Police, military officers in Morong 43 case cleared

DUE to insufficient evidence, the charges against seven police and military officers behind the February 2010 arrest of the so-called Morong 43 were dismissed.

The Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division granted the seven military and police officers’ demurrer to evidence due to the prosecution’s failure to prove that the arrested health workers had their counsel of choice at the time of arrest and detention.

Based on the police intelligence report, these 43 persons were allegedly suspected as being New People’s Army (NPA) members and disguising as health workers.

According to the anti-graft court, the prosecution allegedly failed to prove that accused policemen obstructed, prevented or prohibited the private complainants from conferring with their counsel of choice.

The Morong 43 were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The anti-graft court cited the testimonies of Morong 43 members Mercy Castro,  Merry Mia Clamor,  Dr. Alexis Montes, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Jane Balleta  and  Reynaldo Macabenta who categorically told the anti-graft court that they were not apprised of their right to confer with their counsel and/or they were not provided with one.

“It bears to reiterate that the issue in this case is whether or not accused obstructed, prevented,  or prohibited private complainants from conferring with their counsel of choice. The veracity of the claimed obstruction by accused was put to doubt in the very testimonies of the private complainants themselves,” the ruling read.

In addition, the anti-graft court pointed out that none of the private complainants testified that they had a counsel of choice when they were arrested and detained, or that they requested the accused to allow them to confer with their counsel and that they were thereafter prevented from conferring with him.

Given the situation, the anti-graft court said government prosecutors also failed to establish that military officials Jorge Segovia, Aurelio Baladad, Joselito Reyes, Cristobal Zaragoza of the Philippine Army conspired with police officials Marion Balonglong, Allan Nobleza and Jovily Carmel Cabading to deny Morong 43 of their right to a counsel of their choice.

With Jezreel Biscocho