MANILA, Philippines – Almost 3 months after a bloody police operation that claimed the lives of 67, including 44 elite cops, the first criminal charges will soon be filed in court, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday, April 16.
In a press conference, De Lima presented to media the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Prosecution Service’s joint report on “Oplan Exodus,” a January 25 Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF)-operation against two top terrorists.
De Lima, however, said she will have to review the report first before charges can be filed or before it is released to the public. A copy of the 224-page report will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III by Friday, April 17, De Lima added.
The justice secretary told reporters she expects to finish reviewing the report by Monday, April 20.
“As soon as the report is out and granting that I’m approving all of the recommendations, especially the filing of charges then I will direct them to file charges,” said De Lima.
But based on the summary of the report, some 90 fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups (PAGs) may face charges for the death of the 35 members of the SAF’s Special Action Company (SAC).
The 55th SAC was the main blocking force of the operation, whose members saw themselves surrounded by enemy fire in the cornfields of Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
All but one member of the company died during the encounter. Based on the testimony of the lone survivor and an investigation by the PNP’s Board of Inquiry, the 55th SAC had no cover and barely enough concealment when they were being fired at from all directions. (READ: Napeñas assured SAF troops of artillery, had no ‘abort’ option)
The report was limited to charges against those responsible for the deaths of the 55th since the NBI and NPS team has yet to find 3rd party eyewitnesses to testify on the deaths of the 9 members of the SAF’s 84th Seaborne Company, the 5 civilians, and 18 MILF fighters. (Editor’s note: The MILF, in its own report, says 17 of its men were killed)
De Lima said she is giving the team 2 more months to investigate what happened to the rest of the casualties of “Oplan Exodus.” – Rappler.com