ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The government is preparing rebellion charges against followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari who have attacked and shut down Zamboanga City for 10 days now.
"Seventy have been formally charged under inquest proceedings. This act is still continuing. Additional names may be included under the information until everybody has been impleaded," said deputy regional state prosecutor Peter Medalle on Wednesday, September 17.
Medalle said Justice Secretary Leila De Lima issued Department Order No. 636 designating a special panel of prosecutors to handle the inquest and preliminary investigation of the cases against the city's attackers.
Inquest procedure has started and the prosecutor's office has "resolved to file" charges against a number of the 70 MNLF currently detained. They are still collecting evidence to charge the others.
"These will be filed by our office as soon as the courts and the office of the prosecution are open," Medalle said.
Another batch of 23 MNLF forces surrendered to Zamboanga City police chief Senior Supt Juan Chiquito Malayo on Tuesday evening. This brings to 93 the total of MNLF rebels in government custody.
Based on government estimates, there are about 50 MNLF rebels remaining in the "areas of interest." Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala Jr said the rebels are contained to 30% of the original battle zone. He said the remaining 30% is a challenge because it is a "built up" area.
Climaco's call for justice
Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle "Beng" Climaco Salazar stressed that she wants cases filed against the rebels.
"I want a long-term solution [from] this probe. I cannot allow the repeat of any of this nor the repeat of the 2001 Cabatangan experience," she said. She was referring to a similar standoff where the military allowed the rebels to escape in exchange for the safety of the hostages.
"I stand firm with President PNoy's pronouncement that charges shall be filed and justice shall be claimed for those whose lives are wasted in this atrocity. Let perpetrators go to jail and never be allowed to go back to our city," she said.
Affidavits of hostages
Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II said, aside from rebellion, the MNLF members will also face charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms, among other additional crimes.
"An additional charge will be violation of Republic Act 9851 or the International Humanitarian Law. They used civilians as human shield," Roxas said.
Police Gen Francisco A. Uyami Jr of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group said they will use affidavits executed by the released hostages as evidence against the rebels.
"We are using these statements [and] crime lab results," said Uyami.
The Philippine National Police said it has collected 159 sworn affidavits to strengthen government's case against the rebels that shut down Zamboanga City.
Medalle said key witnesses against the MNLF rebels may also avail of the witness protection program if they are afraid. – Rappler.com