Prosecutors outside Mindanao sought in Maguindanao, Cotabato
John Unson ( - November 18, 2015 - 6:34pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The police and military agreed on Wednesday to work out the deployment here of special prosecutors from outside of Mindanao to handle high-profile crimes without reservations.

The consensus was reached during a security summit among law enforcement agencies and the military at the Army’s Camp Siongo in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, where alarming security issues besetting Cotabato City and surrounding Central Mindanao provinces were discussed by participants lengthily.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said he would exert his best effort to have non-resident prosecutors around to litigate high-profile cases involving people the local communities and even authorities fear about.

The regional police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Chief Superintendent Ronald Estilles, said he is also in favor of non-resident prosecutors leading the prosecution of high-risk suspects in serious offenses.

Pangilinan had told The STAR, at the sideline of the summit, it is viable for special prosecutors to reside inside Camp Siongco and be escorted with soldiers and policemen, backed by combat vehicles, when they attend case hearings in any of the courts in Cotabato City and in Maguindanao.

The issue has been subject of talks in Cotabato City and surrounding Maguindanao towns for weeks now after a detained notorious gun-for-hire and drug trafficker, “Black Moro,” whose real name is Ruben Montes, managed to post bail using property bond with very minimal value.

Lt. Col. Ranulfo Sevilla, commanding officer of the Army’s 5th Special Forces Battalion, had earlier ranted, over the popular Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City, on the release of Black Moro, who first engaged his men in a firefight before he was cornered while trying to elude pursuing soldiers.

Even reporters of dxMS, Central Mindanao’s pioneer broadcast outfit operating for six decades now, had been harassed too for reporting about high-profile crimes based on police records and documents obtained from the Ombudsman and the National Bureau of Investigation.   

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in ARMM, which has jurisdiction over Cotabato City’s 37 barangays and nearby Maguindanao towns, has also been complaining about the almost zero conviction of drug traffickers arrested and charged with violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

More than 300 people have been killed in one attack after another in Cotabato City alone in the past five years, also with almost zero crime resolution.

There have been recorded harassments of Maguindanao and Cotabato City prosecutors, and the murder of one, the ethnic Maranaw Akil Balt, in recent years.

Unidentified gunmen had also shot with assault rifles the house in Cotabato City of Judge Bansawan Ibrahim, prompting him to employ security escorts tagging along when he is presiding over cases and when going around for official and private functions.

A griping Sevilla had said, during Wednesday’s summit at Camp Siongco, that what is alarming is Black Moro’s being coddled now by an incumbent Cotabato City local official.

“We have been receiving persistent intelligence reports and feedback from city residents about this,” Sevilla said.

Sevilla said there is even a possibility that Black Moro was behind last week’s spate of grenade attacks on patrolling Special Forces operatives and at strategic spots in Cotabato City in retaliation for his having been arrested by soldiers and jailed for a while.

Chief Superintendent Manolito Labador, director of the Region 12 police office in Gen. Santos City, said he is also for the deployment of non-resident prosecutors in Cotabato City and in Maguindanao.

The city, which is inside Maguindanao, a component province of ARMM, is administratively under Region 12.

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