MANILA, Philippines – Rural doctor Natividad “Naty” Castro was already freed last March on kidnapping charges related to an accusation that she was a communist leader, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) moved and managed to convince the court to reinstate the case and order a rearrest.
“The motion for reconsideration is granted. The resolution dated March 2022 is hereby vacated and set aside. Let an e-warrant of arrest be issued against the accused Dr. Maria Natividad Castro,” said Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 Judge Ferdinand Villanueva in an order dated June 16, a copy of which was released by the DOJ Wednesday, June 22.
Castro, a community doctor in rural Mindanao, was arrested inside her home on February 18 for alleged kidnapping and serious illegal detention based on a warrant of arrest with a long list of names – typical of a warrant for alleged armed rebels. Castro had been red-tagged by the government.
But in March, a different judge, Presiding Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr., junked the case against Castro and freed her, finding that “probable cause does not exist in the absence of evidence to prove the identity of the accused.”
Villanueva reversed Fudalan’s order, siding with the appeal of the DOJ. The DOJ prosecution pointed out the supposed victim mentioned Castro in an affidavit from 2019.
“The victim could never be mistaken as to the identity of Dra. Natividad as she accompanied her abductors, she talk [sic] to each other; she even assured the private complainant that he will not be hurt; that they are working for his release,” the prosecution told the court.
The prosecution said Castro’s right to due process was not violated. The prosecution said that because no summons was served on Castro, the preliminary investigation on their level could not proceed.
The new judge sided with the DOJ, saying that the only reason to dismiss the case against Castro was if it’s a case that falls under the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP.)
SLAPP covers harassment cases or countersuits, but in the Philippines, it’s only applicable so far to environmental cases. “This is not an environmental case,” said Judge Villanueva.
“The victim himself executed an affidavit identifying the accused and even participated in the implementation of the arrest to ensure the correct identity of Dr. Natividad, whether it is true or not, that will be resolved during the trial,” said the judge.
“Based on court records, Dra. Castro was not yet arraigned thus, double jeopardy will not apply,” said Judge Villanueva. – Rappler.com