MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday, September 22, filed criminal complaints against 90 individuals over the bloody January 25 firefight between elite cops and rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Included in the complaint for the complex crime of direct assault with murder were 26 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), 12 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and 52 others who were either unaffiliated or from private armed groups.
The move comes 5 months after a report came out in April recommending charges against at least 90 individuals for the bloody Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF)-operation against two top terrorists.
In a press conference, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima explained that investigators needed to prepare supporting evidence and validate sworn statements by witnesses, especially when it came to identifying the affiliations of the respondents.
"We could not just take hook, line, and sinker the word of the witnesses that this person is from the MILF, this one is from BIFF," she said.
Based on interviews with witnesses, close to a thousand individuals participated in the attack against the 35 members of the SAF’s Special Action Company (SAC), the NBI-National Prosecution Service Special Investigation Team said.
The 90 respondents included in the complaint now filed with the National Prosecution Service were identified by 5 eyewitnesses.
Members of the 55th SAC were surrounded by enemy fire in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. All but one member of the company died. (READ: Napeñas assured SAF troops of artillery, had no 'abort' option)
De Lima, however, clarified that the complaint covers only the deaths of the 35 SAC troopers.
"These cases don't include the deaths of 9 commandos from the SAF's 84th Seaborne Company, because we couldn't find witnesses. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 9 commandos will be included in part two of the investigation," De Lima said.
The justice secretary refused to name the respondents, pending the issuance of subpoenas.
"If we announce it now even before the service of the subpoena, we might not be able to find any of them...It's very hard to trace the suspects, but we will exhaust all possible means to serve the subpoenas," she said.
On January 25, a police operation to neutralize Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir resulted in an hours-long firefight between SAF troopers and fighters from the MILF and BIFF. (READ: TIMELINE: Mamasapano clash)
The bloody clash killed 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF rebels, and 5 civilians. – Rappler.com