Illegally detained doctor freed after court junks trumped-up charges

Doctor Ma. Natividad Marian Castro. The health worker and human rights advocate is accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (Source: Karapatan/Facebook; Jun Castro/Facebook)
Doctor Ma. Natividad Marian Castro. The health worker and human rights advocate is accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (Source: Karapatan/Facebook; Jun Castro/Facebook)

A Bayugan City court in Agusan Del Sur has junked trumped-up charges against community doctor and human rights advocate Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro, citing due process violation and lack of probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest.

In a resolution on March 25 (Friday), Bayugan City Regional Trial Court Branch 7 Acting Presiding Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr. dismissed the kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges and ordered the immediate release of Castro.

The health worker arrived in Metro Manila on Wednesday (March 30) after being detained for more than a month in Mindanao.

The prosecutors failed to issue a subpoena for the preliminary investigation of Castro’s case, violating her right to due process, according to Judge Fudalan.

“Issuance of subpoena directing the respondent to submit evidence is the most important aspect of the preliminary investigation that safeguards the right to due process. No amount of reason, like what the prosecution raised that respondent is an NPA member and ha(s) no permanent address, would ever justify its non-issuance,” the judge said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier claimed and red-tagged Castro saying that she is a high-ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Castro worked as a community doctor in Agusan del Sur and served as an official of rights group Karapatan in Caraga region.

The doctor was arrested on February 18 in San Juan, Metro Manila and was brought to Bayugan City in Mindanao wand was not allowed to talk to her family and lawyers.

Naty Castro, like other activists, has been red-tagged repeatedly before being arrested. In November 2020, she was tagged as a member of the CPP-NPA in a Facebook post and in a tarpaulin in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, according to Karapatan.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), an organization of lawyers, meanwhile lauded the decision of the court on Castro’s case and call to attention “extrajudicial efforts to influence the courts by government agents through red-tagging.”

“The dismissal of Dr. Naty’s case for failure to accord her due process should shine a light on existing practices during preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice and the issuance of warrants by the trial courts,” FLAG said in a statement.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. The views expressed are her own.

Watch more videos on Yahoo: