Atty. Julius Garcia Matibag of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43, said they are hopeful that Edwin B. Dematera would soon be released because they have proven that he is not the same person being accused of rape before a Las Piñas court.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — One of the lawyers of the Morong 43 warned that prolonging the detention of the three who have remained in jail would be tantamount to arbitrary detention.
The Morong 43 are the health workers arrested on Feb. 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal, by at least 300 combined elements of police and military. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and were branded as members of the New People’s Army (NPA). On Dec. 17, 2010, the local courts in Morong, upon the order of President Benigno S. Aquino III, issued release orders for the 43. A week later, most of the detainees were released. Two more were freed before the year ended.
Three male detainees have remained at a high-risk detention facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, namely Edwin B. Dematera, Rogelio Villarisis and Mario delos Reyes. They are among the five cited by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as having pending warrants of arrest for what their lawyers call “ridiculous and spurious” charges.
In an interview, Atty. Julius Garcia Matibag of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43, said they are hopeful that Dematera would soon be released. As for the two others, Matibag said, they are still in the process of verifying each of the many charges imputed against their clients.
Not the Suspect in Rape Case
Matibag reiterated that Dematera is not the same person charged with rape before a local court in Las Piñas and therefore should be released soon.
Based on the documents obtained by NUPL, the suspect’s name is Edwin Bustamante, a resident of South Christian, Golden Acres Subdivision in Talon, Las Piñas. While Dematera’s middle name is Bustamante, Matibag said it is the last name of the accused. “The only similarity between our client and the accused in the particular criminal case is that both of them have the same first name ‘Edwin,’” Matibag said. Dematera is a permanent resident of Juban, Sorsogon.
Matibag added that according to the records in the particular criminal case, Bustamante, the accused, was 22 years old when the alleged crime took place in December 1999. At that time, Matibag said, Dematera was 27 years old, noting the five-year difference in the age of the accused and his client. A certified true copy of Dematera’s birth certificate was presented during a court hearing on Jan. 18.
The hearing was set after Baby Noel Montalvo, warden of the Metro Manila District Jail at Camp Bagong Diwa, requested the Las Piñas Regional Trial Court Branch 275 to issue a certification that Dematera is the accused Edwin Bustamante in the said case, and for the issuance of a commitment order.
At the Jan. 18 hearing though, the complainant failed to appear. The subpoena issued by the court for the private complainant has been returned unserved with a notation “cannot be located.”
The court said the problem of identity of the accused and the person in jail is a matter that should have been determined by his present jailer.
In a letter to Montalvo dated Jan. 19, Matibag reiterated that all the factual matters gathered from Dematera’s birth certificate and from the records in the particular criminal case clearly and convincingly show that Edwin B. Dematera is not the same person as the accused Edwin Bustamante.
“We strongly demand that our client be immediately released,” Matibag said. Otherwise, Matibag said, they would be constrained to take appropriate legal actions such as a criminal action for arbitrary detention under Article 126 of the Revised Penal Code and a petition for habeas corpus.