Manila – In Department Order (DO) 799 dated October 25, the Department of Justice created a top panel of government prosecutors to handle the trial of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari and 60 others for rebellion and war crimes charges over the Zamboanga City siege.

“In the interest of the service and pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, a team of prosecutors is hereby constituted to handle the active prosecution of the cases,” DO 799 read.

With this, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima assigned Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon to lead the panel in prosecuting Misuari and his alliance.

The panel members include Regional Prosecutor Peter Medalle, Assistant State Prosecutors Aristotle Reyes and Niven Canlapan, and Prosecution Attorney Angelo Chavez.

Apart from creating the prosecution panel, De Lima said the DOJ has requested for the transfer of the cases from a court in Zamboanga to the Taguig City regional trial court which the Supreme Court has already granted.

Moreover, de Lima said yesterday that she has already ordered the prosecutors to immediately file the necessary pleadings to fast-track the transfer of the detained rebels.

For the meantime, only 57 accused are detained in Zamboanga as Misuari and his commanders, Ustadz Habier Malik, Assamin Hussin and Bas Arki, are still at large.

Misuari and 60 other MNLF members are facing rebellion and war crimes for attempting to hoist the group’s flag in the Zamboanga City Hall, which marked their withdrawal of allegiance to the Philippine Republic.

MNLF VS RA 9851

Aside from rebellion charges, the DOJ also filed a separate case against Misuari, Malik, Arki, Hussin and 57 others for violating the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9851, or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

Violations of international humanitarian law are punishable by life imprisonment and a fine between P100,000 to P500,000 under RA 9851.

Under the Revised Penal Code, the MNLF leaders could be penalized by life imprisonment, while the followers can be jailed for 12 years.

The DOJ recommended no bail for Misuari and his commanders while a bail of P200,000 was set for their followers on rebellion charges.

Misuari and his group are charged with violation of RA 9851 for taking around 300 non-combatant civilians as hostages while in armed combat with government forces; for intentionally attacking civilians; using civilian hostages as human shields against offensive actions of government troops; attacking/burning of around 9,732 houses and buildings; and causing damage in an estimated amount of more than P200 million. (Mary Sharmaine I. Gabornes, ABCOM/LNU)

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