DOJ resolution on Mamasapano clash out 'in 3 to 4 weeks'

MANILA, Philippines – A day after the Senate reopened its investigation on 2015's bloody Mamasapano encounter, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, January 28, said that its resolution on the case will be out in a month.

Acting DOJ Secretary Emmanuel Caparas said it would take at least 3 to 4 weeks for prosecutors to decide whether there is probable cause to indict 90 individuals who are facing criminal complaints for their participation in the firefight between elite Special Action Forces (SAF) troopers and rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

“The preliminary investigation has already been concluded and it’s left to our prosecutors to go over everything that’s been gathered and come up with a resolution of that case. Please expect us to resolve that or have our resolution on that matter. Give us about three to four weeks to be able to do that," Caparas said.

In September 2015, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a complaint for the complex crime of direct assault with murder against 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 90 respondents are accused of killing 35 members of the SAF's Special Action Company, the "blocking force" of the police operation that aimed to neutralize Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan, on January 25, 2015.

During the covert police operation, a firefight erupted between SAF troopers and fighters from the MILF and BIFF. The clashes killed at least 5 civilians, 18 MILF fighters, and 44 SAF troopers. (READ: TIMELINE: Mamasapano clash)

In October 2015, the DOJ released its second report on the Mamasapano clash, but said no cases can be filed over the deaths of the 9 troopers from the SAF's 84th Seaborne Company because there were no witnesses who could identify the suspects.

Earlier, the DOJ prosecution panel wrapped up the preliminary investigation on the case, after 4 of the 90 respondents submitted their counter-affidavits.

The 4 respondents were Pendatun Utek Makakua, Mustapha Tatak, Lakiman Dawaling, and Khalim Keda.

More than a year since the bloodbath, families of the slain victims are still waiting for justice. Caparas appealed to the public to give the prosecutors more time to come up with a resolution, considering the number of respondents involved in the "very sensitive case."

The clash was not only one of the biggest controversies to hit the Aquino administration, it also threatened the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the result of peace talks between the MILF and the government.

“You are talking about the many witnesses, you are talking about several defendants, and when you put that all together you sum it all up. An investigation like that can take a very long time.... We know it is a very sensitive case and we are doing our best to make sure that it is not handled only swiftly but properly,” Caparas said.

The DOJ chief's statement comes after the Senate reopened its probe on the controversial police operation. After a 7-hour hearing on Wednesday, however, Senator Grace Poe said her committee would not revise its report on the Mamasapano encounter. –