Cases vs massacre suspects hang in DOJ
THE DEPARTMENT of Justice (DOJ) has yet to rule on whether or not there is probable cause to file criminal cases in the court against 90 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups (PAGs) accused of killing special police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, a year ago.
Only four respondents in the complex crime of direct assault with murder and theft of government property have filed their counteraffidavits at the conclusion of the preliminary investigation of the DOJ on Jan. 14. They are Mustapha Tatak, Pendatun Utek Makakua, Lakiman Dawaling and Khalim Keda.
All denied their participation in the Mamasapano massacre and even produced certifications from the 118th MILF Base Command stating that they were not members of the group as mentioned in the complaint.
In the counteraffidavits filed by their counsels, Makakua said he was a farmer, Keda a former teacher and Tatak a barangay chair.
Dawaling, a resident of the area, said he was one of the civilians who helped the police rescue the victims of the operation and assisted in the clearing operations.
Resolved on allegations
State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez, member and spokesperson of the preliminary investigation panel, said that for those who failed to show up at the hearings, the case against them “will be resolved based on the allegations [in the complaint].”
Asked if the panel would be able to resolve the case in time for the first anniversary of the incident, Suarez replied, “We cannot give you a definite time frame or period to resolve this case, but what the panel can commit to is that we shall expedite the resolution of the case.”
The Mamasapano clash took place one year ago today.
The panel of investigation prosecutors, composed of Rosanne Balauag, Aldrin Evangelista, Benito Oliver Sales III, Rassendell Rex Gingoyon and Suarez, deemed the case submitted for resolution after receiving no more counteraffidavits from three other respondents who requested copies of the complaint.
NBI is complainant
The representative of the National Bureau of Investigation, which is the complainant in the case, stated that the agency would no longer file a reply to the counteraffidavits of the four respondents.
On Dec. 17, the panel deemed submitted for resolution the cases filed against all those who failed to submit their counteraffidavits in the earlier hearings.
The panel is at a loss as to why the other respondents failed to participate in the preliminary investigation and submit counteraffidavits.
Suarez said all the subpoenas to the respondents were sent by registered mail and personal service with the assistance of the office of the mayor of Mamasapano as well as the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
He said returns or documents signifying that the subpoeanas were received have been sent back to the DOJ, but those who did receive them still failed to submit their counteraffidavits.
“As of the moment it appears that the notices were ignored,” Suarez said.
The cases pending before the DOJ panel pertain to the deaths of 35 of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force that participated in Oplan Exodus, an operation to capture suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan who was reported hiding in Mamasapano.
The 35 members of the 55th Special Action Company were surrounded and trapped in a cornfield in Barangay Tukanalipao and shot at by the Moro guerrilla fighters and PAGs. Only one survived the carnage.
The case was recommended against the respondents in September 2015 by a special task force composed of NBI agents and prosecutors from the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service. It presented its findings and recommendations on the Mamasapano encounter in April 2015.
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