The Justice department is seeking the transfer of trial venue of current and future cases against members of the extremist Maute group, from Mindanao to either Visayas or Luzon.
In a letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dated May 29, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd cited the security and safety of prosecutors and judges against threats, intimidation and the possibility of untoward incidents, as the basis for his request.
Under procedural law, criminal cases must be filed and tried in courts of the place where the acts were committed.
Aguirre earlier had a meeting with the prosecutors in Mindanao who aired apprehensions in prosecuting cases against members of the terrorist group.
“With this in mind, justice may run its course without fear or violence and threat thereof,” Aguirre said in his letter.
Based on the records of the Department of Justice, 89 Maute members are facing kidnapping and kidnapping-with-murder cases before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Malabang, Lanao Del Sur.
Four Maute members have also been charged before the same court with illegal possession of improvised explosive and incendiary devices.
Following the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao, the high court ordered all courts in the area to remain open.
Mindanao judges were also ordered to report their “current and continuing status” to the Office of the Court Administrator of the Supreme through their executive judges.
Aside from the municipal trial courts and RTCs, the Court of Appeals also has a Mindanao station in Cagayan de Oro City.