AFP lauds dismissal of 'Morong 43' raps vs. cops, generals

By Priam Nepomuceno

July 19, 2019, 5:10 pm

<p>AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato. (File photo)

MANILA -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday welcomed the Sandiganbayan's dismissal of illegal detention charges filed by health workers collectively known as the "Morong 43" against seven military and police officials in 2010.

"The decision is a welcome development and will serve as an inspiration to our officers and men in the field that being true and passionate in their tasks will protect them from unscrupulous groups and personalities whose objective is to slow down the momentum towards peace in order to push through their own selfish agenda with the ultimate aim of bringing down the government and change our way of life while destroying the future of our children," AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, said in a message to reporters.

Named as respondents in the case were retired Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Maj. Gen. Joselito Reyes, and Brig. Gen. Cristobal Zaragoza; and police officers Marion Balonglong, Allan Nobleza, and Jovily Cabading.

Detoyato also thanked those who offered their prayers and manifested their support for the military officers and men who were the subject of “the CPP-NPA-NDF-initiated propaganda”.

He was referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front.

"It’s just unfortunate that some of those who were released from detention went back to join the armed group and eventually met their death defending a false ideology. Our prayers go for those lost souls. We are calling on our peace-loving fellow Filipinos to help the government once and for all put a stop to these groups identified with the CPP-NPA-NDF in recruiting the students and sowing intrigue in the labor sector," he said.

On Friday, the anti-graft court's 7th Division cleared the police and military officials as it granted their demurrer to evidence.

A demurrer to evidence is a document that seeks to dismiss outright a case due to insufficiency of evidence presented by the prosecution.

Each of the seven officials was charged with eight counts of violation of Republic Act 7438 or the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation.

In a 39-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses and concurred by Associate Justices Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta and Georgina Hidalgo, the court held that the prosecution failed to prove that the health workers had a lawyer at the time of their arrest.

The case stemmed from the military and police officials' act of turning away private lawyers from the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) who tried to talk to the “Morong 43” members at the time of their detention.

In siding with the police and military officials, the court said the NUPL members were not lawyers whom the health workers chose to represent them in the case.

The “Morong 43” members were detained for 10 months after they were arrested for allegedly holding an explosives training at a house in Morong, Rizal.

In December 2010, the Department of Justice dropped the criminal charges against the “Morong 43”. (PNA)