COTABATO CITY: The inter-agency Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has recommended the setting up of a special court and enlistment of non-resident prosecu-tors to handle high-profile cases involving large criminal syndicates and terrorists.
ARMM Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman cited the importance of having a special court in the region and the employ-ment of special prosecutors from outside Mindanao during the RPOC’s meeting in Cotabato City last week.
Hataman is also chairman of RPOC, whose members include all five provincial governors in the autonomous region and the mayors of its two component cities – Lamitan and Marawi.
“With a special court and special prosecutors, high-profile cases involving `dreaded personalities’ can be litigated faster,” he pointed out.
The governor said their zeal to pursue the plan was bolstered by the “rescue” more than a week ago by members of the Maute terror group of their eight companions from the provincial jail in Lanao del Sur.
The jail, located in Marawi City, is less than a kilometer away from the headquarters of the Army’s 103rd Brigade.
The Maute group, led by relatives Abdullah and Omar Maute, both ethnic Maranaws, boasts of its allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Members of the extremist Maute group are seen carrying the distinctive black ISIS flag when they move from one hinterland to another in remote towns in the first district of Lanao del Sur.
The eight detainees rescued from jail, three of them women, were to be prosecuted for possession of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that policemen found in their vehicle intercepted in early August at a checkpoint along a highway in a secluded town in Lanao del Sur.
Over a dozen of criminal cases, involving leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), are pending in Regional Trial Courts in Basilan and Sulu, both component provinces of ARMM.
“Criminal cases involving terrorists and members of these groups should be litigated expeditiously. The detention of suspects in facilities vulnerable to attacks should not be prolonged,” Hataman said.
Powers of the Department of Justice (DOJ) are not among those that can be devolved to the ARMM, which has an executive department under Hataman, and a 24-member legislature, operating independently from each other but bound by a common regional charter – Republic Act 9054 – creating the ARMM.
The DOJ is also not among the several departments and line agencies and support offices that Malacañang de-volved to ARMM.