Rights group hails Doc Naty’s release

Court said her arrest was ‘offensive’ and ‘repugnant’ to due process

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the release of Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro after an Agusan del Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) junked the kidnapping charge against the red-tagged community doctor.

The doctor’s family announced she walked out of detention on Wednesday and has reunited with her siblings.

“We in Karapatan welcome the release of Dr. Natividad Castro based on the court’s decision on her motion to dismiss,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Castro was arrested at their home in San Juan City last February 18 in a commando-style raid by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

Karapatan said Castro was denied due process and her arrest and imprisonment were arbitrary.

Branch 7 of the Bayugan City RTC in a March 25 resolution said it found no probable cause against Castro and ordered her release from the Agusan del Sur provincial jail.

“Without probable cause, the court did not acquire jurisdiction over the accused, which warrants the dismissal of this case,” Presiding Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr. said.

Judge Fudalan ruled that Castro was not properly identified in the warrant the police presented to her family during the raid, which only listed a certain “Dra. Maria Natividad.”

 “A preliminary investigation without a subpoena being issued to the respondent is offensive to due process. Either intentional or a product of omission, the same produces a serious effect repugnant to respondent’s right to liberty,” Judge Fudalan said.

Karapatan said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) “malicious and baseless statements” against the red-tagged community doctor are all lies.

“We extend our hugs of solidarity to Doc Naty and her family, as we enjoin her to continue doing her work as a community health and human rights worker and to exact justice and accountability from those who violated her rights,” Karapatan said.

Castro’s arrest drew widespread condemnation from the medical community that demanded her immediate release.

Castro spent 40 days in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police arrest red-tagged community doctor ‘commando-style’

Police arrested a red-tagged community doctor and a human rights worker in a commando-style raid in San Juan Friday morning, February 18.

In an urgent alert, Karapatan-Caraga said police scaled the walls and destroyed the front door of an ancestral house to arrest Dr. Maria Natividad Marian Castro at about 9:30 AM.

Dr. Castro was brought to Camp Crame by the police.

In an earlier post, Castro’s brother Jun said his sister is reportedly charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and illegal detention.

Jun said Dr. Castro previously accompanied several Lumad (Mindanao indigenous peoples) who were victims of militarization to UN Geneva.

The brother did not specify what year Dr. Castro visited the UN with the Lumad.

“She spoke there in Geneva to seek help for the Lumad people,” Jun said.

Dr. Ma. Natividad Marian Castro at Cam Crame. (Photo from Jun Castro’s Facebook post)

The brother said Dr. Castro set up community health centers and programs in Mindanao.

He also revealed that his sister was the Class ‘84 High School valedictorian at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and was in fact acclaimed as one of the 100 most outstanding graduates of the school in 2001with former Pres. Corazon Aquino.

Dr. Castro also graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines-Manila College of Medicine in 1995, he added.

“As a health worker, she has served both rich and poor in various areas in Mindanao,” Jun said.

Karapatan-Caraga also said Dr. Castro has long served the poor communities of Agusan del Norte who don’t have access to health services

“Dr. Castro is a health worker who has set up community health centers and programs in Mindanao,” the group said.

Karapatan-Caraga also revealed that suspected state agents on November 20, 2020 put up posters all over Caraga region that accused Dr. Castro and others human rights defenders as “communist NPAs.”

Both Karapatan and Jun said the “fabricated charges” are related to Dr. Castro’s human rights advocacy.

Karapatan’s national office has dispatched a quick reaction team to check on Dr. Castro’s condition. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)