Court dismisses rebellion charges vs 96 MNLF members Print
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 16:25

By ELY DUMABOC

 

A group of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members arrived here yesterday after rebellion charges against them were dismissed by the Pasig Regional Trial Court.

 

A city hall statement said that 51 out of the 96 freed by the court arrived at the Edwin Andrews Airbase aboard a C-130 plane at 9 a.m. amid tight security by military and police.

The City Legal Office lamented the release saying that “ Notwithstanding the efforts of the City of Zamboanga by bringing the issue to the Supreme Court with prayer for a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) to stop the release of the accused MNLF members, the court (Branch 158, RTC of Pasig City) still issued an order, releasing 96 accused MNLFs as no TRO up to this date has been issued by the Supreme Court.

“The release was the result of a plea bargaining agreement entered into by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and some of the accused MNLFs over the objection of the city, which resulted in the lowering of the penalty imposed on the accused, and since their imprisonment had already exceeded the penalty agreed upon in the plea bargaining agreement, the accused MNLF members were released.”

The statement, which was released by City Hall yesterday, further said that on April 16 this year, the panel of DOJ prosecutors filed a Motion to Withdraw Names of the Accused from the 14th Amended Information based on the plea bargaining agreement, withdrawing 37 accused from the plea bargaining agreement, hence reducing the number of accused for release from 133 to 96.  More or less, 100 MNLFs accused of the Zamboanga siege are still detained for trial.

Sr. Insp. Shellamie Chang, Zamboanga City Police Office Information Officer, said that 34 of the released detainees were flown direct from Villamor Air Base to Jolo, Sulu and 51 to Zamboanga City.

Of the 51 who arrived at the EAAB, 45 were brought to the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command.

A total of 17 have remained in the city and are being processed for profiling at the Commission on Human Rights Regional (CHR) Office.

As of noontime yesterday, eleven out of the 17 who remained in Zamboanga City have reunited with their families in the city.

The others were brought to Basilan, Sibugay, Mabuhay and Talusan.

The 96 MNLF members who were accused of Rebellion in connection with the 2013 Zamboanga siege composed the latest batch of detainees freed by the court.

It will be recalled that 288 MNLF leaders and members, including MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari and MNLF Commander Ustadz Habier Malik, were charged with Rebellion, Genocide, Violation of International Humanitarian Laws and other crimes against Humanity in relation to the 2013 conflict.

Of  that number, 278 were detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig while the rest were incarcerated at the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center (ZCRC).

In November 2014 and March 2015 nearly 100 MNLF members were freed after charges against them were dropped.

The following month, the remaining group of respondents filed a motion for plea bargaining to the lesser offense of sedition, a motion which the City Government vehemently opposed and which caused 96 members to be freed by the Pasig Regional Trial Court. (Ely Dumaboc, with reports from Liza Jocson)