The Sandiganbayan has acquitted the obstruction of justice case against seven police and military officers who were charged in connection with the arrest of the so-called “Morong 43” in 2010.
The anti-graft court’s Seventh Division said there was insufficient evidence to convict the government men who arrested 43 suspected New People’s Army rebels who were masquerading as health workers in a raid at an alleged communist training camp in Morong, Rizal.
The Sandiganbayan, in a 39-page ruling, granted the seven military and police officers’ demurrer to evidence owing to the prosecution’s failure to prove that the accused policemen obstructed, prevented or prohibited the private complainants from conferring with their counsel of choice.
A demurrer to evidence is a plea to the court to dismiss outright a case, based solely on the evidence presented by the prosecution.
“Morong 43” are the 43 health workers believed to be members of the New People’s Army and were accused of undergoing explosive training in Morong, Rizal in February 2010.
“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,” Sandiganbayan said.
The anti-graft court also said none of the private complainants testified that they have a counsel of choice when they were arrested and detained.
In addition, the court said government prosecutors also failed to establish that military officers 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.
The anti-graft court cited the testimonies of Morong 43 members Mercy Castro, Merry Mia Clamor, Alexis Montes, Maria 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 in its decision.
The bonds posted by the accused for their provisional liberty were ordered canceled and returned to them while the Hold Departure Order issued against the police officers in connection with the case was recalled.