DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A Regional Trial Court in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur on March 25 dismissed the charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against human rights and community health advocate Dr. Maria Natividad Castro.
Acting Presiding Judge Fernando R. Fudalan Jr. of Branch 7 of the Regional Trial Court found no probable cause and ordered the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Agusan del Sur to immediately release Castro.
The failure to notify Castro through a subpoena delivered to her known address in Manila and the absence of her name in the complaint affidavit and affidavit of the witnesses that would prove her involvement in the commission of the crime were the reasons Fudalan cited in his resolution to Castro’s case.
“The right to preliminary investigation is a substantial right protected under the Constitution—it being a substantial right, it is safeguarded by the protective mantle of the due process clause,” Fudalan added.
Castro was forcibly taken by police and military intelligence operatives in her home in San Juan, City in Metro Manila on February 18. The State forces claimed Castro is a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Lawyer Fred Asis, Castro’s lead counsel, filed a motion to dismiss all the charges on March 4. The motion pointed out the inconsistencies of the warrant of arrest without Castro’s name, notices were not given to Castro and the absence of preliminary investigation to refute the charges that involved more than 500 names in Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur.
KARAPATAN welcomed the RTC’s resolution proving that the NTF-ELCAC’s malicious and baseless statements against the doctor were all lies.
“She has been denied due process when she was arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned-and this has been acknowledged by the court,” KARAPATAN Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Meanwhile, Fides Lim of KAPATID (Families and Friends of Political Prisoners) said Castro’s release is an outcome of the growing response against red-tagging and criminalization of human rights defenders and activities.
Lim urged courts to take a hard look on how the judicial system is being used and misused by those sworn to uphold the law, but are the first to violate it by concocting politically motivated cases to put targeted activists behind bars.
In a post on his FB account, Castro’s brother narrated how they moved the doctor out of Mindanao soon as the Court released the resolution on her case on March 30. Castro arrived in her home in the evening on the same day.
“This is a continuing saga still, and we hope for the safety of Naty. For now, Naty has to rest with family and trusted friends, and consolidate her thoughts after the harrowing experience. Thank you all for your prayers and your support,” Castro’s brother said on his FB post.
Castro was held in detention for 42 days. (davaotoday.com)