Sandiganbayan affirms decision on Morong 43 defendants’ demurrer

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division has affirmed its decision allowing the seven army and police officials reportedly involved in the illegal detention of the Morong 43 health workers to challenge the prosecution’s evidence against them as insufficient.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Brig. Gen. Joselito Reyes, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza, Police Supt. Marion Balonglong, Police Supt. Allan Nobleza, and Police Chief Insp. Jovily Cabading are facing charges for violating the law that defines the rights of persons arrested, detained or under custodial investigation.

They have been slapped with eight charges in violation of Section 4(a) and 4(b) of R.A. 7438, which is an act defining certain rights of person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation as well as the duties of the arresting officers.

Section 4(a) requires arresting officers to inform detained individuals of their Miranda rights, while Section 4(b) does not allow officials to keep detained individuals from conferring with his or her lawyer, relative, doctor, or even a spiritual adviser.

On March 5, 2019, the court agreed with the defendants that they can file a demurrer to evidence, which is an act contesting that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to render a guilty verdict.

The prosecution then filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that they have established all the elements of the charges so there is no basis to entertain the demurrer of the accused.

The prosecution even asserted that it has “comprehensively” countered all of their arguments.

However, the anti-graft court found the MR lacking in merit. “After a re-evaluation, the court maintains the arguments raised by accused appear to be substantial and not to delay the proceedings,” the resolution read.

Since the defendants have already filed their demurrer on March 22, the court is now “bound to evaluate whether the evidence presented by the prosecution is sufficient enough to warrant conviction of accused.”

Should the court grant their demurrer, the case against them would be dismissed. But if it is denied, the case would proceed as usual.

The Morong 43 health workers were arrested back in February 2010, since officials claimed they were conducting explosives training in a house in Morong, Rizal. The Morong 43 health workers subsequently went on a hunger strike because the accused officials reportedly tortured, threatened, and deprived them of sleep. They also said the evidence used against them were planted.