MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice will conduct a parallel probe on the January 25 encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that killed 44 commandos from the Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and 17 rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In an ambush interview with reporters on Tuesday, February 2, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the probe’s creation was at the instruction of President Benigno Aquino III.
“What I can confirm today is indeed the instruction of the President to the DOJ to undertake case build-up and prepare the appropriate or necessary criminal charges against those maybe identified or determined to be responsible doon sa nangyari,” De Lima said.
The probe will be a joint investigation between the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National Prosecution Service (NPS).
De Lima added that the justice deparment will be allowed to gather evidence to assist in building the cases.
The operation, called a “misencounter” by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, was intended to arrest terrorists Abdulbasit Usman and Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as “Marwan.”
In a radio interview yesterday, De Lima released the names of 13 commanders from the MILF and the BIFF that the justice department internded to charge. She said her office is collating reports and gathering evidence.
“The names of the suspects came out based on the testimonies of witnesses residing near the encounter site who were interviewed by the authorities,” De Lima said in the interview in Cotabato.
The probe’s members will be coordinating with the the PNP’s board of inquiry, now in the process of conducting its own investigation.
De Lima said Tuesday that the NBI, under the DOJ, will be gathering evidence that will be later evaluated by state prosecutors as to determine what charges should be filed. Charges may include, among others, multiple murder and homicide.
Aquino had earlier ordered the DOJ to file appropriate charges against the perpetrators.
There is no specific deadline for the DOJ probe. De Lima said “the president is not fond of giving a deadline.”
What matters, she said, is accuracy.
Several investigative probes have been announced in the days after the deadly clash.
The MILF has convened its own probe following its initial announcement that the encounter was prompted by the MILF’s attempt at self-defense.
MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said the team, composed of the rebels’ central committee as well as the general staff of their armed wing, have been told to produce a report “as soon as possible.”
“Our concern is the truth. There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland,” Murad said.
The Senate will also be conducting hearings, and has announced its intention to include suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.
The hearing is scheduled for February 4, and will be heard by the committees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and Peace, Unification and Reconciliation. – Rappler.com
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