Malacañang on Thursday vowed an impartial and thorough investigation of the criminal charges against 90 commanders and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsa¬moro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups (PAGs) reportedly involved in the death of Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos during the Mamasapano clash last January 25.
According to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., the Aquino administration is firmly committed to upholding the rule of law without fear or favor.
“Paiiralin ang proseso ng batas sa patas at makatuwirang paraan [Let the legal process prevail in a fair and reasonable way],” Coloma told the media in a text message.
Some 90 commanders and members of MILF, BIFF and PAGs have been summoned by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to a preliminary investigation hearing next month to answer complaints of direct assault with murder and theft filed against them by a government fact-finding team last month.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said hearings for the preliminary investigation have been set for November 11 and 27, both at 10 a.m. at the Justice department’s executive lounge.
According to Arellano, a subpoena for the MILF respondents was served through the MILF leadership and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
A subpoena for respondents from BIFF and PAGs, on the other hand, was served through Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan.
The DOJ panel is headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rosanne Balauag with Assistant State Prosecutors Aldrin Evangelista, Benito Oliver Sales 3rd, Rasssendell Rex Gingoyon and Alexander Suarez as members.
The preliminary investigation hearing will determine if there exists probable cause to warrant filing of the charges of direct assault with murder and theft against the respondents.
Facing the DOJ probe are 13 commanders of the MILF and six commanders of the BIFF.
But the names of the respondents were not made public so as to prevent them from evading possible prosecution.
The respondents were accused of acting “in conspiracy with one another to attack, employ force, seriously intimidate or resist the 35 SAF commandos, who were uniformed police officers and, thus persons in authority.”
The fact-finding team of prosecutors and National Bureau of Investigation agents based the report on accounts of eyewitnesses—including alias Marathon—who identified the liable MILF and BIFF commanders and have been placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Based on results of the probe, the killings of the SAF commandos appeared to be “spontaneous and not an institutional act of the MILF.”
The charges covered the cases of 35 slain SAF men who belonged to the 55th SAF company that engaged MILF and BIFF fighters and PAGs in the cornfields of Barangay Tukanalipao.