REBELLION charges have been filed against 59 suspected militants trying to reinforce Islamist gunmen holed up in Marawi City since May 23 before the Department of Justice.
Escorted by police commandos, the 59 – 58 alleged recruits and one suspected recruiter – were presented before prosecutors headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong after being flown to Manila from Zamboanga del Sur on Friday through a C-130 cargo plane.
The suspected recruiter was identified as Moro National Liberation Front member Nur Supian, who was pointed to by the 58 suspects as their recruiter.
During the proceedings, the suspects signed their waiver of detention and decided the panel proceed with their preliminary investigation, scheduled on August 14 when the suspects are set to submit their respective counter-affidavits.
In the meantime, they are detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Of the suspects, 32, including Supian, were arrested by the police and military manning a check point last July 25 in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay.
The other 27 were arrested by police, also on July 25 in Zamboanga City, after barangay officials reported a suspicious group of persons.
Security officials said martial law authorities seized from the suspects military uniforms, boots and MNLF identification cards which are not clear if these are fake or authentic.
According to a military statement, the group was suspected of planning to sneak into Marawi to help militants who have been on a rampage since May 23, battling government troops, holding numerous hostages and burning buildings while flying the black IS flag.
“They [the troops] have just prevented these individuals from potentially compounding the operational challenges in Marawi should they [have] succeeded in sneaking into the city,” a military statement quoted Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the troops in Marawi, as saying.
He credited local governments and residents for reporting the suspects.
Although the government initially said there were only a few hundred militants in Marawi, the gunmen have held off the armed forces for weeks, resisting air strikes and artillery barrages.
The militants have surprised the military with their resilience and their continued supply of manpower, weapons and ammunition despite supposedly being surrounded.
Authorities said those arrested were all Filipinos but their backgrounds were still being checked.
The fighting has so far claimed 630 lives, including 471 militants, 45 civilians and 114 government troops, military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in Manila on Friday.
He told reporters that there were only about 60 militants left, confined to less than one square kilometer of the city.
However, Padilla did not say how much longer the fighting would last.
Galvez said efforts to secure the warzone were boosted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial declaration of martial law over the entire southern third of the country when the fighting broke out.
By law, martial law should have lasted only 60 days but last week Congress extended it till the end of the year.
“With martial law in force in entire Mindanao, we can validly restrict and effect arrests of suspicious persons and unscrupulous groups whose actions bear with the rebellion,” Galvez was quoted as saying. With AFP
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