59 men suspected to be Maute rebels released

Lian Buan

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59 men suspected to be Maute rebels released

Bobby Lagsa

State prosecutors dismiss complaint of rebellion against 59 Muslim men in Zamboanga City

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed on Friday, September 1, that 59 individuals arrested in Zamboanga in July on suspicions of being Maute rebels have been released.

DOJ State Prosecutors dismissed the rebellion complaints against them.

“Panel members Prosecutors Peter Ong, Sonny Ocampo and Aris Reyes issued a resolution dismissing the charges that the 59 respondents were Maute rebels,” Justice Undersecretary Antonio Kho Jr said on Friday.

The DOJ has yet to provide media a copy of the prosecutors’ resolution.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the 59, mostly young Muslim men, were apprehended by police and military troops in Zamboanga City after a witness said they were going to be trained and deployed to Marawi City to reinforce the Maute rebels there.

“It is clear that respondents were not committing the crime of rebellion or any crime at the time of their arrests,” the prosecutors said in their resolution according to the AP report.

 (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military)

The 59 have undergone preliminary investigation at the DOJ headquarters in Manila, where they said they were promised training but not to help Maute rebels, but to eventually join the military and police forces.

They said they were only hoping to find work.

“We fully respect the decision and will abide by it. It also shows the military is fully compliant with the provisions set forth in our Constitution regarding Martial Law and on the continued jurisdiction of our civil courts on cases we file,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told Rappler in a text message.

“That is how our justice system is supposed to work. The innocent will be set free. They have nothing to fear as they are protected by law,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana added.

The crisis in Marawi City is on its 102nd day but the military said it has made big gains in taking back the city from the Maute terror group, which has linked itself with the Islamic State (ISIS).

On the 100th day, military allowed members of media to cross Mapandi Bridge which the government forces now control. It is a symbolic act as Mapandi was once held by Maute rebels and separated the safe zone from the battle area. Government troops said the number of rebels have dwindled to less than a hundred. Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.