​Mamasapano: ​​Panel to do initial probe of MILF, BIFF, other armed groups

MANILA, Philippines – The justice department on Tuesday, October 6, ​ formed the panel of prosecutors that will conduct the preliminary probe into criminal complaints filed against members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups

In a one-page ​resolution, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano directed ​5 prosecutors to​ look into the case of 90 ​persons ​charged with theft and the “complex crimes of direct assault with murder” leading to the deaths of 35 police commandos in a firefight in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015. 

The National Bureau of Investigation​ has ​charged Abdul Wahab and 89 others with the murder of 35 of 36 members of the 55th Special Action Company of the Philippine National Police.

The 55th SAC, under Operation Exodus, had been ordered to serve as the blocking force for the main force of the 84th Seaborne. The failed plan sought to neutralize high-value terrorists thought to be hiding deep in Mamasapano.

One of the wanted men, bombmaker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was said to have been shot and killed by the main effort inside his hut in the village of Pidsandawan in Mamasapano.

Arellano also instructed the panel to “file the appropriate information with the court of competent jurisdiction” if proven necessary by the investigation.

The panel, to be led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rosanne Balauag, includes Assistant State Prosecutors Aldrin Villanueva, Benito Oliver Sales III, Rassendell Rex Gingoyon and Alexander Suarez.

Authorities earlier included theft to the charges, claiming that non-government forces stripped the commandos of equipment including firearms, communication and navigation devices, night vision goggles, as well as cellular phones and wallets.

No implications

Eyewitness testimony added to the weight of evidence against the 90 respondents. One witness, codenamed “Marathon” and now under the DOJ’s ​Witness ​Protection Program, identified a number of the accused.

Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima also attributed earlier findings to a number of online videos of the actual encounter, adding that the DOJ had already traced the sources of the amateur footage.

De Lima also brushed off the possibility the investigation would affect the already derailed peace process between the MILF and the national government. She instead emphasized her belief that the rebel group would cooperate with authorities during the legal process, adding that the accused could be summoned to proceedings in the DOJ. – Rappler.com​