The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) defended on Monday, Feb. 21, the police officers who served the warrant of arrest issued by the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Dr. Natividad Castro.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año questioned the arguments of PNP’s critics, insisting that the PNP was merely performing its “as agents of the court.’’
“The PNP was just doing their jobs. Why gang up on them? This was not a warrantless arrest. The RTC issued a warrant and it’s their duty to serve it,” Año maintained.
Año said that Judge Fernando Fudalan of Branch 7 of the Agusan del Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Bayugan City had issued the warrant because Castro is facing criminal charges for kidnapping and serious illegal detention: “The basis of Castro’s arrest by the PNP is a judicially issued warrant based on the criminal charges against her.
The DILG chief added that Castro is now in the custody of the court and is currently detained at the Bayugan City Police Station where her lawyers can visit her to prepare for her defense.
Año also slammed the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) for its “baseless accusation’’ for claiming that Castro’s “rights were violated with impunity and that the charges against her were baseless.’’
“FLAG, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and other lawyers of Castro had every opportunity to quash the charges against her at the level of the City Prosecutor during the preliminary investigation and even with the court,” Año lamented.
“We wish to emphasize that the prosecutor found probable cause against her and resolved to file criminal charges with the RTC. The Presiding Judge also judicially determined that there was probable cause which is why he issued a warrant of arrest so that she can face the charges against her in court,” he noted.
Insisting that legal remedies “were available to Castro’s lawyers every step of the way’’, Año emphasized that they could have challenged the prosecutor’s findings and appealed it with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Or if they wanted to challenge the warrant, they could have brought it to the Court of Appeals or even the Supreme Court. They just needed to be diligent and do their jobs instead of maligning the PNP, the judicial system and making a media circus out of this issue,” the DILG chief said.
Año also said that FLAG, NUPL and other leftist groups should stop insulting the judiciary.
“The fact that Castro was a cum laude graduate of UP Manila and valedictorian at St. Scholastica does not exempt her from the coverage of our laws. No one is above the law,” he said.
Año pointed out that Castro was arrested because of the criminal charges against her and not because she is the head of the National Health Bureau of the CPP-NPA-NDF which has been declared a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council, the US, EU, and other countries.
He said that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is welcome to investigate the case but he lamented “the zeal of the CHR to prejudge the PNP.’’
“The CHR is supposed to be impartial, fair and unbiased. But why did it immediately conclude that Castro was red-tagged for being a human rights and development worker? While the CHR immediately acts on complaints against the PNP, it is unfortunately silent on the series of killings perpetrated by the CPP-NPA like the incidents in Negros Island during the past few days where they claimed responsibility for the killings of at least 4 civilians and the wounding of five police officers, or their continued use of banned anti-personnel mines,” he said.
Now that the cases are with the court, Año called on all parties to allow the judicial processes to proceed and take its rightful course. “Castro will be entitled to every legal remedy available in her defense. She already has a battery of top notch lawyers, as you can see,” Año noted. (Chito A. Chavez)