Beng: Justice at all cost as 42 MNLF suspects cleared PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 11:51

Mayor Beng Climaco yesterday expressed surprise over the decision of the Pasig Regional Trial Court clearing 42 of the 271 suspected MNLF members charged with involvement in the 2013 Zamboanga siege as she vowed to pursue justice in memory of those who died during the attack.

“The City legal team worked hard in the case. We will pursue justice in memory of those who died and the sovereignty of Zamboanga City. Justice must be sought at all cost,” the mayor declared in her Monday press briefing in City Hall.

Climaco said the Pasig RTC decided on the matter even if the motion for the dismissal of the cases against the 42 MNLF members were yet to be heard on March 23.

City Legal Officer Atty. Jesus Carbon, who was also present during the press briefing yesterday, said his team is also baffled as to what really happened and why the dismissal was made earlier than the motion.

As soon as the City Government receives a copy of the decision, Carbon said the legal team will examine the records if indeed there are valid grounds for the dismissal of the cases against the 42 MNLF members and later decide on the next move.

Based on media reports, the case against the 42 was dismissed allegedly because some of the MNLF members charged were just seen running away from the conflict zone and the only evidence against them is the affidavit of the arresting officer, he said.

To be guilty of any crime, the city legal officer stressed, an accused must have committed an overt act which would indicate intention to commit the crime. “Just being present in the conflict zone, being seen running away from it and being arrested by the arresting officer, if this is true, might not be really enough to cause their being accused in court”.

Carbon said CLO records show that out of the Zamboanga siege, 288 persons were accused, of which 11 are at large, 278 are detained in Taguig, 6 are minors and 7 are women. All of them have been detained for over a year and have yet to be arraigned.

Asked why the delay in the arraignment, Carbon said it is due to various petitions for reinvestigations filed by the counsels of the accused. After the reinvestigation, the Department of Justice has recommended the dismissal of more or less 60 accused, in which the city government moved for reconsideration.

“And now we are told that out of the 60, some 42 have been cleared but we don’t have the order yet with us,” the city legal officer said.

On the other hand, Carbon, a former judge, expressed certainty that the government has a strong case against the MNLF in the event the cases go on trial, citing the testimonies of the hostages.

The only problem he foresees however, is those witnesses who are military personnel who have gone home or returned to their original places of assignment. Carbon said the problem would be transporting the witnesses to Manila which will entail huge logistical concern. “We will do our best so that justice can be given to the victims. The tremendous job of the police and military should not be left to fail.”

A national newspaper quoted Commissioner Edilwasiff Baddiri of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) that the 42 cleared suspects would be released after the warden of the Security Intensive Care Area 2 at Camp Bagong Diwa receives a copy of the March 13 order of Presiding Judge Maria Rowena Modesto San Pedro of the Regional Trial Court Branch 158 of Pasig City.

“In a 12-page resolution, the court said the 42 suspects were cleared because “there is nothing that will connect them to the alleged rebellion that took place,” the report added. — Sheila Covarrubias