Cops, soldiers in Morong 43 cases say prosecution failed to establish their guilt

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 01 2019 05:37 PM

MANILA - The military generals and police officers accused in the supposed illegal arrest and torture of community health workers known as “Morong 43” said the prosecution failed to establish their guilt in 8 cases being heard by the Sandiganbayan 7th Division.

In their motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence filed by retired Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Brig. Gen. Joselito Reyes, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza, Maj. Jovily Cabading, police Supt. Marion Balonglong and Supt. Allan Nobleza, they argued that government prosecutors failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt and should thus be acquitted.

The military and police officers are facing 8 counts of violation of Republic Act Number 7438 or An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation as well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers.

The motion for leave is a pleading which parties file so as not to waive their right to present evidence if the demurrer or the challenge that a case is not sufficient to convict the accused is denied.

“Given the opportunity, the accused will demonstrate that plaintiff failed to establish that the accused, in conspiracy with one another, knowingly, willfully, and voluntarily obstructed, prevented, or prohibited the complainants’ lawyers of choice from conferring with them at the time when the alleged offense supposedly took place,” lawyer Antonio Pido of Siguion Reyna, Montecillo and Ongsiako law firm said in the motion.

The trial started on March 20, 2018 with community health worker Mercy Castro testifying that she was detained by Army and police officers she identified then as Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragoza, Capt. Jovily Carmel Cabading and Chief Insp. Manuel Tabion. 

Castro said she was able to identify the three because she would hear them being called those names and also through the name tags on their clothes. 

“O, i-backhoe na yan,” Castro quoted Zaragoza as allegedly having said during her supposed detention.

“Kukuryentehin ko kayo,” Castro said, recalling what Tabion allegedly said. 

Castro is among the health workers arrested on February 6, 2010. They were accused of conducting an explosives training in a house in Morong, Rizal. 

In the motion for leave of the accused, they also said that the prosecution failed to prove that the health workers were prevented from conferring with their lawyers while under detention at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

They also denied that they “acted in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit a criminal design”.

“Even if the prosecution were to cast doubt upon an accused’s innocence, criminal conviction cannot prosper on that alone because conviction must rest on the strength of the prosecution’s evidence rather than the weakness -- or even the absence -- of defense evidence,” Pido said.