MANILA — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its earlier decision to hold the trial of members of the Maute terrorist group in Cagayan de Oro city and allow the transfer of the trial of rebellion and other cases against the Maute group members to Manila due to security concerns and lack of adequate detention facilities.
In a two-page letter addressed to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Aguirre said members of judiciary and national prosecution service fear their safety in the conduct of inquest, preliminary investigation and trial of the cases involving the Maute group.
“There is clear and present danger to the security of police escorts and detainees subject of the inquest proceedings for rebellion as shown in the recent ambush of the police convoy in the neighboring Lanao del Norte on June 10, 2017 which caused for the three police escorts being wounded and the death of the four detainees,” he stressed.
“In the interest of the safety of our personnel, to provide proper detention facilities to apprehended members of the Maute Group and to serve the ends of justice, may we request the the regional trial court in Taguig City be designated as the court to try and decide all cases and incidents arising from the Maute Group takeover of Marawi City,” he explained.
Aguirre, who personally inspected the detention facility of arrested Maute members and supporters at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan De Oro City and saw several problems.
”The Camp Evangelista does not have proper detention facilities to accommodate apprehended members of the Maute Group. The Armed Forces of the Philippines does not have adequate training to provide proper jail management and funds for food and other provision for detainees,” he explained.
Aguirre also requested the SC to designate the Special Intensive Care Areas (SICA) located at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City as the detention facility for apprehended members of Maute group as the same houses high profile and dangerous individuals.
Aguirre added that the Cagayan De Oro courts, which are temporarily located at the City Tourism Hall after the Hall of Justice was gutted by fire in January 2015, are not a convenient venue for the trial.
“The modest office space of the City Tourism Hall cannot accommodate the influx of detainees to be arraigned or to undergo preliminary investigation of trial. Moreover, the facility is not secured enough to be a venue of a high-profile, very dangerous group of individuals,” the Justice Secretary noted.
Last week, the high court has designated the Cagayan De Oro regional trial court to handle cases filed against the Maute members and supporters while the military’s Camp Evangelista will serve as the detention of the arrested suspects.
The Court also assigned the military’s Camp Evangelista in the same city to serve as the detention of the arrested suspects.
The DOJ earlier asked the SC to designate special courts in Luzon or Visayas to hear the cases due to the security threat in Mindanao.
Last Monday, the DOJ has started inquest proceedings for rebellion against Maute clan matriach Ominta Romato-Maute, alias Farhana, and 11 others in connection with the Marawi City siege.
Also facing charges is former Marawi mayor Fajad Salic, who was arrested at a checkpoint in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental on June 7.
Last week, authorities nabbed Farhana’s husband and Maute patriarch Cayamora at a checkpoint in Davao City.
Cayamora is detained along with several other suspects at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, where he is considered a high-risk detainee.
As of this posting, there are 58 government troops confirmed death and around 120 wounded in the fighting which is now entering its fourth week.
The conflict started when government forces tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS ’emir’ in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.
Thirteen of the recent losses were Marine troopers who were killed in a major engagement which lasted for some 14 hours, erupted between Marine units and Maute Group terrorists at Barangay Lilot Madaya in Marawi City last June 9.