MANILA — As per directive of President Benigno S. Aquino III, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has formed a joint task force for the conduct of parallel investigation on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash that left 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) dead.
DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, in an interview with reporters on Tuesday, said their investigation will be focused on a “case buildup” for the possible filing of charges.
“Ang kino-confirm (ko) up to today is indeed the instruction of the President to the DOJ to undertake case buildup and prepare the appropriate or necessary criminal charges against those maybe identified or determined to be responsible doon sa nangyari,” she said.
As such, De Lima said she has ordered the creation of a joint task force composed of members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National Prosecution Service that will build up the case.
“We will be closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police, with the Board of Inquiry, and of course, we will not be precluded also from gathering evidence so as to help in the case buildup,” she said.
When asked why prosecutors were being tapped in the parallel probe, the DOJ chief said: “Ang kanilang pinaka-trabaho (their main job) is to evaluate and assess yung mga nakakalap na ebidensya kung sufficient na ba for purposes of filing charges, what charges can be filed, and against whom they are filed, to be filed.”
She said the case buildup was still in its early stages and that she has yet to finalize the composition of the joint task force.
A total of 44 PNP-SAF personnel were killed while 12 others were wounded during the 11-hour firefight on Jan. 25 with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The MILF said 17 of its fighters were killed in the clash.
The PNP-SAF members supposedly entered an MILF-controlled area in Mamasapano to arrest Filipino bombmaker Abdulbasit Usman and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leader Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. Government officials earlier said Marwan was most likely killed in the operation, although this has yet to be supported by solid evidence.
Aside from the DOJ, both Houses of Congress will also conduct their own investigations into the clash.
Parallel investigations will also be conducted by the PNP and the MILF.