The Department of Justice is expected to release today (Friday) its resolution on the criminal charges against 90 commanders and members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups implicated in the death of Special Action Force commandos during the Mamasapano clash in January last year.
Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas made the announcement following successive delays in the resolution on the complex crime of direct assault with murder complaint that the National Bureau of Investigation filed against 90 MILFs, BIFFs and PAGs over the killing of 35 SAF operatives during the encounter.
Caparas earlier attributed the delays to certain “sensitivities” in the case that could affect the government’s peace agreement with MILF.
In fact, the Justice secretary said there were still “ongoing developments.” He did not elaborate.
A DOJ insider revealed that the government was in talks with the MILF and decided not to release the resolution on the Mamasapano case so as not to offend the rebel group.
The DOJ concluded the preliminary investigation in January, but has since not released its resolution.
The PI took almost one year to be completed with only four of 90 respondents able to answer the charges.
The DOJ chief has also said they are aware of the cry for justice of the families of the slain SAF men.
Of the 90 respondents, only four submitted counter-affidavits and denied the charges: alleged MILF field commander Pendatun Utek Makakua, who denied the charges and claimed to be a farmer; MustaphaTatak, a barangay chairman in Sapakan, Mamasapano; and civilians Lakiman Dawaling and Khalim Keda, who were accused of being field commanders of MILF involved in the killing of the 35 SAF men in Brgy.Tukanalipao.
Facing the DOJ probe are 13 commanders of MILF and six commanders of BIFF. But the names of the respondents were not made public so as to prevent them from evading possible prosecution.
They 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 BIFFcommanders and have been placed under witness protection program.
The viral videos of the encounter that circulated in social media sites also helped in the investigation and that their sources have been traced.
Based on the results of the investigation, 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 Brgy. Tukanalipao.
In October last year, the fact-finding team has released its second report involving the cases of the nine other slain commandos from the 84th SAF company in Brgy. Pidsandawan as well as the five civiliansand 18 MILF fighters who were also killed during the clash. No one was charged because probers failed to secure witnesses to identify the killers.