Safety of DOJ and court personnel was the foremost consideration in Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s request to the Supreme Court to transfer the venue of the cases from Cagayan De Oro to Taguig City

14 June 2017

We all wish to see all the perpetrators punished to the full extent of our laws. However, the safety of everybody involved in the forthcoming trial of these cases is of utmost importance and is the primary consideration. We hope that our Supreme Court will understand the concerns we raised in our request and that the same will be granted.

                                                                       - Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II


“We cannot jeopardize the safety of anyone. While we do not lose sight of the fact that the full prosecution and conviction of everyone involved in the attacks in Marawi City is our avowed purpose, however the safety of everyone, our Prosecutors and employees and that of our Court Personnel is the primary consideration”, this is what Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said after he signed a letter request addressed to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno of the Supreme Court yesterday, June 14, 2017.

The letter request, delivered to the Supreme Court also yesterday, specified that the Regional Trial Court of Taguig City be designated as the court to try, and decide all cases and incidents arising from the Maute group attacks in Marawi City. It was further requested that the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) located at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City be designated as the detention facility for apprehended members of the Maute group since the same houses high profile and dangerous individuals.

“Distance wise, the SICA and the Regional Trial Court of Taguig City are only about 400 meters away from each other. Such close proximity lessens the security concerns involved in transporting the accused before and after hearings,” Justice Secretary Aguirre explained.

“Our decision to seek a reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s June 6, 2017 Resolution  designating the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City to hear, try and to decide all cases arising from the Maute group takeover of Marawi City, was borne out of the facts we established during the ocular inspection we personally conducted of Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City on June 12, 2017,” Secretary Aguirre added.

“During that ocular inspection, the following facts were clearly established:

1. Members of the Judiciary and National Prosecution Service fear for their safety in the conduct of inquest, preliminary investigation and trial of cases involving the Maute Group. I wish to add that the members of the Prosecution Panel WERE UNANIMOUS in voicing out their concerns for their safety. As a matter of fact, at least THREE (3) of the DOJ Prosecutors named to the Panel of Prosecutors for these cases have already declined their designation for fear of their safety;

2. Camp Evangelista does not have proper detention facilities to accommodate the apprehended members of the Maute Group;

3. The Armed Forces of the Philippines does not have adequate training to provide proper jail management and funds for food and other provisions for the detainees;

4.There is clear and present danger to the security of police escorts and detainees subject of the inquest proceeding of rebellion as shown by the recent ambush of the police convoy in Lanao del Norte on June 10, 2017 which resulted in the wounding of three police escorts and the death of four detainees;

5. The Cagayan de Oro Hall of Justice was gutted by fire on January 2015 and is now temporarily located at the City Tourism Hall which is part of the Local Government Unit complex and houses seven city courts and fourteen regional trial courts, the National Prosecution Service and other offices. The modest office space of the City Tourism Hall cannot accommodate the influx of detainees to be arraigned or to undergo preliminary investigation or trial. Security will definitely be an issue here;

6. The office temporarily provided for our Centralized Prosecution Office or CPO does not have a dedicated and an adequate security force to secure our Prosecutors.

Evidently, we cannot jeopardize the safety of anyone who will be involved in these cases. Too many lives have been imperiled by the dastardly acts of the Maute groups in Marawi City, we will not add to it”, Secretary Aguirre added.      

“It is our fervent hope that our Supreme Court will understand the concerns we raised and the reasons we gave, which I believe speak for themselves. Ultimately, we hope that our request will be granted  the soonest”, Secretary Aguirre further stated.

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