Colonel in ‘Morong 43’ case cleared for punching subordinate
An Army colonel, who faces trial for preventing the “Morong 43” health workers from having counsels when they were arrested in 2010, was recently cleared of an unrelated case involving beating up a subordinate in 2012.
In its resolution, the Sandiganbayan First Division dismissed the slight physical injuries case filed against Col. Cristobal Zaragosa over the Ombudsman’s unreasonable delay in investigating the case.
The court thumbed down the Ombudsman’s justification that it took almost five years — from the filing of the complaint in 2012 to wrap up its preliminary investigation only this year — to investigate the case due to a “steady stream of cases” before the anti-graft office.
The court said the case is a simple case of physical injuries, which “does not entail complex issues to be resolved or voluminous documents to be pored over.”
Records also showed that the Ombudsman’s graft investigation officer in investigating the complaint only dealt with a two-page complaint-affidavit with a single-page medical certificate, a police blotter, and a six-page counter-affidavit.
“Four years is too long a time for the Office of the Ombudsman just to finally come out with its resolution finding probable cause against the accused,” the court said.
The court thus granted Zaragosa’s motion to quash due to inordinate delay, a ground violative of the accused’s right to speedy disposition of case and a ground for dismissal of the case.
“Consequently, the Office of the Ombudsman is deemed to have been ousted of its authority to file the instant complaint against the accused-movant on the ground of inordinate delay; thereby warranting the quashal of the information in this case,” the court said.
Zaragosa is accused of committing slight physical injuries under the Revised Penal Code against a certain Edwin Piodos, who was a staff/driver of the United Command’s Adjutant in the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom).
Zaragosa, then assistant chief of the United Command Staff for Intelligence of the EastMinCom, is accused of punching Piodos in the stomach, “in the guise of instilling military discipline to a subordinate officer” in Davao city in 2012, according to the quashed information.
Zaragosa said even assuming for the sake of argument that he did beat up Piodos, he did so “as a brotherly reminder that a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines can offer another comrade.”
Zaragosa is also co-accused in the case against police and military officials who are indicted before the Sandiganbayan for 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. The health workers came to be known as the Morong 43.
They are set to face trial 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.” JE