DOJ files raps vs 90 rebs
The government on Tuesday filed direct assault, murder and theft charges against 90 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other private individuals accused of killing 35 out of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last Jan. 25, referred as the Mamasapano massacre.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima turned over the report of the joint National Bureau of Investigation-National Prosecution Service special investigation team that investigated the killings, to Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, who will constitute a panel of prosecutors that would conduct the preliminary investigation.
“[Those] involved in the carnage at Mamasapano must all be held to account before our courts of law. In a system where the rule of law reigns supreme, they enjoy no impunity for their crimes at Mamasapano. These complaints are just the start of a long quest of justice for the dead SAF commandos and their families,” she said.
“This is the beginning of [our efforts] to give justice to your loved ones. We will push through with the case even if they (respondents) won’t participate. This will pass through a legal process, you can hope that the process will be fair and orderly,” De Lima said.
Asked if the filing of the complaints would affect the peace agreement between the government and the MILF, De Lima said President Aquino had approved the filing of the cases.
“It’s clear with the President that despite the peace process, there is a need to exact accountability, to hold responsible those who ought to be held responsible for the deaths, for this unfortunate incident. The MILF would probably understand this,” she said.
‘Battalion and field commanders’
According to De Lima, 26 of the respondents belong to the MILF and 12 the BIFF. Thirteen of those to be charged from the two groups are so-called “battalion and field commanders”—seven from the MILF and six from the BIFF.
Another 52 of the respondents belong to private armed groups or are unaffiliated individuals.
Of the 90 respondents, 19 were identified only by their aliases—seven from the MILF, two from the BIFF and 10 from the private armed groups.
The names of the identified respondents were redacted or shaded black in the copies of the team’s report distributed to the media. De Lima said the names of the suspects cannot be divulged yet so the job of tracking down can be made faster.
“The moment that they know [they will be summoned], we might not find them anymore. If we announce their names now, we might not be able to find even one of them,” she said.
For the MILF respondents, the subpoenas will be coursed through the joint government and MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities.
“The report that reached us said more than 1,000 MILF, BIFF and other individuals participated in this encounter but our witnesses were only able to name 90 whom we can only charge as of now. It’s actually next to impossible, if not impossible, to be able to identify all those who participated in this kind of incident,” De Lima said.
This is the reason why “John Does” were listed as the “91st” respondent, she said.—Jerome Aning