Killers of 9 SAF cops unknown
The government fact-finding team has failed to determine those responsible for the nine members of the Special Action Force commandos killed during the Mamasapano clash last Jan. 25.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the team of prosecutors from the Department of Justice and agents from the National Bureau of Investigation failed to come up with criminal complaint after nine months of investigation and the filing of charges last month against 90 commanders and members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups tagged in the killing of the 35 other SAF commandos.
De Lima stressed that the team could not establish the identities of the killers of the commandos from the 84th SAF company in Barangay Pidsandawan.
“We cannot file charges at this point because there is really no one who is able to identify the group who had encounter with the 84th SAC [Special Action Force command],” De Lima told reporters.
In the 120-page report, which forms the second part of the DoJ fact-finding report on the Mamasapano clash, probers concluded there was indeed crime committed as the death of the nine members “were the result of a series of deliberate acts by armed individuals with whom the 84th Seaborne engaged in a brief firefight in the course of the assault on Marwan’s [international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir] hut.”
However, since the identities of the killers are unknown, charges cannot be filed just yet, the outgoing DoJ chief said.
“While the existence of a crime has been established in the killing of the 9 84th Seaborne commandos, the identity of those responsible therefor was not so established. Despite diligent efforts, the NBI-NPS failed to find a single credible witness on the identity of those involved… Hence, no criminal prosecution may be recommended by the Team,” she admitted.
According to her, it would be improper to conclude that the 90 individuals earlier charged for the complex crime of direct assault with murder for the death of the members of the 55th SAF are the same people responsible for the death of the 84th seaborne members.
“There is no evidence that they were the same people. While there were survivors who gave credible testimonies, none of them could positively identify their attackers,” De Lima noted.
She said no case can also be filed against Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan, lone survivor from the 55th SAF command, for the death of 18 MILF members and five civilians.
She pointed out that MILF or relatives of the supposed victims failed to submit any proof of death, despite repeated request from the probe team.
She said the NBI forensic team was only able to recover a pillow case, a piece of linoleum cut and a black shoe from the langgal (place of worship) in Sitio Amalis, alleged site where civilians were killed,but these would not suffice as proof of death.
“In the absence of the corpus delicti (body of the crime), no charges can be filed against PO2 Lalan for whatever crimes he may have allegedly committed at Barangay Tukanalipao,” read the report.
De Lima said accounts of MILF and civilian casualties were limited to media reports.
“There were narratives but no sworn statements, no submissions to the panel even if we asked them (MILF and relatives of the civilian victims) repeatedly,” she pointed out.
The DOJ has already started the preliminary investigation on the criminal charges against 90 MILF, BIFF and PAGs commanders tagged in the death of the 35 SAF men who belonged to the 55th SAF company in the cornfields of Brgy. Tukanalipao.
A panel of prosecutors was created earlier this week for the PI on charges of direct assault with murder and theft stemming from the first part of the fact-finding report released last April.
In the latest report, the DOJ team was able to establish the participation of US troops in Oplan Exodus that targeted Marwan, but concluded there was nothing wrong with it.
“American participation in Oplan Exodus was only limited to the giving of intelligence and technical support and medical evacuation. They did not take part in actual fighting,” the report said.
The Special Investigating Team from NPS-NBI has been tasked, among others to determine the extent of the American involvement in the planning, execution and post-action in Oplan EXODUS in light ofreports and videos that a “blue-eyed” soldier was killed in the encounter.
Media reports also showed that a US drone was also seen in the area during the Mamasapano operation.
The team reported that there was a “fixed wing surveillance aircraft” provided by the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP-P) for real time Intelligence Surveillance and Recognizance(ISR) of the situation on the ground.
Aside from that, JSOTFP-P also provided SAF with intelligence information and personnel to man and operate surveillance and communication equipment at the Tactical Command Post (TCP).
“But these American intelligence and technical personnel did not participate in actual combat with MILF, BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter) and PAGs (Private Armed Groups) at Mamasapano.Neither did these Americans give directions or orders to the SAF commandos,” the DOJ report stated.
“The Joint NPS-NBI is of the view that the nature and extent of the American involvement…did not violate the Constitution, Revised Penal Code or other special penal laws,” it said.
Lastly, the DOJ team has found that there were procedural and chain of custody lapses committed by SAF in immediately turning over of Marwan’s finger to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
But it also clarified that such lapses do not constitute any violation of penal laws.