Massacre suspects charged

AFTER almost eight months after the Mamasapano massacre, the Department of Justice may soon start its preliminary investigation of charges of direct assault with murder against 90 people, including 13 commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, allegedly involved in the incident last Jan. 25.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made the announcement after the joint National Bureau of Investigation and National Prosecution Service special investigation filed the complaint on Tuesday.

Better very late than never. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and National Bureau of Investigation Director Virgilio Mendez speak to journalists as they file charges of murder and robbery theft against 90 people believed to be involved in the Mamasapano massacre last January. DANNY PATA

However, De Lima did not identify the 90 respondents pending issuance of subpoenas against them. Each of the respondents is individually charged with 35 counts of direct assault with murder.

The NBI-NPS team explained that the assault on the SAF commandos became complexed with murder when they were killed by the respondents with qualifying circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength under Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code.

The respondents belonged to MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, private armed groups and other unaffiliated individuals.

The 35 police commandos were part of the 55th Special Action Company who were killed at Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano under Articles 148 (direct assault) and 248 (murder), in relation to Article 48 (penalty for complex crimes) of the Revised Penal Code.

The team also recommended the prosecution of the respondents for theft of government property under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code for their unlawful taking of government-issued firearms, ammunition, communications and navigational equipment, personal protective gear, uniforms, combat boots and even personal effects of the 55th SAC commandos.

The complaint does not cover the deaths of nine other SAF commandos of the 84th Seaborne Company who attempted to arrest but later neutralized international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias “Marwan” at his hut in Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano.

De Lima earlier ordered the NBI-NPS team to continue its second phase of investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 84th Seaboard commandos and the identifies of their MILF, BIFF, PAGs and other assailants, based on the team’s recommendations in its first report.

“The NBI-NPS-SIT’s investigation showed that even if the perpetrators already knew that they were shooting at police officers, they continued firing and were united in the intent to kill the victims, even as some of the latter had raised their hands in surrender,” the complaint stated.

“Post mortem reports indicate that some of the victims died from gunshot wounds on the head and chest from short firearms fired at close range after their bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets were first removed,” it said.

De Lima said the second report of the NBI-NPS-SIT is in the final stages of preparation which is expected to detail the extent of the participation of US troops in Oplan Exodus and the criminal liability, if any, of PO2 Christopher Lalan, the lone survivor, for alleged civilian and MILF deaths at Mamasapano.

“These MILF, BIFF, PAGs and other individuals (including those who are still unidentified) involved in the carnage at Mamasapano must all be held to account before our courts of law,” de Lima stressed.

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for investigation services Edward Villarta, Special Investigator IV Cecilio Zamora Jr., and Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera, Irwin Maraya, Gino Paolo Santiago, Josie Christina Dugay and Ethel Rea Suril, signed the complaint.


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