The wheels of justice for the 44 policemen killed in the infamous Mamasapano incident will soon begin to roll.
A joint Department of Justice panel that conducted an investigation on the January 25 gunfight has recommend the filing of criminal charges against 90 individuals, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.
All of the would-be respondents are affiliated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) and its breakaway group, the Bangsamamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), as well as private armed groups.
De Lima said an initial report focused on determining who was responsible for the death of 35 of the 44 policemen, who were attached to the 55th Special Action Company (SAC).
The second part of the report will focus on those responsible for the deaths of the remaining nine commandos from the 84th SAC.
A state witness, which the DOJ identified only as a certain Marathon, said the 90 individuals participated in the so-called “pintakasi” or free-for-all gunfight against the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force who were part of a mission to arrest suspected international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his cohort, Abdul Basit Usman.
Marwan was killed in the raid while Usman managed to slip out.
The police commandos encountered the armed men as they were withdrawing from the main target area.
De Lima did not reveal the names of the 90 individuals, saying she is yet to review the 224-page report done by a special investigation team composed of representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National Prosecution Service (NPS), both of which are under the DOJ.
She, however, promised to go public with the names of the 90 would-be respondents on Monday.
The NPS team is composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera, Irwin Maraya, Gino Paolo Santiago, Jocelyn Dugay and Ethel Rea Suri while the NBI component is led by NBI Deputy Director for Regional Operations Service Edward Villarta.
What made the DOJ report different from the others is the inclusion of sworn statements from independent witnesses.
At least four investigation reports have surfaced—from the PNP-Board of Inquiry, the MILF Special Investigation Committee, the Senate Committee on Public Order and the International Monitoring Team. A joint panel report from the House of Representatives is expected to be released anytime soon.
“We have third-party eyewitnesses who saw what really happened in Barangay Tukanalipao, including a vital witness, alias ‘Marathon,’ who gave a positive identification of those involved,” de Lima said.
She added that “Marathon” is now under the custody of the DOJ Witness Protection Program.
The probe team was given an extra 60 days to further investigate the death of nine SAF troops who died in an armed clash in Barangay Pinsandawan where Marwan was killed.
The second phase of the investigation will cover incidents involving civilians who got caught in the crossfire, de Lima said.
It will also include the killing of MILF members by Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan, the lone survivor of the Tukanalipao gunfight.
“We hope the MILF will cooperate and give us access to witnesses,” de Lima said.