By NITZ ARANCON
JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano II yesterday named city prosecutor Merlyn Uy as head of a “centralized” panel of prosecutors that started inquest proceedings against arrested suspects linked to the Marawi crisis.
Aguirre announced the appointment of Uy even as he said that the justice department was preparing to appeal the order of the Supreme Court for the Regional Trial Court in the city to handle the Maute cases.
He said the DOJ wants all the Maute cases heard in Metro Manila, and not in Cagayan de Oro.
But pending the motion for reconsideration and a SC decision, Aguirre said a centralized panel of prosecutors, composed of a dozen prosecutors, started working on the Maute cases in the city yesterday on orders of President Duterte.
The panel, chaired by Uy, is divided into four sub-panels with three members each.
Aguirre declined to name other members of the panel, citing security reasons. But he said they came from different places of the country.
The prosecutors started the inquest proceedings at around 2 pm yesterday against some 15 suspects, including former Marawi mayor Fahad Salic, Cayamora and Ominta Maute a.k.a. Farhana, parents of terrorist group leaders Abdullah and Omar Maute.
Prosecutors expect to finish the inquest proceedings in three days.
Aguirre said all the proceedings would be conducted at Camp Evangelista in Patag where ex-mayor Salic is said to have been placed under detention in the regional office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Salic’s lawyer Bryan Dale Mordeno on Friday filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus so the police would present the former mayor in court. He said there was no legal basis to continue detaining Salic given that no case has been filed against his client until now.
Asked what the evidence were against Salic and the other arrested suspects, Aquirre told a news conference, “I believe that upon receiving the complaint-affidavits from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police agency, we will know exactly, perhaps, the evidence, and the charges that would be filed against these people.”
Meanwhile, a still unidentified armed group ambushed a three-vehicle convoy bringing four alleged members of the Maute Group in Pantar, Lanao del Norte over the weekend.
The arrested suspects were killed in the exchange of fire between the police and the armed men, said Supt. Lemuel Gonda, Camp Alagar spokesperson.
Gonda said one police officer identified as William Santos was wounded in the attack.
The convoy was on its way to Cagayan de Oro City when ambushed, Gonda said.
The four slain suspects were among those arrested with Ominta Maute, mother of Maute Group leaders. Three days before the matriarch’s arrest in Masiu, Lanao del Sur, her husband Camayora was arrested in a checkpoint in Davao City on June 6.
The military has claimed that some 191 Maute Group members have been killed so far in the ongoing operations to clear Marawi City of terrorists.
Government losses as of Saturday stood at 58 troops with 20 civilians allegedly executed by the terrorists.
Some 58 firearms were also seized in the operations, said Armed Forces public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.
Arevalo said the “recalcitrant remnants of the Maute-Isis continue their stiff resistance while holed in fortified buildings and structures.”
Using these defensive positions, the terrorists are using sniper fires, mortar fire, anti-tank rounds, and improvised explosive devices to kill anyone–government security forces, relief and rescue workers, and civilians–who get in their way. (with reports from froilan gallardo of mindanews, and pna)