SC receives plea to transfer trial of Mamasapano case to Taguig

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) has already submitted to the Supreme Court its recommendation approving the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to transfer the trial of the Mamasapano case to Taguig.

The January 2015 encounter that occurred in Mamasapano killed more than 60 persons, including 44 members of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).

Recommendation from the OCA was received by the Office of the Clerk of Court en banc on Jan. 25, 2018.

“This matter will be raffled to a member in charge who will then make a recommendation to the Court en banc,” the high court’s Public Information Office stated in a timeline provided to the media.

A “member in charge” refers to a Supreme Court justice who will study the recommendation of the OCA on whether to approve it or not and send it for approval by the high court’s en banc, meaning in full court.

In its recommendation, OCA urged that the case be transferred from Mindanao to Taguig City Regional Trial Court.

On Jan. 12, 2017, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II requested that the case be transferred to Manila citing security risks in Mindanao.

The request was endorsed by the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) to OCA to follow the procedures under the rules to get comment from all the parties including the judges where the case will be transferred.

Maguindanao Presiding Judge Annabelle D.P. Piang, upon instruction from the OCA, asked the accused to submit its comment on the request of the DOJ.

After comments from all the parties involved have been gathered, these would be forwarded to OCA’s legal office for evaluation.

SC-PIO said that there were procedures on the matter of transferring the trial to Metro Manila compared to the transfer of the proceedings of detained Maute members who are facing rebellion charges to Metro Manila due to security concerns and ongoing attacks of rebels in Marawi City.

“The difference in the action taken by the OCJ in the transfer of venue request involving the prosecutions arising from the Maute takeover in Marawi City can be explained by the existence of ongoing violence in Marawi City. In the Maute request, the OCJ directly endorsed this to the Court En Banc without referring it to the OCA because of the ongoing violence in Marawi City and the need to take immediate action; in the request for transfer of venue in the Mamasapano incident, the OCJ followed the standard procedure of referring the matter to the OCA because there were no ongoing hostilities,” the SC-PIO explained.

Arrest warrants were issued by the trial court for the 88 accused on January 25, 2017, but the trial of the case had not started due to pending motions for judicial determination of probable cause by some of the accused.

One accused, Samsudin Upam, urged the court to quash his arrest warrant.

The 88 accused — identified by a star witness known only by the code name Marathon and 11 other individuals—belong to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups.

Only the deaths of 35 members of the 55th SAF-Special Action Company who were killed by the rebels in a clash at a cornfield in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano were covered by the case.

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