THE Department of Justice (DOJ) will push for the transfer to Manila of the trial of rebels charged for the 2015 massacre of 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF).
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said he had ordered his prosecutors to file a motion to transfer the trial venue to Manila from Cotabato, to spare the judge from any “pressure.”
This will also to ensure the safety and security of witnesses and the families of the victims, he said.
“Of course there’s pressure in the courts there (Cotabato). In early January I asked the prosecutors to file for the transfer of venue here in Manila,” Aguirre said.
Eighty-eight members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups are being tried on the complex crime of direct assault with murder in connection with the January 25, 2015 encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 elite police troopers dead.
The SAF men were on a mission to serve arrest warrants on international terrorist Sulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and his alleged cohort, Abdul Basit Usman.
Marwan was killed in the botched raid while Usman died in a firefight with the military in May 2015.
The previous Aquino administration received heavy criticism after it turned out that the operation was directed by the then suspended national police chief, Alan Purisima, without adequate coordination with the military.