SAF killings: 90 slapped with murder raps
THE government’s panel of investigators on Tuesday filed direct assault with murder complaint against 90 people for the death of 35 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) 55th company.
Commandos from SAF 55th who served as blocking force were those killed by Moro rebels in the cornfield in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.
In a memorandum referral by the National Prosecution Service-National Bureau of Investigation (NPS-NBI) team addressed to Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, of the 90 respondents, 26 are Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants, 13 of which are battalion commanders from the 105th and 118 Base Command, 12 members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, 6 of which are commanders, and 52 members of private armed groups (PAGs).
“These 90 respondents acted in conspiracy with one another to attack, employ force, seriously intimidate or resist the 35 SAF (Special Action Force) commandos, who were uniformed police officers and, thus persons in authority,” the panel said in their complaint filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Each of the 90 respondents is facing 35 counts of direct assault with murder.
The 90 individuals were identified by five witnesses who are already under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
However, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima declined to identify the 90 respondents to make sure that they will not go into hiding.
After the evaluation of the complaint, de Lima said the case will be assigned to a panel of prosecutors who will then issue a subpoena.
“Kaya ayaw pa namin i-disclose ang pangalan nila baka wala na kaming ma-padalhan ng subpoena,” de Lima said.
The NBI-NPS report said what happened to the 55th SAC personnel was neither a massacre nor a misencounter.
“In the team’s appreciation of the facts and available evidence, the incident was not a massacre as graphically described by the Senate nor a simple misencounter as clinically suggested by the MILF. Rather the complicated truth is somewhat in between these two extremes,” the NBI-NPS report said.
Among the salient points of the report are:
- The 55th SAC fired the first shot that started the firefight at the cornfield in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano.
- There was a pintakasi by the MILF, BIFF and PAGs against the 55th SAC.
- By 8:00 a.m. of January 25, 2015, the MILF, BIFF and PAGs who fought the 55th SAC members already knew that they were engaged in a firefight with police officers.
- Some 55th SAC commandos tried to surrender, but the MILF,BIFF and PAGs continued firing at them until the commandos would no longer fight back because many of them were already dead and those still alive were severely wounded.
- After the firefight, MILF elements crossed the river over to the cornfield to finish off the dying 55th SAC members.
At the same time, de Lima said the panel also used 3 to 4 videos on the Mamasapano incident that circulated in social media.
“The videos validated the testimony of the witnesses, especially codename ‘Marathon,’” de Lima said.
But not of those who took the video were included as respondent in the complaint.
“Hindi naman sila pumatay,” de Lima said adding that those who took the videos are not among the five government witnesses.
Meanwhile, de Lima clarified that the case does not cover the death of the 9 members of the 84th Special Action Company (SAC) who were tasked to arrest terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.
She said the result of the investigation on the death of the 9 SAC members is included in the part 2 investigation of the NPS-NBI team which will be released in two weeks. Tetch Torres-Tupas
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