PNP mulls appealing dismissed case vs doctor-activist

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2022 05:37 PM

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The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday said it was mulling a motion for reconsideration on the dismissal of the kidnapping case against a community doctor and activist, who was accused of being a communist rebel leader. 

“We just had coordinated with the unit who arrested Dr. Natividad [Castro] and they’re already studying the, some of the legal options that the PNP [has] relative to this case,” police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said. 

“Our lawyers, the PNP lawyers are studying other legal recourse to at least file a motion for reconsideration to support the motion for reconsideration earlier filed by the prosecutor’s office,” she told ANC.

Castro, 53, was arrested at her Manila home on Feb. 18 on the basis of a 2020 court order for her to be tried on kidnapping charges. She was accused of being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines' central committee, which her sister denied.

Her former employer, human rights monitor Karapatan, said the charges against Castro had been "trumped up" after she investigated alleged rights violations in Mindanao while also setting up community health centers there.

Bayugan City Regional Trial Court Judge Fernando Fudalan, who had issued the warrant for Castro's arrest, dismissed the case against her on procedural grounds, according to a copy of the decision dated March 25 and obtained by AFP on Thursday.

Following a "painstaking review of the records", Fudalan said Castro had been denied due process after the state prosecutor failed to summon her to a preliminary hearing.

The process allows suspects to hear the accusations against them and present their own evidence before the case is filed in court, saving the state from conducting "useless and expensive trials", the judge said.

"A preliminary investigation without a subpoena being issued to the respondent is offensive to due process."

The prosecutor also failed to spell out in the formal complaint the doctor's alleged role in the abduction and illegal detention of a member of the Philippine Army's Civilian Active Auxiliary, the judge added.

Jun Castro told AFP his sister was released from a provincial jail on Wednesday. 

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said at least 60 other people it considered "political prisoners" had been released by the courts on "procedural and substantive grounds" in recent months.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse