Climaco tells DoJ: No to plea bargaining bids PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 June 2015 10:20

by VIC LARATO

Mayor Beng Climaco has formally filed with the Department of Justice her strong opposition to the plea bargaining proposals of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels charged with rebellion and violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) for leading and participating in the Zamboanga siege in September 2013.

The plea bargaining proposals if granted will reduce the rebellion and IHL charges to mere sedition, illegal assembly and illegal use of uniform, respectively, which carry with them much lesser penalties or punishments.

“As mayor of the City of Zamboanga, I cannot in conscience agree to the plea bargaining proposals which propose that the charges for violation of RA 9851, otherwise known as the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity” penalized with reclusion perpetua and  a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1 million and the charge for rebellion be DISMISSED in consideration of the plea of guilty of the accused for lesser crime of sedition…,” Mayor Climaco declared in her letter dated June 19, 2015 to Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima.

Under Article 140 of the Revised Penal Code, Climaco stressed, is penalized with prision mayor in its maximum period (6 years and 1 day to 8 years) and a fine not exceeding P10,000 (for the siege leader) and the penalty of prision correccional in its maxium period (4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 6 years) and a fine not exceeding P5,000 for other persons merely participating (in the siege).

“I cannot also accede to the plea bargaining proposal wherein the (MNLF attackers) accused of IHL violations will be allowed to plead guilty to the crimes of illegal assembly and illegal use of uniform,” the chief executive further said, adding that both charges carry the lowest penalties of only arresto mayor (1 month, 1 day to 6 years imprisonment) and thereafter the accused will be released from detention after they have entered their plea.

Climaco told Sec. De Lima that the “Zamboanga Siege,” which lasted for three weeks in September 2013 and gave rise to the charges, will forever be etched in the history of Zamboanga as days of infamy and heroism and of the lives needlessly lost.

She recalled that during the siege 20 soldiers, including three lieutenants, all graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), sacrificed their lives in defense of Zamboanga City, leaving their families behind; 5 police officers, including a graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) and three members of the Special Action Force (SAF) belonging to the group that saw action in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, also lost their lives to keep the Philippine Flag flying at City Hall; 13 innocent civilians lost their lives to the tremendous attack on the city as hundreds of other civilians, men, women and children were taken hostage and used as human shields; 242 mostly children died in the evacuation centers, and almost 10,000 houses were burned with estimated value of more than P200 million; 22,196 families or 122,226 individuals were displaced.

Moreover, Climaco said during the siege the city’s airport and seaport were closed, paralyzing trade links with the rest of the country. Business in the city was at a standstill, and economic loss was estimated to be in billions of pesos.

“The city is still reeling from the effects of the totally unjustified attack and attempt to bring the city to its knees,” Climaco said in her letter to the justice secretary. “Thanks to the heroism and sacrifices of men and women, military and civilians… the city of Zamboanga stood firm and unbowed, and repelled the invaders  but at a terrible cost of human lives and billions in damages to public and private properties,” she added.

On September 9, 2014, marking the first anniversary of the siege, Climaco issued Executive Order BC70-2014, memorializing the valor and gallantry of the 23 security forces and civilian fallen heroes, and commemorating September of each year as “Day of Remembrance”.

“As City Mayor, it is my duty and responsibility to see to it that justice rightfully due be rendered to the victims of the ‘Zamboanga Siege’… In my mind, there is no doubt that the crimes as charged (2 counts of IHL violations and 1 count of rebellion) were committed,” Climaco said with assurance. — Vic Larato