MANILA (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court has yet to act on a motion
filed a year ago seeking to transfer to Manila the trial of suspects in the bloody Mamasapano clash that left 44 elite police commandos dead exactly three years ago.
In a case status update released Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said the high court has not acted on 2 requests filed last year to move the trial venue from Cotabato to Manila.
The justice department said it first requested for the transfer on Jan. 12, 2017 and reiterated the request again on Dec. 7, 2017.
"To date, the Supreme Court has not resolved the prosecution’s request for the transfer of venue of the case from Cotabato City to Metro Manila,” the department said in a status report.
Speaking to DZMM on Thursday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the request for transfer was filed to address security concerns, which have made it "practically impossible" for witnesses to testify.
"Siguro magfa-file na naman ako ng another one (motion)... Talaga pong di uusad 'pag hindi natin na-transfer ang venue from Mindanao to Manila," he said.
(I may need to file another motion. The case will not progress if we fail to transfer the venue from Mindanao to Manila.)
Maguindanao is a stronghold of Moro rebels, 88 of whom were tagged in the killing policemen from the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) during an anti-terror operation exactly 3 years ago.
The case involves 35 counts of direct assault with murder against the accused.
A joint Senate committee report earlier said former President Benigno Aquino III was ''ultimately responsible'' for the botched mission to neutralize Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman.
The two were killed in the operation, but an ensuing firefight left SAF members, several rebels and civilians dead.
Aquino, however, had insisted the bloodbath was not his fault, pinning the blame instead on former SAF director Getulio Napeñas who allegedly lied to him and disobeyed orders.
"Hindi pababayaan ng administrasyong ito, hanggang makamit nila (families of SAF troopers) ang katarungan," Aguirre vowed.
(This administration will not stop until the families of SAF troopers get justice.)
The Philippines on Thursday is commemorating the fallen SAF troopers in a National Day of Remembrance. -- with a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News