MANILA - The Department of Justice is recommending the release of 18 persons charged with the abduction of 6 members of the Jejovah's Witnesses on Aug. 20, 2002 in the southern Philippine island of Sulu for not being the same persons charged in the information filed in court, and for lack of probable cause.
In an 11-page resolution dated Jan. 10 but made available to the media only on Thursday, the DOJ, through Assistant State Prosecutors Marmarie Satin-Vivas, Benito Oliver Sales, Josie Christina Dugay, and Mary Jane Systat, recommended the release of suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members Ustadz Ahmadsali Asmad Badron, Hajer Arasani, Jammal Sawaban, Robin Sahiyal, Alton Ladhalaam, Edwin Siarot Sawaldi, Mohammad Said Sali, Adzhar Nawali, Abdullan Hussih Abdullah Ussih, George Nami, Jeheri Jeron, and Manny Ismael for not being the same persons charged in court.
Jumlie Orie, Jul Ahmad Ahadi, Arabi Sali, Sonny Boy Barakim, and Abdulwahab Hamja were also recommended released from detention for lack of probable cause.
"[T]here appears to be no proof of their participation in the kidnapping, much less evidence of their purported membership in the ASG," the resolution read, in reference to Badron, Arasani, Sawaban, Sahiyal, Ladhalaam, Sawaldi, Sali, Nawali, Ussih, Jeron, Nami, and Ismael.
As far as Ahadi, Sali, Barakim, and Hamja are concerned, the DOJ said that while they "'may' be members of the ASG, there is no sufficient evidence that they participated, in any capacity, in the kidnapping."
"In every criminal prosecution, the prosecution must prove two things: (1) the commission of the crime, and (2) the identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Cursory identification does not suffice to convict the accused.
"What is needed is positive identification made with moral certainty as to the person of the offender," the resolution read.
During a reinvestigation conducted by the DOJ in December last year, 2 witnesses, both part of the abducted group, only positively identified 3 of the 20 accused.
Amily Mantec and Rolland Ulla positively identified accused Mujibar Alih Amon, Julhasan A. Jaani, and Absar/Mansar Mangkobang Asim.
"These 3 participated, one way or another, in the kidnapping of the 6 members of the Jehovah's witnesses," the resolution read.
Most of those ordered released from detention were arrested and detained in between 2010 and 2012, except for Ismael, who was arrested in 2004.
Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, DOJ Anti-terrorism Task Force chairman, Senior Asst. State Prosecutor Peter Ong, Vice-chairman, and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano approved the panel's recommendations.