MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to hold in Mindanao the trial of members of the Maute terror group, which has been engaged in clashes with government troops since May 23.
In a two-page letter, Aguirre urged Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to designate the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City as the court to try and decide all cases related to the Marawi siege, in lieu of the local court in Cagayan de Oro City.
He also asked the high court to transfer the custody of suspected extremists to the Special Intensive Care Area of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Aguirre reasoned that prosecutors would fear for their safety if the inquest and preliminary investigation of the cases were held in the south.
The Army's Camp Evangelista in Cagayan, he noted, lacks special facilities to hold suspected Maute fighters.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines does not have adequate training to provide proper jail management and funds for the food and other provisions of the detainees," Aguirre wrote.
He added that police escorts and detainees face "clear and present danger" in Mindanao, as shown in the recent ambush of a convoy in Lanao Del Sur, where four detainees were killed and three officers were wounded.
The justice chief also noted that the Cagayan Hall of Justice burned down and that its temporary office in the city tourism hall could not accommodate the influx of detainees on trial.
Aguirre had earlier said the state would charge up to 15 suspects with rebellion, including Farhana Maute, mother of the Maute brothers behind attacks in Marawi City.