SC approves Aguirre’s request to transfer Maute cases to Taguig

Lian Buan
SC approves Aguirre’s request to transfer Maute cases to Taguig
Petitioners, meanwhile, urge the Supreme Court to still decide on petitions asking that Congress convene to discuss the merits of Duterte's martial law proclamation

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday, July 18, approved the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to transfer the prosecution, detention, and trial of all Maute Group-related cases from Cagayan de Oro City to Taguig City.

“[The SC] designated the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region stationed in Taguig City, instead of the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City, to speedily act on all prosecutions and incidents arising from the violent incidents in Marawi City involving the Maute Group,” SC Spokesman Theodore Te said in a news briefing on Tuesday.

It was Aguirre’s second request to the SC, which had turned him down the first time and designated Cagayan de Oro instead of Aguirre’s preference to assign a court in Luzon or in the Visayas.

Those held in detention for alleged rebellion will now be transferred to the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig. Suspects were previously detained at the military headquarters at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro.

Aguirre earlier said they have started preparations to train at least 30 prosecutors for the expected marathon trial of members of the Maute Group who will be charged with rebellion.

No decision on joint session

Tuesday was the last time the SC would meet en banc before the expiration of the 60-day period of martial law in Mindanao on Saturday, July 22. 

Petitioners who wanted the SC to compel Congress to convene and tackle the merits of the martial law declaration had ideally wanted a resolution to be issued on Tuesday.

Congress will be convening on Saturday to debate on President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao.

But for former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, one of the petitioners, Saturday’s joint session does not mean their petitions should no longer be resolved.

“SC should still decide to make it permanent and place it on record as jurisprudence,” Hilbay said on Twitter.

Hilbay and his co-petitioners want the SC to clarify the guidelines, especially on whether or not the Senate and the House of Representatives must convene the first time that a president declares martial law.

Congress had not convened to tackle Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216Instead the Senate and the House passed separate resolutions supporting the proclamation. The SC, in a landmark ruling, also upheld Duterte’s proclamation in a vote of 11-3-1. (READ: SC ruling: Duterte can put ‘entire PH’ under martial law)

“The Court can still decide regardless of the expiration of the 60-day period, but the best time to decide is now. If the President decides to extend the proclamation or decides to proclaim anew, it becomes more problematic for the SC because you’re deciding a live case,” Hilbay told reporters last Friday, July 14, after his group filed a manifestation before the court seeking faster resolution of their petition.

Earlier on Tuesday in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s letter to Congress requests for an extension of martial law in Mindanao to 5 more months or up until December 31, 2017. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.