MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said over 100 people face indictments for the Mamasapano clash.
“There is a case being filed for the death of the members of SAF 55th (Company). There is over a hundred that will be indicted. We will be meeting probably next week to get the specifics,” Aquino told Inquirer editors and journalists during a round table discussion.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier recommended that 90 individuals be criminally charged over the bloody January 25 clash.
The cases only involve the deaths of 35 members of the SAF, who belong to the 55th company which served as a blocking force for the assault team, the 84th Seaborne, which lost 9 men.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had said the second part of the government probe covers the alleged involvement of elements of the US government, the alleged killing of three civilians by PO2 Christopher Lalan, as well as the killing of 9 members of the 84th Seaborne.
In July, a supposed transmittal letter to the DOJ approving the preliminary investigation for the complex crime of direct assault with murder against 102 individuals, including three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and two Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) commanders, was leaked.
A Philippine Star report quoted a source as saying that the number of respondents in the case was raised from 90 to 102 after several names of respondents were overlooked.
De Lima later denied the existence of the transmittal letter.
Scored for not mentioning the Mamasapano clash in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino admitted that many questions surrounding that fateful day remain unanswered.
The President said the government is currently threshing out various accounts that led to the deaths of 44 elite policemen at the hands of MILF forces and other lawless elements.
”There is an alternative version of events that happened there which is undergoing intense scrutiny. We are looking for witnesses who will prove or disprove certain observations,” Aquino said.
Aquino also lamented that government investigators are having difficulty getting witnesses. The DOJ has in its custody a certain “Marathon,”, who allegedly knows the events that led to the deaths of the 44 elite cops.
Public and legislative support for the Palace and MILF-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law suffered following the January 25 clash, even as the elite cops managed to kill their target, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Lawmakers questioned the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process, vowing to make the proposed law free of provisions that they believe could be exploited by the MILF.
In the wake of the January 25 bloodbath, some lawmakers and critics of the BBL feared that the proposed law will be used by the MILF as an instrument for secession. The role of third-party facilitator Malaysia was also questioned because the latter has a long-standing territorial dispute with the Philippines over Sabah.
Lawmakers also vowed to make the proposed law compliant with the Constitution, citing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain experience (MOA-AD).
The MOA-AD was a product of the peace talks between the MILF and the Arroyo administration which was struck down by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.