No decision yet on transfer of cases vs Maute group — SC

By on June 19, 2017


Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)
Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)

MANILA — Supreme Court (SC) Spokesperson Theodore Te on Monday said that the high court has yet to act on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request to transfer of the cases against arrested members and supporters of the Maute terror group.

“The SC resolution stays until the SC says otherwise. It has not issued another resolution. The letter of the Secretary of Justice asking for reconsideration has not yet been granted by the SC,” Te said when sought for a comment.

Last June 6, the SC has designated the Cagayan De Oro Regional Trial Court (RTC) to handle cases filed against the Maute members and supporters while the military’s Camp Evangelista, which is in the same city, was designated as the detention of the arrested suspects.

The Court also assigned the military camp in the same city to serve as the detention of the arrested suspects.

The DOJ earlier asked the SC to reconsider its resolution, citing security risks that may arise if the trial is held in Cagayan de Oro as well as the lack of facilities.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II wrote to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to request that the Regional Trial Court of Taguig City be designated as the court to hear and decide all cases and incidents arising from the takeover of the Maute group of Marawi City.

“We anchor our present entreaty on the imperative need to free the Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel stationed in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City from the additional task and concern of safeguarding the apprehended Maute group members and to enable them to focus fully and primarily in their involvement in the ongoing military operations to liberate Marawi City,” Aguirre noted.

Aguirre also reiterated his request that the SICA in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City be designated as the detention facility for the apprehended members of the Maute group while their cases are being heard.

In addition, Secretary Aguirre further requested that the SC allows the conduct of the hearing of the cases at an appropriate venue inside the premises of the SICA to ensure the greater security of the Maute detainees.

“The granting of our most recent request i.e. that the hearing of the Maute cases be heard inside the SICA, assuming that our earlier request will also be granted, will make the transport of the detainees more secured and less taxing in terms of preparation and logistics. We hope that our Honorable Supreme Court will see its merits and grant it”, the Justice Secretary said.

Aguirre had a meeting with Sereno on Monday where they talked about the probability of transferring the trial instead to Camp Bagong Diwa, at the SICA where trials are being conducted against arrested members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Aguirre said there was already a precedent for holding a trial inside a jail citing the trial of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case which is being held inside Camp Bagong Diwa where the accused are also detained.

“Maganda naman ang napag-usapan namin so in all probability, instead of moving the trial at the Taguig RTC, dun na mismo sa loob ng jail ang trial para mas secure kaya dun na mismo sa loob ng SICA,” Aguirre told reporters after the meeting.

He said they also agreed to establish two courtrooms for the trial adding that he would be calling on the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Armed Forces to see if this is feasible.

“We agreed that we hope we would establish at least two courtrooms inside the SICA but we can add one more courtroom. We would be calling on the PNP and AFP if we could establish another court room,” Aguirre added.

The DOJ chief though said that holding trial inside Camp Bagong Diwa is still subject to the approval of the Court en banc since it was the en banc who issued the resolution designating the Cagayan de Oro courts to try and resolve the cases against the Maute group members and their supporters.

The SC will hold its regular en banc session Tuesday.

Aguirre said he will reorganize his panels of prosecutor that will handle the case to be composed of Metro Manila prosecutors once the SC grants his request.

“I am going to reorganize my panels because my panels should be composed of Metro Manila prosecutors who will undergo immediate training on continuous trial,” Aguirre told reporters.

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.

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.

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.

Earlier, the DOJ approved the filing of rebellion charges against Ominta Tamano “Farhana” Maute, mother of Mauter group leaders Abdullah and Omar, former Marawi City Mayor Fahad Salic and nine others in connection to the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur before the Cagayan De Oro City RTC.

”The centralized Prosecution Office of Lanao Del Sure and Marawi City accuses [the 11 individuals] of the crime of rebellion under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code,” read the four-page resolution dated June 13, 2017 was signed by Prosecutors Ramonchito Bienvenido Ocampo Jr. and Liezel Aquiatan.

Rebellion is a non-bailable offense.

Aside from Salic and Maute, also charged in court are Sumaya Bangkit Masakal, Radiea Tugosa Asire, Mariam Ibnu Abubakar, Zafeerah Rosales Musa, Nehreen Macaraya Abdul, Nora Moctar Limgas, Mardiyya Haji Ali, Sumayya Lawi Ali and Noronisa Haji Camal.

All 11 accused were included in the list of over 300 individuals identified as members of the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf group, and their sympathizers earlier ordered arrested by the government for the crime of rebellion.

They were indicted after investigating prosecutors found probable cause to file the case in court following inquest proceedings held at their temporary detention cell in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan De Oro City.