MANILA — The Supreme Court on Tuesday designated the regional trial court of Cagayan de Oro to hear and try all cases against Maute group members who perpetrated attacks in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates.
Te said the order was the SC’s response to the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for the high court to create special courts outside of Mindanao which would handle cases against members of the Maute terrorist group.
“The Court resolved to direct these courts to speedily act on all prosecutions and incidents arising from the Maute Group takeover of Marawi City, complying with the Revised Guidelines on Continuous Trial and all relevant Court resolutions and issuances designed to expedite criminal prosecution such as, but not limited to, the use of conditional examination of witnesses, depositions and interrogatories, and extended pre-trial proceedings to facilitate the trial,” Te announced.
“For this purpose, the Judicial Affidavit Rule is hereby expressly made applicable to all cases that may be filed,” it added.
Te said the high tribunal has likewise tapped the Court of Appeals in Mindanao, which is also based in CDO, to handle terrorism cases under Republic Act 9372 (Human Security Act).
Lastly, the SC has directed Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez to “coordinate with the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division stationed also in CDO to determine appropriate security measures for court personnel, prosecutors, lawyers and the accused.”
”Direct the Court Administrator to coordinate with the Commanding General, Fourth Infantry Division (4TH ID) stationed at Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City to determine appropriate security measures for court personnel, prosecutors, lawyers, and accused as well as appropriately secure detention facilities to be located within Camp Evangelista but under the supervision and control of the RTC of Cagayan de Oro City,” it added.
Sought for a comment, Aguirre said they would appeal the SC order which turned down its request for special courts outside Mindanao.
“It’s not ok with us because CDO is too near to the Lanaos and Marawi City. We will file a motion for reconsideration,” he said in a text message.
Aguirre reiterated that the special courts should be stationed in Luzon or Visayas in order to protect the judges and the judicial system from possible threats and acts of violence.
In a letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on May 29, Aguirre said the decision to ask for the creation of special courts came after he met with prosecutors from Mindanao who pointed out the security threats if the hearing would be held in the region.
At the same time, Aguirre asked Sereno to take the necessary measures for the protection of the members of the judiciary who will hear the cases against the Maute group members who will be captured or who will surrender to the authorities.