MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has designated the Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court (RTC) to handle cases which will be filed against members of the terror group Maute in connection to the ongoing siege of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
SC spokesman Ted Te released the High Court’s decision on Tuesday, June 6, which addressed the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to assign courts in Luzon or the Visayas to handle Maute cases.
Instead of a Luzon or Visayas court, however, the SC assigned the Cagayan de Oro RTC, which is still in Mindanao and in a neighboring province, in Misamis Oriental. Aguirre had wanted to assign courts outside of Mindanao to handle the cases to protect members of the court from threats so they can perform their jobs without fear.
The SC ordered the Court Administrator to coordinate with the military’s Fourth Infantry Division (4th ID) based in Cagayan de Oro for security measures for court personnel, prosecutors, and lawyers.
In his letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Aguirre wrote to request "special courts in the Visayas or in Luzon be designated to hear criminal cases to be filed in relation to this rebellion."
The High Court, however, does not use the word "rebellion," but "the Maute Group takeover of Marawi City."
The SC is currently handling petitions on President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law declaration, including one filed by opposition lawmakers, saying the Marawi crisis is not a case of rebellion and therefore the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has no sufficient basis.
The High Court SC has set 3 days for oral arguments on this petition. A group of lawyers, including detained Senator Leila de Lima, has also filed a separate petition that seeks to compel the Congress to convene on martial law.
The SC directed Cagayan de Oro Courts "to speedily act on all prosecutions and incidents arising from the Maute Group takeover of Marawi City, complying with the Revised Guidelines on Continuous Trial and all relevant Court Resolutions and Issuances designed to expedite criminal prosecutions such as, but not limited to, the use of conditional examination of witnesses, depositions and interrogatories, and extended pre-trial proceedings to facilitate the trial."
The High Court also designated the Court of Appeals Mindanao, also based in Cagayan de Oro, to "hear and act on all incidents relative to the requirements of Republic Act 9372 (The Human Security Act)." – Rappler.com