MANILA, Philippines (Update) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) opposed the motion filed by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to lower the bail of the 38 alleged members of the Sultanate of Sulu’s Royal Security Force (RSF) to P3,000 per charge, Tawi-Tawi Clerk of Court Rino Sajili told Rappler.
Tawi-Tawi acting Judge Peter Esma instructed both parties on Monday, March 25, to submit a memorandum in 5 days. PAO should explain why a P3,000-bail is justified. DOJ should explain why it is not.
“The prosecution opposed the P3,000 [bail]. They were asked to submit position papers before the court decides on the motion,” Sajili said.
While the motion for the reduction of bail is pending, Acosta said the court granted PAO’s motion for reinvestigation.
The 38 are facing charges of illegal possession of firearms, violation of election gun ban, and inciting to war.
The charges are all bailable but the 38 need to pay a total of P6.2 million – according to PAO chief Percida Acosta – in order to be released. It’s an amount that she said they cannot afford.
P3-K is too low?
Sajili said Region 9 prosecutor Peter Medalle argued during the hearing that the requested amount of P3,000 is too low.
PAO was represented by Western Mindanao public attorney Edgardo Gonzales.
If the reduced bail is eventually approved, each of the accused RSF members will have to pay P9,000 for the 3 charges. This is the amount their families can afford, said Acosta.
The 38 are currently detained at a naval facility in Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi. The 38 were arrested in two batches – the first batch of 35 intercepted by the Philippine Navy and the second batch of 3 intercepted by the Philippine Coast Guard.
PAO Chief Percida Acosta herself visited them in Panglima Sugala to interview them. She told reporters the P3,000 bail is justified because most of them are jobless. She said they are “indigents.”
Watch interviews last week with Acosta and Provincial police director Joselito Salido below:
Sulu Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani earlier confirmed that 22 of the 38 arrested in Tawi-Tawi belong to their Royal Security Force. (Read: DOJ to file charges vs 38 Kiram followers)
They sailed to Lahad Datu sometime in February to stake the claim of the Sultanate of Sulu on Sabah. Malaysia claims as of Saturday, March 23, a total of 62 of the RSF men have been killed since the standoff between the RSF and Malaysian security forces.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development also recorded over 3,000 evacuees from Sabah. Most of them fear that the crackdown on Filipinos there will worsen because of the standoff.
No judge in court
The court has not scheduled the next hearing.
The Public Attorney’s Office filed the motion Monday last week, March 18. But the hearing was scheduled only on Monday because there’s no judge in Tawi-Tawi.
Esma is a full-time judge in Zamboanga City. He is only serving as acting judge in Tawi-Tawi. He holds hearings twice a week there.
The daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III wrote PAO to request for legal assistance to all detained followers in Tawi-Tawi and Sabah. – Rappler.com
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