MANILA - The Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) has recommended to move from Cotabato City to Metro Manila the trial of 88 individuals tagged in the killing of 35 of 44 elite police commandos slain in the bloody January 25, 2015 anti-terror raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
ABS-CBN News learned Friday that Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, citing security reasons, had recommended the grant of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request for the transfer.
The DOJ made the request in a letter, dated January 12, 2017, addressed to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The court en banc has yet to resolve the matter after receiving OCA’s recommendation on Thursday, exactly three years since the Mamasapano bloodbath.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had said on the day of the commemoration that the High Court had yet to act a year since he made the request.
Aguirre had cited security concerns in seeking the transfer, saying it was "practically impossible" for witnesses to testify if hearings would continue to be held in Cotabato City.
The case involves 35 counts of direct assault with murder against members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs) who, in a “pintakasi” or collective effort, allegedly killed Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Barangay Tukanalipao.
The policemen were part of Oplan: EXODUS, a two-pronged mission to serve arrest warrants on international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan,” reported local terrorist and bomb-making expert Abdul Basit Usman, and another high-value target, Amin Baco alias “Johan.”
Coordinated operations were separately conducted by the SAF on said date in Barangays Tukanalipao and Pidsandawan by its 55th Special Action Company (SAC) and 84th Seaborne Company, respectively.
“Marwan” was killed in the Pidsandawan operation, where 9 other SAF troopers were also slain, bringing to 44 the total number of elite police officers slain.