MANILA (Mabuhay) — A group of former military and police officials in Congress urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Wednesday to expedite the filing of cases against those involved in the Mamasapano clash before setting her sights on an elective office.
In a press conference, the so-called “Saturday Group” admitted their confidence in the government’s drive to seek justice for the 44 slain Special Action Force (SAF) troopers has wavered because of the Department of Justice’s failure to file cases against the suspects involved in the January 25 tragedy.
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, a former police director, noted that De Lima had promised to immediately file cases against those involved in the Jan. 25 bloodbath when Congress investigated the incident last April. She again vowed to charge the suspects in a month’s time during the DOJ’s budget briefing earlier this month.
“Narinig na namin ‘yung statement ni Sec. De Lima [about the filing of cases] during the Mamasapano hearing. [Since she] is a non-politician, we expected that this would be done immediately but until now this hasn’t been done. She gave the same promise during the budget hearing. We’re now counting the days to see if her word is [still as good as] that of a non-politician or a budding politician,” he said.
More than 60 individuals, including 44 SAF members 18 MILF members, and five civilians, died in a clash with armed groups in Mamasapano while carrying out an operation to arrest terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman. P02 Christopher Lalan and Supt Raymond Train were the two survivors of the Special Action Force members.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo said De Lima is bound to draw flak for her failure to file cases against those involved in the Mamasapano clash if she resigns from the Cabinet and runs for public office without doing it.
“If Sec. De Lima steps down from office to pursue her political plans and the issue remains hanging, tingin ko ‘yun ‘yung magiging unang-unang issue [na ibabato] laban sa kanya. I think it behooves her to pursue the cases for so many reasons, the least of which is the search for justice which her department stands for,” he said.
Aside from Pagdilao and Acedillo, the other members of the “Saturday Group” include Reps. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, Romeo Acop of Antipolo, and Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan.
De Lima earlier said the DOJ is just awaiting the results of the second part of the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) special investigation on the bloody encounter before filing the cases.
The second part of the NBI’s probe, de Lima explained, is focused on the killings of the members of the 84th Seaborne Unit of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) in Barangay Pidsandawan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The DOJ’s earlier recommendation for the filing of criminal charges against some 90 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and private armed groups over the incident was based on the result of the first part of the NBI team’s investigation. (MNS)