MAMASAPANO INCIDENT: Leila in a dilemma over suspects

The Department of Justice is facing the difficult challenge of bringing commanders and members of   Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters   and private armed groups   tagged in the death of Special Action Force commandos in the Mamasapano bloodbath to the criminal justice system.

Secretary Leila de Lima made the admission   on Sunday   as the DoJ  was poised to  start its preliminary investigation   on the murder charges against 90 individuals found liable for the killing of 35 of the 44 SAF troopers during the clash.

De Lima said while she expected cooperation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the PI against its 13 commanders and 13 members also tagged in the SAF killings, it was uncertain as to the participation of other respondents from BIFF and PAGs.

“It will be difficult to get these BIFF respondents because their leaders are not in peace talks with the government. The same with private armed groups—it will be hard because these are unaffiliated,” De Lima said.

“At the very least, we can expect the cooperation of the MILF leadership insofar as the 26 MILF respondents are concerned,” the DoJ chief added.

According to her, they would also seek the assistance of the   Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities to coordinate with the MILF to expedite the process.

More than 60 respondents charged with the complex crime of direct assault with murder are from BIFF and PAGs.

But De Lima stressed that possible non-participation of respondents in the preliminary investigation proceedings would not stop the resolution of the charges as rules provide for waiver of right to answer charges in cases of their absence in hearings.

Nonetheless, the Justice Secretary assured that the DoJ would exhaust all available means to serve the subpoena to all respondents, including possible request for assistance of local officials.

]The charges filed with the DOJ last week covered the cases of 35 slain SAF men who belonged to the 55th SAF company that engaged MILF and BIFF fighters and PAGs in the cornfields of Barangay Tukanalipao.

The cases of the nine other slain commandos from the 84th SAF company in Barangay Pidsandawan as well as the five civilians and 18 MILF fighters who were also killed during the clash as well as the reported US involvement in the operation are still undergoing investigation.

De Lima said the fact-finding report on the second part could be released after two weeks.  

The fact-finding report said the Mamasapano bloodbath was neither a massacre nor a misencounter, rejecting the findings of the MILF.


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