58 accused Maute recruits submit counter-affidavits vs rebellion raps

MANILA � Some 58 suspected Maute group recruits who were arrested in Zamboanga City submitted their counter-affidavits against the rebellion charges filed against them during the preliminary investigation before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.

During the hearing, the suspects were presented by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) before the panel of prosecutors chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong.

The hearing was mostly conducted in Tausug dialect, since some of those arrested said that they cannot understand Tagalog.

The suspects filed their counter-affidavits, also written in the vernacular, before the panel of prosecutors.

They tagged Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) member Nur Supian as their recruiter.

After the respondents have sworn in their counter-affidavits, parts were read by the prosecutors where the respondents asked the DOJ to dismiss the complaints. They also claimed that they were duped into joining the army, but were instead said to have joined the Maute terrorist group.

However, Supian denied the accusations and he was tasked by prosecutors to submit his counter-affidavit on Friday represented by his lawyer.

The panel of prosecutors decided that they will submit the charges for resolution even if Supian does not submit his counter-affidavit on Friday.

After the hearing, they were brought back to the Special Intensive Care Area of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City escorted by Philippine Army and PNP-SWAT.

Of the 59, Supian and 32 other suspects were arrested by the police and military manning a check point in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay while the remaining 27, of which four were minors, were arrested along Daisy Road in Guiwan, Zamboanga City. They were all arrested last July 25.

Authorities seized from the suspects military uniforms, boots and MNLF identification cards.

Earlier, the Supreme Court (SC) has granted the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II to move the trial away from Cagayan de Oro City -- currently under martial law -- citing threats to the prosecutors' lives.

Once the case reaches court trial, it will be handled by the Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) following the SC's order.

Source: Philippine News Agency