatory portion.
The respondents maintained anew that their right to speedy disposition of case was violated due to delays in filing of information – the charges were filed over six years since the offense was allegedly committed, or over four years since the complaints were filed against them.
This period is similar to the period of time declared by the Supreme Court in previous cases as “oppressive,” the respondents said, adding that the Sandiganbayan “overlooked the complete lack of good reasons for such delays.”
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 for allegedly refusing the 43 health workers counsel 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, the military and police officials alleged that the information against them was “duplicitous” and “confusing” because it alleges two criminal charges.
In their quashal bid, the respondents’ lawyers said that while the said law protects the rights of the accused, it also 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 quashal of information 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 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 JE/rga
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