The prosecutor's office in Marawi City released 27 men arrested on Tuesday for carrying high-powered firearms.
The men were detained by the 65th Infantry Battalion when they found 17 different kinds of firearms and ammunition in their vehicles.
The men had been charged with rebellion, violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, and illegal possession of firearms.
But on Thursday, the Marawi City prosecutor filed a resolution ordering the dismissal of all charges against 11 of the respondents, citing “lack of probable cause.”
The firearms were discovered during a checkpoint inspection, which was done after intelligence reports revealed a group of armed men were on their way to Lanao del Sur.
The men introduced themselves as members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Commander Abs Amerol of the MNLF National Unified Command said the group was on its way to rescue the kidnapped child of Commander Abullazis Amenoden. Amenoden was among the 27 arrested.
"Na-kidnap yung anak niya. And dahil sa tinawagan siya na papatayin yung anak niya, napilitan lang siyang maghawak ng baril para i-rescue yung anak niya," said Amerol, describing the intentions of Amenoden's group.
(His child was kidnapped. Because he was told that his child was going to be killed, he was forced to carry guns and rescue his kid.)
Amerol said the men weren't plotting an attack nor did their movement have anything to do with Islamic State-linked Maute group, which has its stronghold in Lanao del Sur.
"Problema lang, hindi siya nag-coordinate sa mga authorities. Kaya yun ang nangyari. Hindi ito isang panggugulo o any provocation action. Walang kinalaman yan sa Maute Group," Amerol said.
(The problem is, he did not coordinate with authorities. So this is what happened. This is not a provocation. This has nothing to do with the Maute group.)
Brigadier General Roseller Murillo, commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, to which the 65th Infantry Battalion is attached, said the military was skeptical about the group’s story.
"Hindi excuse iyon. Kasi nakaka-alarma yung dami ng baril na nakuha natin, saka yung dami ng tao," he said.
(This is not an excuse. The number of firearms and people were alarming.)
Six vehicles were shuttling the men and weapons, soldiers said, but two managed to escape the checkpoint. Murillo said they will investigate to verify the men’s reasons for transporting arms.
The men and the firearms were turned over to the Lanao del Sur provincial police office. The MNLF attempted to get the firearms back, but police Sr. Supt. Datumama Mokalid, Lanao del Sur police director said they could not simply give the arms back.
A release order was signed on Thursday for the following:
- Abdul Mohaimen L. Dipatuan
- Ameroden D. Padate
- Aminoding B. Macaangga
- Januding P. Laguindab
- Abdul Raof Rachman
- Acmad Sarip
- Hanik Rachman
- Khalid Gumpat
- Fahad Abunawas
- Jam Ismael
- Abdul Calik Abonawas
The same resolution also recommended the release for further investigation of the 16 other men:
- Abdulazis Amenoden
- Asnawi Maguidala
- Nur N. Macaadel
- Bonsor Adap
- Saidali D. Saanodin
- Mahid B. Abdulcader
- Bubong Garoda
- H. Yusph H. Rakim
- Nasroding Macapode
- Basarudin M. Pantao
- Salman B. Diacat
- Dimasira D. Motilan
- Jamael M. Galman
- Husain M. Saifoden
- Nasser Macapanton
- Abdul N. Panandigan
Careful evaluation of the documents attached to the complaint revealed that they did not properly establish who among the respondents had actual possession of each firearm confiscated, the resolution read.
It was signed by associate city prosecutor Nadjer D. Pinatara, assistant city prosecutors Hashreen T. Caudang-Lucman and Sittie Aleah C. Macagaan, and approved by city prosecutor Alijas S. Colong.