July 21, 2019
LAWYERS of the 43 health workers detained and tortured by the military and police in 2010 will appeal the ruling of the Sandiganbayan that dismissed the charges against the accused.
The Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division threw out the complaint against police and military officers behind the illegal arrest and torture of the workers, who came to be known as the “Morong 43.”
Charged for the illegal arrest were Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia; retired Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, then-2nd Infantry Division (ID) chief of staff; Joselito Reyes, then-2nd ID Intelligence officer;
Cristobal Zaragoza, then-2nd ID spokesman; Jovily Cabading; then-Police Supt. Marion Balonglong; and Police Supt. Allan Nobleza.
The Morong 43 were detained for 10 months for illegal possession of explosives and accused of being members of the New People’s Army.
The court held that the prosecutors failed to establish the guilt of the accused to deny the Morong 43 of their right to a legal counsel of their choice when they were arrested.
Ephraim Cortes of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) opposed the ruling of the court, saying they were denied access to their clients.
“From their personal testimonies, our clients were constantly threatened and told by their military captors, ‘We are the law here. Have your lawyers forgotten about you?’ The NUPL serves as the legal counsel of the Morong 43,” he said.
“We may file an appeal or motion for reconsideration (MR) at Sandigan[bayan], or we can go straight to the Court of Appeals (CA) to file a petition for certiorari. We have 15 days to file the appeal or MR. Or, 60 days to ask the CA to reverse the decision,” he added.
Militant group Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor, whose wife Dr. Merry Mia Clamor was among the arrested 43 health workers, said the victims were denied access to their lawyers. They were also blindfolded, handcuffed, and deprived of sleep and rest.
“They were told that they had no other choice but to admit the trumped up charges,” Clamor said.
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