Trial of ‘Morong 43’ case begins

MANILA The Sandiganbayan began Tuesday the trial of the case against military and police officials accused of detaining and torturing 43 health workers arrested in Morong, Rizal in 2010 on suspicion that they were members of the New People's Army (NPA).

However, none of the accused, which included former 2nd Infantry Division commander Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, attended the trial at the Sandiganbayan 7th Division.

Segovia had earlier secured a waiver of appearance in the case.

The prosecution first presented Mercy Castro, a complainant, to the witness stand.

Castro and 42 others collectively dubbed as "Morong 43" were apprehended on suspicion that they were members and sympathizers of the NPA.

She was allegedly detained and denied access to confer with a legal counsel by Segovia and 11 of his co-accused.

In her testimony, Castro said the respondents blindfolded and put her in solitary confinement for two days.

Prosecutor Loreto Cunanan asked Castro if she saw Segovia during her time in detention. Castro replied she did not.

Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, chairperson of the anti-graft court's 7th division, questioned how Castro could identify Segovia during her time in jail.

Castro told Estoesta that she could identify three of Segovia's co-accused then Lt. Gen. Cristobal Zaragoza, Chief Insp. Manuel Tabion, and Capt. Jovily Cabading based on their voices and faces.

Castro said she often saw Zaragoza, Tabion, and Cabading wearing their uniforms with their nametags on them.

Segovia, Zaragoza, Tabion, Cabading, and eight of their co-accused are facing eight counts each of violation of Section 4(a) of Republic Act No. 7438, or the Act Defining the Rights of Person Arrested, Detained, or Under Custodial Investigation.

The initial hearing lasted about four hours from 10. a.m. to 2 p.m. The next hearing has yet to be set. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency