Mamasapano tragedy: NBI files charges vs MILF, BIFF, armed groups

MANILA, Philippines – Almost 6 months after a bloody police operation resulted in the deaths of 44 elite cops, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed charges against more than 100 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs) on Wednesday, July 15.

NBI recommended the individuals to be charged with “direct assault with murder” for the killing of 35 members of the 55th Special Action Company of the Philippine National Police Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF).

The NBI report also noted that the people involved committed theft for taking the firearms, gear, and personal belongings of the slain SAF commandos.

Among those charged were MILF commanders Ben Tikaw, Makku Tikaw, and Salik Kikuk; and from its breakaway group, BIFF commanders Mer Amilil and Muslimin Gumanding Amilil.

The investigators determined 97 others as elements of MILF, BIFF, and PAGs.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said that the investigators had not found 3rd-party witnesses for the investigation into the deaths of the 9 other SAF commandos.

The report from the NBI and the National Prosecution Service special investigation team (NBI-NPS SIT) was based on “eyewitness accounts, forensic examinations, and other evidence gathered.”

The probers also anchored their complaint on the testimony of a witness, identified only as “Marathon,” who named commanders from the MILF and BIFF as having been involved in the killing of the 35 SAF commandos.

DOJ released last April its report on “Oplan Exodus,” a SAF mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman, and Amin Baco alias “Johan” in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on January 25.

The MILF also released its version of the investigation last March and recommended filing charges against SAF survivor Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan for allegedly committing war crimes and human rights violations.

They have also accused the police SAF of firing the first shots and that their group also sustained 18 casualties.

The MILF, which has signed a peace agreement with the government, has denied responsibility for the clash and claimed self-defense after investigating the bloodbath.

De Lima said that the special investigation team is expected to release this month the second part of its probe into the Mamasapano clash.

They were originally given until June to complete the second part of its investigation, but De Lima later gave the team a one-month extension. – Rappler.com