SC affirms raps vs. soldiers, cops in 'illegal detention' of Morong 43

By Benjamin Pulta

April 25, 2019, 4:04 pm

MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Sandiganbayan to proceed with the prosecution of military and police officers implicated in the alleged illegal detention of 43 suspected communist rebels in Morong, Rizal, more than nine years ago.

In a 12-page resolution, the tribunal’s 3rd Division turned down the motion for reconsideration filed by retired Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Major Gen. Joselito Reyes, and Brig. Gen. Cristobal Zaragoza; and police officers Marion Balonglong, Allan Nobleza, and Jovily Cabading.

They had sought the reversal of the resolutions issued by the anti-graft court on June 7 and July 25 in 2017 denying their motion to quash the criminal case filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the arrest of the group known as the “Morong 43”.

Health workers Jane Balleta, Samson Castillo, Mercy Castro, Merry Clamor, Gary Liberal, Reynaldo Macabenta, Alexis Montes, and Teresa Quinawayan filed the charges against them on May 3, 2012 accusing the military and police of failing to inform them of the basis for the arrest and for failing to provide counsel to the Morong 43.

The Morong 43 were arrested by the military in Morong, Rizal in February 2010 on suspicion that they were communist rebels.

They claimed that they were mere health workers illegally detained for 10 months on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. They were released in December 2010 after prosecutors withdrew the criminal charges filed against them.

The accused cited the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay in the resolution of the preliminary investigation of their case and that the unreasonable delay by the Ombudsman constituted a violation of their right to the speedy disposition of their case.

Ruling otherwise, the SC held that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan in denying the accused a motion to quash the information.

“To emphasize, a simple mathematical reckoning of time shall never suffice. Rather, each case shall be scrutinized according to the facts and circumstances peculiar thereto. Considering that the perceived delays in the instant case were justified, the case against the petitioners shall not be dismissed,” the SC ruled.

Contrary to the claim of the petitioners that there was a lull in the investigation, the SC said records show that numerous proceedings took place during the two-year period. (PNA)