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Maute suspects to be detained, tried in Taguig — Aguirre

MANILA, Philippines - The detention and venue of the trial of arrested members and supporters of the Maute group will be transferred to Taguig City, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said yesterday.

Aguirre said the Supreme Court (SC) has granted the appeal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and reconsidered its earlier order designating the Cagayan de Oro regional trial court (RTC) as venue to try the criminal cases and Camp Evangelista also in the same city as detention facility for the arrested Maute militants.

Aguirre made the announcement after meeting Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno during the interview of aspirants for an SC vacancy by the Judicial and Bar Council, where they both sit as members.

He told reporters that the arrested members of the terror group behind the attack in Marawi City that later triggered the proclamation of martial law in the whole of Mindanao would now be transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig where Cayamora and Farhana Maute, parents of the Maute leaders, have been detained since last week.

Aguirre also revealed that the high court would create two courtrooms in Camp Bagong Diwa’s Special Intensive Care Area for the trial of all Maute group cases so the accused would no longer be brought out of camp for the trial.

The DOJ chief said he would reconstitute the special panel of prosecutors handling the Maute cases to now include prosecutors based in Metro Manila.

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He said Sereno has offered the Philippine Judicial Academy facility in Tagaytay for training of these prosecutors.

Aguirre said that he plans to establish a separate building inside the New Bilibid Prison to house the Maute members after their conviction for rebellion.

But in a separate interview, SC spokesman Theodore Te clarified that the high court has not yet issued the order to transfer the cases and detention of Maute members to Taguig City, as the administrative matter will still be tackled in session today.

Te said what transpired during the meeting was that Sereno asked Aguirre to submit a supplemental request for the transfer.

The DOJ earlier asked the SC to designate special courts in Luzon or the Visayas to hear the cases due to security threats in Mindanao.

But the SC decided last week to instead designate Cagayan de Oro RTCs as special courts to take over the cases from the Marawi RTCs.

The court also assigned the military’s Camp Evangelista to serve as the detention place of the arrested suspects.

But after inspection, Aguirre appealed the order due to lack of proper detention facilities in Camp Evangelista. 

The DOJ chief further pointed out that prosecutors as well as judges have expressed “fear for their safety in the conduct of inquest, preliminary investigation and trial of the cases involving the Maute group.”

Aguirre added that the Cagayan de Oro courts, which are temporarily located at the City Tourism Hall after the Hall of Justice was gutted by fire in January 2015, are not a convenient venue for the trial.   

The DOJ has indicted several arrested members and supporters of Maute – including Cayamora Maute and Ominta Romato, alias Farhana, parents of the Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah who led the group behind the attack in Marawi City last May 23.

Also charged with rebellion before the Cagayan de Oro RTC was former Marawi City mayor Fajad Salic.   

Mohammad Maute, alias Abu Jadid, alleged bomb maker of Maute group who was arrested in Cagayan de Oro last Thursday, has also been charged before the prosecutors in inquest proceedings last Sunday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said sending Maute bandits to Metro Manila from Mindanao would mean government authorities could secure them better.
“We are more secured here in Metro Manila compared to Mindanao,” he added.


Maute sister

Hours after their arrest in Iloilo City, the sister of the Maute brothers and her two companions were flown back to Cagayan de Oro City.

Faridah Pangompig Romato, 23, of Carmen, Cagayan de Oro; Aljadid Pangompig Romato, 20, of Iligan City; and Abdulralman Dimakuta Sevad, 25, of Marantao, Lanao del Sur were transported on board a Philippine Coast Guard Highlander plane around 4:30 a.m. yesterday. – With Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jennifer Rendon

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