MANILA, Philippines - Eight suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) under Raddulan Sahiron were positively identified by two of their alleged captives in a hearing conducted at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.
Jumlie Orie, Jul Ahmad Ahadi Julman, Arabi Muin Ladja, Sonny Boy Barahim, Abdulwahab Hamja, Mujibar Alih Aman, Julhasan Jaani, and Absar Mangkabang Asim were positively identified by alleged victims alias "Maria" and "Juan."
"Maria" was among a group of 6 Jehovah's Witnesses abducted in Patikul, Sulu on Aug. 20, 2002 by Sahiron's group . Her husband, Leonel, was later beheaded by their captors. Another victim, Lemuel Bantolo, was also beheaded.
"Juan," meantime, was allegedly abducted by the bandits in a separate incident but his group was merged with that of the Jehovah's Witnesses'.
The hearing at the DOJ was part of a reinvestigation into the case ordered by Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 266 Judge Torinio Ilao, Jr. It was the DOJ that formally sought a reinvestigation last October 19 following numerous complaints and motions from the accused claiming they had been arbitrarily arrested, with some of the accused claiming their names were not found in the arrest warrants.
"It's an unusual move for the DOJ to move for reinvestigation but we did it in the interest of justice... Obviously, may pagkakamali na nangyari," said Senior Assistant State Prosecutor (SASP) Peter Ong, vice-chairman of the DOJ Anti-terrorism Task Force.
In the case of accused Kumander Black Tungkang, two people were arrested, the panel bared. A reward money of P3.3 million is reportedly being claimed for the arrest of one of the two.
Twenty-one respondents attended the hearing. They were made to line up by batch in front of the victims who were made to identify their captors.
"Maria" and "Juan" pointed to the 8 and narrated each of their alleged participation in their abduction. Neither of the two pointed to any of the two Kumander Black Tungkangs.
Based on the victims' testimony, Aman allegedly took care of the ASG's budget, stood guard to prevent the victims from escaping, and allegedly urged "Maria" to pick any of his colleagues to marry. Aman denied the allegations, claiming that "Maria" was not even his "type."
Jaani was identified by "Maria" as one of two men who beheaded her husband. She also said he served as one of their guards.
He, however, claimed innocence, insisting he was an assistant imam at the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom). He also claimed former WesMinCom Commanding General Benjamin Dolorfino personally knew him.
The rest of the accused allegedly helped guard the victims and served food to their comrades. Some were also identified as the ones who brought live ammunition to the bandit group.
All 8 denied what "Maria" and "Juan" said.
The DOJ reinvestigating panel is composed of Asst. State Prosecutors (ASP) Mary Jane Sytat, Josie Christina Dugay, Marmarie Satin-Vivas, and Benito Sales.
The panel terminated the reinvestigation and vowed to resolved the case within the 60-day period mandated by the rules.
There a total of 135 accused in the kidnapping case.